The Venture Bros. "A Very Venture Halloween" Review: A Real Treat
When Louis C.K. announced that he was taking a year off before starting production on the next season of Louie, people were understandably frustrated with the delay between seasons. But as a member of Team Venture, my response was simply, "Just a year? That's all?"
Fans of the Adult Swim series The Venture Bros.—which is now, at four seasons, almost 10 years old—are used to long delays between seasons. While we're all eagerly awaiting the start of the fifth season next year, last night's Halloween special not only gave fans a much-needed Venture fix, it also served to start raising awareness about the show's return. And, as it turned out, to tease what may likely be the big story of the next season.
I was fully prepared for “A Very Venture Halloween” to just be a series of solid Halloween-themed Venture Bros. gags, and it certainly delivered on that front. Hatred, Rusty, Billy (dressed as Young Rusty), and Pete (dressed as the “thinner, whiter Duke”) taking bets on which kids would make it onto the compound provided just the right amount of light, amusing distraction from the two larger plots.
I thoroughly enjoyed that the Brimstone Assembly was basically just a series of cheap-o parlor tricks (except for Tatyana and Outrider’s really bizarre and kinky alternate dimension thing that included a dual-visor Cylon thing), and that it ended with Al summoning a zombie army that The Master, in the form of Santa Claus (due to a lack of options), had to demolish with a giant Spirit Bomb-esque spell. One of the things I’ve always liked about The Venture Bros. is how it treats magic users as normal folks who just happen to have a channel to the dark arts. They’re just as lame as everyone else on the show, and that’s great.
The focus of the episode, however, was the boys’ trip to Old Man Potter’s House (which doesn’t belong to anyone named Potter), and that's what got the ball rolling on Season 5. Living in the house, filled to the brim with taxidermy (which is always creepy; apologies to any taxidermy enthusiasts reading this), is a The Dude-like guy named Ben (voiced by J.K. Simmons in full awesome mode), who helped Rusty and Jonas work up the cloning vats and now lives in squalor on the grounds for some unclear reasons
Like any proud scientist, he checked on Dean’s vitals and ran some medical tests to see how his work was holding up. And then he let Dean in on the secret about all the cloning over the years. Dean, unsurprisingly, didn’t handle the news of being a clone very well, and I suspect it’ll weigh on him as The Venture Bros. enters its fifth season. His decision not to tell Hank in the episode tag was sort of heartbreaking, and it demonstrates just how much the two brothers have drifted apart over the course of the series.
But it was the lesson that Orpheus delivered that solidified my enjoyment of the episode. Holiday specials rest on the premise that they’re making a statement about the true meaning of that holiday (notably Christmas specials, of course). The notion that Halloween is when we’re our true selves, or that it allows us the time to explore our options, may not've been the most original notion, but it thematically worked within the rest of the episode. It created a wonderful symmetry that brought together the various story threads in really productive ways while also planting the special firmly in the tradition of other holiday specials.
Given that the series is one of the few Adult Swim series concerned with character development, this sort of work is always a treat, and if things continue as they did here, I think we’re in for a real treat next year.
– The series of haunted bedrooms was a great opening gag, and the capper of Hank and Dead realizing that it was the reality of the family getting old being what scared Rusty was just the best. Also: It’s the only time we got to see Brock. Sigh.
– Red Mantle and Dragoon are still attached, and Red Mantle is very embarrassed by it. As well he should be.
– Tatyana remains a non-speaking part. As far I’m concerned, she’ll always sound like H. Jon Benjamin.
– Hank mistaking Dermott’s Crow outfit for “an enchanted mime” was amazing. Almost as amazing as his desire to be a California Raisin.
– As to Dermott and Hank’s Chex Mix discussion: The rye chips are the worst, but when a bunch of flavor does get trapped in a Chex piece? It really is the best.
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