“We’ll know how cool we look.”
I think the Monarch just murdered Andy Warhol. Or Wes Warhammer, anyway. Who may or may not have been Andy Warhol. ‘It Happening One Night’ sadly repairs the hole in the floor of Venture Tower, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the season’s best entries so far. From Hank’s dorky-sweet date to the Monarch’s lunatic raid on the Doom Factory’s lair, there was plenty to recommend the episode. It even managed to whip up a little tension with a moment that looked like it was heading for a repeat on 24′s death when the Monarch, eager to do a slow-motion-jump-away-from-the-explosion deal, got his coat snagged during his heroic leap. Shying away from pulling that trigger is understandable, and the brick joke that lands at the episode’s end as a result is side-splitting.
The Doom Factory is a superbly smart piece of writing. Not only is it a snide deconstruction of the show’s snide deconstruction of supervillainy, but the sense of cheapness, of form without function that arises from watching its ambivalent robbery of Venture Tower is genuinely sad. Rusty’s desire to be wanted has seldom felt more pitiful than during his recording session with Warhammer, his face caught in the blurry grip of a black and white recording in a moment eerily similar to one on last week’s Vinyl. The fact that the Doom Factory’s arching discards Rusty almost as soon as it picks him up just feels bleak, and the warehouse party they throw in Venture Tower is a coldly effective exercise in depersonalization. They’re the antithesis of the Monarch’s fanatical focus and a sad reminder that no matter how high Rusty climbs, the game’s the same. He just isn’t much of anybody anymore.
Things feel primed to go to hell with the Monarch’s increasingly dangerous game of killing rival villains to get at Rusty. Building toward that inevitable explosion is doing a lot to give the season a sense of shape and purpose, and between Rusty’s alienation and Hank’s absurd emergence into actual personhood, some of its aimlessness with regard to characterization is looking sharper, too. Hank and Serena’s date is pleasantly low-key, littered with chances to laugh at Hank’s wannabe machismo and cornball tricks to impress Serena while also scratching the surface of what it’s like for two people who grew up imprisoned in the idiotic play-time world of superheroes and supervillains to find a kindred spirit. Hank’s recitation of his personal beliefs is also, predictably, great.
The episode is full of jabs at the characters and their lives. Even Brock, arguably the show’s most iconic creation, gets mocked as a collection of affectations by a man in a whale-louse suit. There’s a sense that if The Venture Bros is going to be less vicious moving forward, it’s also going to be a bit more playful. ‘It Happening One Night’ is smart, irreverent television.