“Reach up my ass and grab my heart.”
The cast of The Venture Bros is engaged in a constant struggle to determine who and what they are. This myopic personal rat race consumes their lives, even though they almost never manage to actually change or learn anything, and the slapdash enthusiasm with which characters like the Monarch and Hank seize on new ideas about themselves makes ‘Rapacity in Blue’ a low-key delight. A weaponized gas that provokes religious excitation rounds out the action, awakening various characters to their inner fears and desires. There’s also a ‘Rusty and the Monarch are very obviously’ related gag that it feels like the show has been holding itself back from making for a literal decade.
Warriana’s growled “I’m gonna wear you out” to Brock is maybe the series’ best segue into sex. Warriana in general feels like a more fleshed-out character than her predecessors on the show, weak man-hater stereotypes like Dr. Qumyn’s bodyguard. Even if The Venture Bros is never going to lead the pack when it comes to progressive politics, it’s nice to see its sense of humor growing up a bit. Brock’s frustrated monologue about being turned on by abrasive, muscle-bound women, thoroughly misinterpreted by Hank, is an episode highlight and an oddly introspective moment for a man who’s slowly gravitated away from “hulking, mullet-ed James Bond” to well-rounded sociopath.
But while the episode’s meandering pacing and interpersonal stakes are certainly funny, they also highlight an emerging weaknesses. In a show with such an in-depth mythology and so much reliance on callbacks and references, where has the sense of momentum gone? Where is this all headed? The Venture Bros is maybe a little too comfortable with letting its wheels spin. Billy, Pete, and Rusty working together in the lab seems more like a collection of jokes than any kind of arc at this point. Maybe it’s heading somewhere. Maybe there’ll be payoff somewhere down the line, but it feels directionless for now.
The Monarch’s material is likewise plagued by a sense of listlessness. Sure, it’s conceptually funny to see someone who so thoroughly conceives of himself as a supervillain that he laughs maniacally at normal jokes fight crime as a thin imitation of the Green Hornet, and sure the awkward retro credits for his and 21′s adventures are great, but what are they building up toward? Even the compelling tension between the Monarch and Dr. Mrs. the Monarch falls flat in this installment, though the repeated gag of the Monarch and 21 waltzing as a distraction and the level way in which she accuses them of going out on a date work well to establish the feel of their home. ‘Rapacity in Blue’ is a lot of fun, but it feels like a weaker, less satisfying version of the show is lurking in its shadow.