“Yeah, Mighty Monarch. My wife invited me.”
Nothing in The Venture Bros is merely exceptional. If there’s one thing the show does consistently, it’s portraying a world where even the most astonishing lives are riddled with fear, insecurity, fuckups, and tedium. ‘Faking Miracles’ is a quiet case study in how the glossy exterior is maintained through hack-work, trickery, and pure stupidity. If the pacing limps and lurches, the tone is confident and the framing of the episode’s most memorable images hits a sour but genuine note of yearning. Just think of the Monarch waking up in a hedge in the shadow of that titanic bronze hand clutching the Earth. Season 6, sans cocoon and henchman horde, is doing fantastic work taking his character into deeper thematic water. His wrong-footed arrival at Wide Wale’s party is another great moment, neatly packaging his childish inability to separate supervillainy from life with the simultaneous nod toward the absurdity of Wide Wale, ten feet tall and with a blowhole on top of his skull, criticizing someone else for being unsubtly abnormal.
The incomparable Toby Huss’s self-duplicating Copycat makes spicy hash out of a litany of gorgeously awful pickup lines aimed at enticing Dr. Mrs the Monarch out onto a balcony where she can look through a telescope at another copy dressed as her husband and pissing on Dr. Venture’s living room. It’s a tremendous amount of talent, coordination, and effort, an application of literal magic (or at least sufficiently advanced super-science), and its entire aim is busting up a marriage. That’s the kind of thing the show does well, that momentary thrill of watching superhumans do their thing followed by the depressing resumption of a banal and mildly depressing reality. Putting strain on the Monarch’s and Dr. Mrs. the Monarch’s marriage is maybe the single strongest emotional card the series has to play, placing seasons worth of genuinely touching character development right on the edge of destruction.
Dr. Mrs the Monarch has always been literally an extension of the man in her life, her name tethered to his. Now even she doesn’t know what people should call her. As her identity changes, the Monarch’s refuses to. He’s lost his army, his headquarters, and his status. Hell, he even finds out in the episode’s opening sequence that his father was a superhero who worked with Jonas Venture, but there’s just no give to the defiantly unexplained persona and vendetta he clings to. Rusty, meanwhile, spends the episode in a laboratory with Billy and Pete. I’m not sure how fruitful that comedic trio is going to be moving forward; most of their material boils down to gags about sterility-inducing hovercars and inept bumbling. Rusty hunting through his little brother’s research like he used to pick through his father’s is depressing, a further reaffirmation that even the most marvelous invention can be a stolen, cobbled-together piece of hokum. More depressing, though, is the revelation that J. J. gave up on super-science after inventing a profitable smartphone. That’s just a bummer, man.
‘Faking Miracles’ has a few too many balls in the air to land successes across the board. The laboratory scenes are forgettable, as is most of Dean’s nanobot possession material, but Hank’s madcap courtship with Wide Wale’s daughter, Serena, is energetic fun and even includes an honest-to-God smooth move. Hank dropping off that ledge and reappearing coolly slouched in his hovercar feels like something the show never would have gone for even two or three seasons ago, and it’s a cute moment to end on. For my money, though, there was nothing better than that grown man in a whale louse suit telling his boss that Brock stone-cold murdered two of his fellow goons in Central Park in broad daylight.