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The Venture Bros. review: “The Saphrax Protocol”

“The Saphrax Protocol” ends the seventh season of The Venture Bros. on the very best of notes, and reminds us why this present is so particular.

I’ve been reviewing The Venture Bros. all season lengthy, however haven’t given any episode an “A” grade. At occasions I apprehensive I used to be being too exhausting on the present, however no extra. THIS is what an ideal episode of The Venture Bros. appears like, full-bodied and enjoyable, genuinely shifting and straight-up absurd, hand-crafted right down to the smallest element. All yr, I’ve thought one thing was just a bit off; perhaps it was creator Jackson Publick handing off directing duties to Juno Lee, perhaps it was delicate seasonal rot, or perhaps all the things was constructing to this climax. Regardless of the cause, “The Saphrax Protocol” is a reminder of why The Venture Bros. is one of the best present nobody is watching.

This episode juggled a number of plotlines. All of them labored, however let’s take the only first: 15 members of a Guild blackout group are trapped in VenTech Tower with Brock Sampson, who methodically picks them off one after the other, solely stopping to take a whiz break. That is the single-minded Brock we met within the collection premiere, doing what he does greatest: killing the f**okay out of henchmen. (“They’re stacking up like cordwood!”) Brock has gained loads of depth since then and I wouldn’t need him to be in Swedish Homicide Machine mode 24/7, however the present provides us so little of that lately it’s a deal with to see him reduce unfastened.

Typically you simply want a bit of gleeful cartoon ultraviolence, and Brock delivered.

The Guild blackout workforce makes use of the teleporter the Monarch stole again in “The Unicorn in Captivity” to infiltrate the tower, paying off that plot. They’re there to whisk Dr. Venture as much as Meteor Majeure, the place the Council of Seven (or Eight, together with Dr. Phineas Phage) is making the Monarch a Degree 10 villain, his reward for “killing” the Creep final week. The initiation ceremony is splendidly gothic, with the council members donning costumes whereas the Monarch and Gary stroll by means of occasions within the lives of Saphrax and Altheaeus, the primary villain and first henchmen, respectively. (If the present hadn’t already crushed me to it a couple of weeks again, I’d say it jogged my memory of Eyes Extensive Shut.) It’s acquired a Station-of-the-Cross really feel to it, however sinister, and with much more popular culture references. The bit the place the Monarch sticks his hand within the log, for instance, is lifted from Flash Gordon:

The references assist undercut the self-seriousness of the entire secret society factor, as does Purple Dragoon, who by no means has hassle stealing scenes. (“You begged me for a line.”) And we will’t overlook concerning the Council, serving as Greek refrain, chiming in every time the Monarch or 21 cross an necessary threshold. (“Altheaeus, the father of ‘Made you look!’”) The sequence is hilarious from begin to end.

Nevertheless it has some extent, too. As his last check, the Monarch is given the chance to kill Rusty. He refuses, calls the Council out for mindf**king him, and quits. Likewise, Gary rejects the Guild’s supply to make him a Degree four supervillain, saying he doesn’t need to hate with out his greatest pal. This, in fact, is what the Guild was on the lookout for, they usually instate the Monarch as a Degree 10 villain, with Gary as his Quantity 2. It’s a candy second, and a satisfying payoff to a relationship that’s been creating since season four.

However like several good season finale, the present can’t simply depart it there. Earlier than we log off, Watch and Ward break the information that the Monarch and Dr. Venture are “blood related,” one thing they came upon after testing Rusty’s DNA when he was introduced aboard Meteor Majeure. The Monarch’s response is predictable. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

It’s a cliffhanger, however the good type of cliffhanger, the type that solely comes after you’ve resolved one other plot. The Monarch turns into a Degree 10 villain however now has to determine how and whether or not to arch his half-brother. The leg of the journey ends and one other begins. It’s paced completely.

I might say a lot the identical factor about Hank and Dean’s story, which for my cash is the place the actual meat of the episode is. After passing out in Dean’s dorm room final week, Hank has slipped right into a coma. Now dressed as Lando Calrissian, he shares an Empire Strikes Again-themed fever dream with the Motion Man, who’s been in his personal coma ever since his stroke in “Arrears in Science.” (The Motion Man’s unconscious, for the report, has extra of a Barbarella factor going.) The Venture Bros. has all the time distinguished itself making bizarre, deep reduce popular culture references, so it was nice to see “The Saphrax Protocol” lay them on thicker and quicker than some other episode this season. Sure, a lot of comedies make Star Wars jokes, however what number of have a personality attempt to seduce a wampa with a line from an ’80s-era Colt 45 business starring Billy Dee Williams?

And in addition the supervillain Dr. Phineas Phage is there, having gone right into a coma after struggling an offscreen teleporter accident. His backside half now seems like an AT-AT from Empire Strikes Again. It’s a celebration in Comatown.

However as within the Monarch’s subplot, the references aren’t there for their very own sake; they’re window dressing for real character improvement. Hank’s been adrift for some time now. He’s not in class and he doesn’t have a job; Sirena is among the few issues he has going for him, and the Motion Man thinks he wants extra. Briefly, Hank must develop up.

However Hank has his personal concept concept of what rising up means. He thinks he’s proving his manhood by leaping into the Matmos, a mysterious lake of alien goo pulled from Barbarella. (The Motion Man: “It’s like this energy that surrounds everything.” Hank: “Like the Force!” “Yeah, but it’s confusing and it might have other powers. It’s completely unnecessary to the plot of the movie.” “Like Midichlorians.”) As Phage factors out, that doesn’t have a lot bearing on maturity subsequent to stuff like baby help funds or prostate most cancers, however who’s to say there’s just one method to be a grownup?

Hank has all the time cast his personal path, and it’s arduous to not be just a little impressed by the best way he throws himself into no matter determination he makes, even when it’s not all the time the best one. (The Motion Man: “That kid has moxie.” Phage: “That kid has undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”) On the finish of the episode, he rises from his hospital mattress and disappears right into a crowd, a parody of the ultimate scene from Darkman. Is he going to seek out himself? Is he going to seek out his start mom? Wherever he goes and nevertheless he modifies, I hope Hank by no means loses his wide-eyed sense of marvel, not utterly. I don’t assume he’s in any hazard of that proper now, since he was sporting his previous Batman masks as season 7 pale to black.

However let’s not steamroll over that start mom factor. Of their coma dream, the Motion Man reveals the identify of Hank and Dean’s mother: Bobbi St. Simone, which has a really late ’60s Venture Bros. type of ring to it. It’s a testomony to how properly “The Saphrax Protocol” is written that this reveal, so lengthy in coming, doesn’t crowd out the opposite plotlines or really feel prefer it wants extra consideration. It’s simply slipped into the circulate of the episode, establishing fascinating occasions to return. What’s she like, I’m wondering?

However that’s a query for season eight. In the meantime, within the season 7 finale, the strongest scenes belong to Dean, who sits by Hank’s bedside and lists all the explanations he’s “a crap brother.” The Venture Bros. is a comedy in the beginning, however seeing Dean pour out his coronary heart to a comatose Hank tugs on the heartstrings. At backside, his fears are quite simple: he regrets that he and Hank have grown aside. The present doesn’t pin down a precise purpose why he slept with Sirena as a result of it doesn’t need to; Dean knew it was a silly factor to do and nonetheless did it, as a result of he’s confused and adrift and feeling alone.

Wanting again, the present arrange this scene in “The High Cost of Loathing,” when Hank confessed a few of these similar fears to a comatose Rusty. “It ain’t easy maintaining my famous can-do attitude when you’re always all can’t-don’t to me,” he admitted. “I don’t get it. Dean cuts and runs on Team Venture and you give him whatever he wants, but I stick around and you punish me for it…I just feel so…kind of alone.” In the meantime, Dean needs to return to a time when it was simply him and Hank sharing a room and happening bizarre adventures with their household. Hank and Dean are feeling the identical issues, every of them resenting the opposite, and neither is aware of learn how to open up about it. As weird as their childhoods have been, and as off-the-wall as their world is, what they’re going via is common and relatable: they’re rising up, which is what Dean actually regrets. “The Saphrax Protocol” captures this with grace and sensitivity, and it calls out these annoying Bop It toys, as a result of we will’t have issues getting too critical.

The episode’s one huge flaw is its remedy of Sirena, or lack thereof. Why did she do what she did? How does she now really feel about Hank, and about Dean? When the present arrange this plotline again in “Loathing,” I apprehensive Sirena can be used as a plot system to drive the emotional improvement of the Venture brothers, and it appears like I used to be proper. We obtained nothing from her.

Sirena deserves higher than that. The present wants extra feminine characters and she or he’s a fantastic one, heat and brash in equal measure, with a distinctively endearing voice courtesy of Cristin Milioti (who’s additionally the mom on How I Met Your Mom, by the best way). I hope we discover her aspect of the story subsequent season. Perhaps she and Dean might search for Hank collectively?

Oh, man, subsequent season. I’ve a pair issues with “The Saphrax Protocol,” however the largest is that it’s single-handedly rendered the watch for season eight insufferable, and it was already going to be dangerous. Get on this, Grownup Swim! Give Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer the assets they want and journey the present into animated historical past!

Grade: A

Subsequent: The Venture Bros. evaluation: “The Forecast Manufacturer”

Nothing However Bullet Factors

  • “Llama meat has half the calories of pork!”
  • It’s a very good factor Brock didn’t undergo the teleporter. With that metallic plate in his chest, he might’ve ended up in a coma like Phage.
  • Pink Mantle and Dragoon have actually gotten used to sharing the identical physique. “We were going to pierce our ear like Jimmy from Road House!” They don’t even distinguish whose ear.
  • Saphrax was an actual man, a chieftan of the Greuthungi individuals within the fourth century. He dominated alongside Alatheus, which sounds rather a lot like Altheaeus, the character 21 performed. Collectively, they confronted down and beat a Roman military.
  • The dolls from Barbarella actually are that creepy, and doubtless that fragile.
  • “Now we’re talking. Well, not you, obviously, I broke your windpipe.”
  • I’m wondering which member of 98 Levels Dean thought appeared like “a shoebox with eyes.” You be the decide.
  • “Bobbi St. Simone,” Hank and Dean’s mom, sounds a like like Robert “Bobby” Simone, Jimmy Smits’ character on NYPD Blue. I do not know if it means something, however it’s a must to look underneath each rug with this present otherwise you miss one thing.
  • Ever discover how Radical Left solely talks out the left aspect of his mouth?
  • “I learned to count when I was 3.”
  • “We had different strokes.” That’s gotta be the most effective setup for a “Whatcha talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” ever.
  • Hank will get in a fast Wizard of Ouncesreference when saying goodbye to Phage. “Don’t cry. You’ll rust so dreadfully.”
  • So Hatred actually did have the letters on his physique eliminated. Besides the ‘D,’ as a result of it’s Tender Vittles down there.
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