The Venture Bros. "A Very Venture Halloween" Review: A Real Treat

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oct 29, 2012

The Venture Bros. Halloween Special: "A Very Venture Halloween"

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.


NOTES


– 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.

  • Comments (29)
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  • ben45tpy Nov 01, 2012

    I hadn't heard about this special so I'm glad that this article reminded me it was on. It's good to see that the show is instantly back to its best form. I felt the latter half of Season 4 wasn't quite at the highest standard but I'm excited for the new season.

  • Dirk13 Oct 31, 2012

    "except for Tatyana and Outrider's really bizarre and kinky alternate dimension thing that included a dual-visor Cylon thing"



    Uh, that was a reference from the Hellraiser movie series, and a hilarious one at that :P . I'm glad at least I caught and appreciated that :P .



    Also, I love the rye chips! I'm not sure what the "flavor filled" things they were talking about was though.

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    As I mentioned below, I've never seen Hellraiser. Ah well.

    And I think the flavor filled refers to when the Chex pieces get overly coated in flavoring and it becomes an explosion of awesome.

  • ViperGT30 Oct 31, 2012

    Didn't they find out that there are clones in season 3 when the Monarch attacked the compound and venture released the colones to defend against the monarch and the OSS?

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    Memories got wiped, IIRC, thanks to Sphinx. SPHINX!

  • ViperGT30 Oct 31, 2012

    24 even asks him what its like to be a "Dean" i think its been awhile.

  • RichardPerry Oct 31, 2012

    The clone slugs were explained away by rusty telling the boys they were a christmas gift:

    "They're an army of 'yous' to tell you that you're awesome and cool."

    And as for 24 asking him what it was like to be a "Dean" that's just one of many inside jokes the other characters who know they're clones throw at them in passing, simply because they know that Hank and Dean have yet to figure it out.

  • Dudekotka Oct 30, 2012

    Please tell me you'll be reviewing the fifth season when it airs. This is the best animated show ever.

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    I do not know if I'll be reviewing it or not.

  • r0z3 Oct 30, 2012

    I think it really needs to be pointed out that this episode was NOT the start of a new season; it's meant to air in the middle-ish of season 5.

    They've explained this a few times over Facebook. They just wanted to be able to give the fans something, and the Halloween special had the right timing.

    That's why Sgt. Hatred's boobies aren't explained, along with Dean being semi-goth.

    I'm personally pretty excited to see what happens in previous episodes : )

    Hopefully they'll explain and fix any continuity problems currently in my head.

    This show's ability to have so many things going on throughout so many different episodes and the way it weaves them together so flawlessly is one of the reason's it's my absolute favorite show. (well, kinda tied with Top Gear, but the genres are so different...)

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    Never claimed it as the start of the new season; treated it as a special.

    As for its intended airdate/production order (this was supposed to be...episode 4, I think, yes?), I think it works as a stand-alone/asynchronous prelude/tease.

    Even if the breasts or the semi-goth appearance aren't explained here, the show has never shied from playful in media res storytelling (hello there, "Escape to the House of Mummies Part II"). Easy enough just to assume a time skip as well.

  • r0z3 Oct 31, 2012

    I never claimed you claimed it was the start of the new season...

    But quite a few others were asking questions as if they thought it was : /

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    Were they? I didn't get that sense from the comments here.... :-/

  • gtachico Oct 30, 2012

    Storyline wise, joke wise, The Venture Brothers is as perfect as ever. The animation is noticeably worse though, unfortunately.

  • noelrk Oct 30, 2012

    Was the animation worse? I must admit that I did not notice, but I was also scrambling to takes notes and catch jokes. I'll have to go back and re-watch it...

  • Ankh49 Oct 30, 2012

    Can't wait for the new season. I love how they have manged to make the boys (kinda) grow up a little whilst still keeping them the same losers that we've come grown fond of. For the first time it seemed to me that Dean was a bit more mature than Hank? Maybe it's just because he's changed his look whilst Hank seems to have reverted back to his old look. If Dean is more mature I think it might because a) he remembers his first sexual encounter whilst Hank has no memory of his, b) he has finally managed to let go of Triana. I'm glad to see that they kept Tatyana and the Outrider. I look forward to seeing what The Monarch, Dr Mrs Girlfriend and Jonas Venture have been up to. when exactly does the new season air again?

  • noelrk Oct 30, 2012

    I'm not entirely sure when the new season starts. Sometime in early 2013 for sure. I've heard January, and I've heard spring. I don't think a firm date has been set, but if anyone knows, feel free to chime in.

  • Ankh49 Oct 30, 2012

    OMG!! You guys review The Venture Bros??? I LOVE this site!!! :-D

  • noelrk Oct 30, 2012

    Well, we're doing the Halloween special. I'm not sure if we'll be doing weekly coverage when it resumes next year or not.

  • JT_Kirk Oct 30, 2012

    Three years, that's how long we Venture Bros fans have waited for season 3 while Jackson has been working on other Adult Swim shows (he's one of the producers and voice actors on Superjail, and I think he's doing voicework for Metalocalypse) and Doc has been making '80s "new" wave music. That's longer than the delay between the original pilot and the series. THREE YEARS. And luckily last night's episode delivered something good.

    One thing I felt was a missed opportunity was any reference to Henchman 24's body being on the grounds, but I suspect this episode was simply too full as it was. Still, I was expecting a wink or nod to that.

    Good write-up, but I would disagree with the ending wrap-up and the Santa thing. The Santa thing felt like an idea that was half-baked, it was fun to watch but the explanation was unconvincing as there's plenty of Halloween imagery out there to use, or he could just go as himself since it's that time of year - I would have been happier had he just did it to be less believable to Hank & Dermott, or to screw with the Assembly's minds. As for the ending wrap-up, I'm getting a tad sick of Orpheus playing Linus in the Peanuts christmas special, he barely reacts to anything except to pontificate, there's never reflection or consideration of who he is and how he views things. Still, if that's the price we pay for more Venture Bros., I'll take it.

    Have they explained why Hatred had breasts?

  • RichardPerry Oct 31, 2012

    24 doesn't have a body. The only thing left from the explosion was his head and one hand.

  • JT_Kirk Oct 31, 2012

    My "season 3" meant "season 5" obviously. :-P

    Noel, don't get me wrong, H. Jon Benjamin is such a crazy voice coming out of such a classic Santa, I just think they tried too hard to justify it and came up with something lame and overwrought instead of just rolling with it.

    I guess if Orpheus was more of a rounded character these days, having outside interests or even more of an obvious internal life, it might be more tolerable, but his writing has suffered from being 1-dimensional despite the character being pan-dimensional.

  • noelrk Oct 31, 2012

    At least we'll always have Orpheus and Rusty trying to shrink things through magic or science.

  • noelrk Oct 30, 2012

    Yeah, I think the episode was just too full for a 24 reference (sadly!). I also think it might've taken us out of the episode just a tad more than the Brimstone Assembly bit arguably does (everything else is very centered on the Venture family and their surrogate members, as it were).

    I get that, totally. I think the Santa thing was just the last bit of absurdity in that really absurd plot, so I was willing to roll with it. Does it make any sense? Nope, but I still found it pretty funny (perhaps it Benjamin's voice coming out of Santa Claus?).

    As much as I really love Orpheus, I do agree that show has started to mobilize him in less than great ways, including this pontificating. Part of it is in keeping with his character as a bit of busybody know-it-all, but it does, as you say, seem like it limits his perspective in a number of ways. Given the nature of it being a "holiday special," I feel like it works here, but it's likely to be an annoyance outside of this sort of an homage.

    And...I don't think they have explained it? I have to admit that one of the problems I run into while watching this show is that some things just get fuzzy due to the gaps between seasons. I really need to re-watch seasons 3 and 4...

  • GreendaleAlum Oct 30, 2012

    rye chips are awful. Also, I'm so glad this show is back :)

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