The Venture Bros “Momma’s Boys” part 2
While Hank, Dermott, Gary and HELPeR act crazy to get themselves committed (what could possibly go wrong?) Rusty and Hatred go searching for By-Golly Gulch, using a hover-tank and a smartphone. A lot of the characters in The Venture Bros are in desperate search of a dream, but Rusty wants to find Teddy with a GPS. And, since By-Golly Gulch is a nonexistent fairyland, he is doomed. The important thing, though, is that Rusty, who’s always found the whole alter-ego thing to be a stone drag, a blight on his life, is so in need of an alter ego that he’s created one – in Teddy, who, for the purposes of Rusty’s narrative, doesn’t exist. Rusty is going to rescue Teddy, who he sees as a version of himself, from the clutches of evil. This, the narrative implies, is what happens when a man doesn’t do the normal thing of dressing up in a costume and affecting a colorful persona: one sees people where there are none, no matter how obvious it is that they are not there.
Dean, the reader will recall, has abandoned alter-egos as well; he even has decided he no longer wants to be a Venture Brother. To fill the void in his life he has gone searching for his mother, Myra. He locates her at the asylum and his fondest hopes are immediately dashed as he finds himself being used by Myra for a prison break. Myra pulls a Hannibal Lecter, swapping everyone’s clothes around, turning herself into a guard and Dean into herself. Myra, we see, has been adrift without a persona for too long, and it has led to this.
Dermott, meanwhile, is found to be not crazy, or at least not Guild-crazy. His persona, Flying Sidekick, doesn’t stick – perhaps it’s not crazy enough, or perhaps it’s too close to his actual personality. He and HELPeR are treated as – gasp – regular criminals. Of course, no one can just “be arrested” by “policemen” on The Venture Bros, and soon Dr. Orpheus comes to spring him and erase his criminal record (leaving only the question of the enormous drill-vehicle with the Venture logo on the side that wrecked the bank). Dr. Orpheus cottons to what we’ve known for a while now: Dermott is Hank’s half-brother, a veritable Venture Brother himself.
Meanwhile, Rusty and Hatred get lost and plummet into a gorge. Rusty’s goal, to rescue an imaginary friend, has failed. Rusty, it should be noted, has never shown any level of caring for another character in the show. A remarkably self-centered man, Teddy is the first person Rusty’s ever gone out on a limb for. How appropriate that Teddy is only a projection of his ideal vision of himself. Rusty sees Teddy as an innocent who fell in with the wrong crowd and now must pay the piper. Obviously, that’s him talking about himself, the boy who never asked to be hauled around the world on his father’s adventures, and now is surrounded by violent loons who attack him based on his father’s faded glory. If Rusty had never been “Rusty Venture,” he’d have no trouble with supervillains at all. On the other hand, he’d also have no super-science lab to inherit.
Meanwhile, in another part of the asylum, Hank and Gary (who are apparently deemed crazy enough to be admitted) have stalled on their quest to find the “real Teddy” and are making crafts in the therapy room. Unbeknownst to them, they’re in a room full of Batman villains, starting with the Harvey Dent-like Radical Left, who announces that the asylum has, at some point, devolved into a cult of personality revolving around Myra, who has, it seems, brought out the loyal son in each one of the inmates. Which reminds us that “parent” is a persona as well. Some are good at it, some are bad at it, but the act of parenting is a performance, just as is the act of being a lover, a friend, a sibling or a supervillain. (Bergman’s masterpiece Persona revolves around an actress who has a breakdown realizes that she has never, in all her life, “been herself,” she has always been playing one role or another. Dean, we see, has a similar problem.)
The inmates take over the asylum and in comes Myra, carried like a St. Gennero float of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She announces that they are “all a family now” and that the inmates are “free to be themselves.” But we’ve seen the kind of existential terror that comes in the Ventureverse when a character is “freed” from persona – they retreat as quickly as possible, or they reach out to find a new persona, or they founder at attempts to connect with another person. No one in the Ventureverse is comfortable in his or her own skin.
Myra lets slip that she’s never actually experienced birth, which makes Hank realize that she is not, in fact, their mother (although how that would be a deal-breaker in the Ventureverse is another question). He quickly shows Myra what happens when “all her family” are “free to be themselves.” “Themselves” are a bunch of violent psychopaths, held in check up to this point solely due to Myra’s ability to keep them infantilized. Freed from their imposed personae, the inmates riot and escape.
Rusty and Hatred, meanwhile, trade death-bed confessions. Rusty helpfully explains how he let Myra think she was the boys’ mother, and how Dermott is his love-child. Which makes it official, I guess, although what this all “means” in a show where children are cloned, men walk around without limbs and sorcerers travel the infinite with otherworldly guides, may be best left alone. The importat plot point is that By-Golly Gulch, coincidentally, is right down the hill from Dunwich Asylum, much as Myra is, coincidentally, housed in the same asylum Hank and Gary break into.
Dean, in spite of his disappointment at finding out that Myra is not his mother, bonds with Hank, telling him “you always have good points.” That’s as close as the Season 5 Dean gets to brotherly love, and it’s worthwhile to note that it’s, essentially, an acknowledgement that Hank’s relentless pursuit of persona, from HankCo to Batman to Desire to Enrico Matassa (in this season alone), has made him a happier young man than Dean, who has spent the season trying to ” be himself.”
Rusty, on the brink of sudden death, is rescued by Teddy, who has “become himself” (ie insane) and rescues Rusty and Hatred from their Jeep. Rusty traveled far to rescue Teddy, who ended up rescuing him instead. His imaginary friend has come to life, brought about seemingly through love alone.