The Venture Bros: “Bot seeks Bot” part 1
The Clue Clown wields his question mark for good reason. We were only just introduced to his existence, and now he’s gone, leaving nothing but questions. Who was he? What did he stand for? What were his hopes and dreams? Those might be questions too silly to ask of a farcical one-joke supervillain, but the funeral of the Clue Clown is treated with a somberness rare for a Venture Bros death. We barely knew the Clue Clown, the script seems to say, but then, how well do we really know anyone? The death of the Clue Clown sends a whole tributary of minor Venture characters into a whirling tailspin of reflection, sober and otherwise. And, like all funerals, it provokes death’s opposite: lust. What better protest against death could there be than the seeking of carnal fulfillment? In this case, having the lovers seeking their carnalities in bodies of metal.
Red Mantle and Dragon, sharing a body, are split on the death of Boggles the Clue Clown, other members of the Council of 13 are saddened, but only Captain Sunshine is truly bereft – the Council of 13 may have lost a colleague, but Captain Sunshine has lost an arch, which is a much deeper bond in the Ventureverse. For what is a hero without a villain?
But to Brock Samson, the protagonist of the episode, the death of the Clue Clown is, well, a clue, and “Bot Seeks Bot” is, above all else, a detective plot, complete with multiple stakeouts, a cunning vixen, undercover civilians and a damsel in distress. Brock wants to expose the Council of 13, the shadowy upper-echelon of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, and Boggles’s funeral gives him the opportunity he needs. He neither mourns nor rejoices in the death of a clown, for him death is “all part of the job, man.”
The lever Brock will use to pry open the Council of 13 is Vendata, a Robocop-ish cyborg whose name suggests vending, data, vendetta, and, of course, Venture. Like many things Venture, Vendata appears to be some sort of erstwhile distaff Venture experiment gone wrong, in design almost like the Action Man turned robot. Despite his cold, calculating name and his unfeeling behavior at the funeral, Vendata is, at heart, a lonely cyborg, looking for love in a cruel world. Vendata will become Brock’s rabbit to chase down a hole, but he becomes a second protagonist in this episode, leader of the b-story, Denzel Washington to Brock’s Russell Crowe.
The Council of 13, meanwhile, finds themselves bucking against the commands of the Sovereign. They’ve just brought in a new member to replace Boggles, and their sense of occasion overrides the Sovereign’s demand for anonymity. Setting aside the fact that this is all just silly, what’s happened dramatically is that the Council has been affected by Boggles’s death, they’ve spent their lives in service to the Guild, they don’t want to die and be unknown to their closest coworkers. The Venture Bros has explored in detail the bond between hero and villain, but this affection among coworkers feels new: characters who were cardboard before, or completely unknown, are suddenly given nostalgia and loneliness.
While the Council head out to party with the new guy, Ghost Robot, an ancillary character we’ve seen wander through occasional stories, takes the job of playing honeypot for Vendata. Ghost Robot’s excitement and delight are palpable, one’s heart really goes out to the big lug as he prepares for his mystery date. Ghost Robot’s arc, as he gets lost in his date and goes a little too far undercover, is the sweetest and most tender facet of the episode. (While Brock prepares Ghost Robot for his date, Shore Leave implies that Headshot’s wife Amber is boinking Brock on the side. One can hardly blame her, Headshot seems just this side of Prof Impossible in terms of ick, and the theme of co-worker-ly affection is reflected. Brock’s posse on this gig is tetchy and impatient, while the Council members are expansive and comradely. This contrast, combined with Headshot’s lust for, well, headshots, raises the question of who the bad guys are here.
A gaggle of Council members carpool to a nightclub in Steppenwolf’s Doom Buggy (based on the Munsters’ car) and reminisce – inaccurately – about the old days, evoking Dick Dastardly (and, by proxy, the Creepy Coupe) from the Hanna-Barbera show The Wacky Races. Confusing one’s life with a cartoon show is not new to The Venture Bros, but The Wacky Races, based as it was on Blake Edwards’ The Great Race, is germane to the theme of the episode of heroes needing villains and vice versa: in The Great Race, the Dick Dastardly character (called Professor Fate in the movie) refuses to accept victory at the end of the race because the nominal “good guy” didn’t put up enough of a fight. A villain doesn’t want to win, a villain wants to beat the hero, his victory is meaningless if no one is trying to stop him. Add to that the fact that Boggles’s death has touched a nerve with the entire council and we can see that this team is ready to cut loose. (Dick Dastardly is, of course, a close cousin to Jay Ward’s Snidely Whiplash, who is a derivation from Simon Legree, the villain of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, proving what Marx had to say about history: first time is a tragedy, then repeated as farce.)
Brock’s plan spirals out of control when Ghost Robot, thrilled to have digits and thrilled to be making an impression on Vendata, agrees to go to a nightclub with his date. (The same nightclub, it turns out, that the Council members are headed to.) Brock is terrified that he’s sent a civilian into a nest of evil, but the nightclub is merely filled with other lonely, desperate people, reaching out for carnal satisfaction. As well they should; even those unaffected by the Clue Clown’s death still spend their lives concocting murder plots and revenge fantasies, they need to grab their lust where they can get it.