“It’s a Sicilian thing.”
It feels like the Earth was young the last time The Venture Bros was on the air, but here we are again at the start of a brand new season. Season 5 ended in flames, death, and an accordion-driven rendition of The Crash Test Dummies’ ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’ along with the sudden elevation of the surviving Ventures from has-beens to billionaires. ‘Hostile Makeover’ doesn’t spend enough time in any one place to really come to grips with what the show is trying to do with the shift from the desolation of the compound to the hustle and bustle of New York. Establishing the new normal takes up most of the episode’s run time as we bounce between the Ventures in their new digs, Dr. Girlfriend and the short-staffed Council of Thirteen, and the Monarch and Gary fucking around ineffectually.
The bulk of the episode is gags, ranging from J.J.’s recorded voice freaking everyone out miserably at the breakfast table to Dr. Venture enduring a bizarre Sicilian ritual of forgiveness from a tailor he once ducked out of paying. The writing is solid, the pacing comfortable — edging into enjoyably frenetic for the last few minutes — and there’s a reassuring sense that even at the top of the world, satisfaction will forever elude the doctor and his sons. Venture Bros has always been, at its best, about an intense desire to be something other than the self. Its characters yearn for other lives, for other experiences, for other loves and childhoods. It’s a poignant vein the show wisely refrains from tapping too often, and even in the midst of dick jokes and an ersatz Spider-Man dropping a load of web in his own pants, it’s what keeps the show compelling.
It’s Dr. Girlfriend’s plot that anchors the episode and digs deepest into what this new season might look like. Her scramble to keep the Council of Thirteen afloat with the dubious support of the petty Phantom Limb and a small cabal of idiots and tyrants isn’t the liveliest thing, but its concluding act moves into a really clever bait-and-switch. Tasked with getting New York supervillain Wide Wale behind the flagging Guild of Calamitous Intent, it initially appears as though Wale is making an odious and heavy-handed pass at Dr. Mrs. the Monarch before the episode’s conclusion reveals that instead he was bucking to get Dr. Venture as an arch, a much more profound betrayal. The farcical interweaving of banal office politics and gnarled, uncomfortably intense emotions has always been one of the show’s strong suits, and this particular twist promises to be a fertile one.
The Venture Bros is a deftly intelligent show with a rich mythology and a peerless voice cast. Its sixth season looks as sharp as any it has aired to date, and its OH MY GOD I JUST GOT THE “Fallen ARCHer” PUN. I’M SO MAD I COULD SPIT.