The Venture Bros “Momma’s Boys” part 2

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


19 Responses to “The Venture Bros “Momma’s Boys” part 2”
  1. miniclip says:

    Great post.

  2. Travis says:

    Actually, Orpheus has known all along that Dermott was Rusty’s son: he was never shown getting his memory wiped by the SPHINX device after “Everyone Comes to Hank’s”, and it’s mentioned in “Trial of the Monarch” that “memory wipes don’t work on his kind”. Between knowing that and the fact that the boys are clones, it’s odd that Orpheus is let in on these secrets and never factored in to keeping them.

    • Geoff says:

      He always seems to take the philosophical route that self-enlightenment is more important than simply gaining knowledge through a third party. Much how he despised The Outrider for short-cutting his way to greater magical power by shoving an artifact in his brain-pan.

      He wants people to find out things for themselves, rather than foster information upon them.

    • ZephyrSP says:

      With a little mental gymnastics, you could suppose that Orpheus never actually made the connection between Dermott and the memory he and Al (and Hank) saw until this episode. He knows Dermott from being around the compound so much of course, but he wouldn’t know Nikki and Mrs. Fictel from anywhere other than the memory. All you really learn from the memory itself (without our viewer’s context) is that Rusty conceived an illegitimate son with an underage girl, and got berated for it by her mom.

  3. TJ says:

    Is Dean trying to be himself? I always found his innocence and kindness to be genuine. His attempts at rebellion don’t seem to just be against his father’s desires, but against who he genuinely is as a person. The only activity that we know he loves, writing, is no longer being shared with anyone. Sure, he keeps a diary/journal, but it is for him.

    Hank, on the other hand, is rebelling (sneaking out with Dermott), but his rebellion is less stark, because it remains in character. He still is idolizing strong male figures (Brock, Batman), but is no longer losing himself in them. He hasn’t worn Brock’s coat in ages, and the Batman persona didn’t resurface in this most obvious place.

  4. mozart says:

    any body catch the Native American ripping up the water fountain and smashing it through the window in order to escape/ One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Chief Bromden leaves.

    • Todd says:

      I saw that it was an homage to Cuckoo’s Nest, but I also assumed that the Native American dude was a reference to the Superfriends, who had a guy like that.

      • billy's hydrocephaly says:

        It was also a within-universe callback to Big Chief, one of the [rejected] applicants for Phantom Limb’s supervillain group, the Revenge Society. He can grow slightly larger by standing on his toes, which was deemed inadequate for membership to the group. I can only presume that it was this rejection that drove him to full-fledged criminal insanity.

  5. the Norm says:

    Dean isn’t really trying to be himself, he is trying to be the kind of guy that Triana Orphius wants. He is on a downward spiral in finding out the horrible truths about his existence. 1. He never had a real or official relationship with Triana and was stuck in the friend zone. 2. He is a clone and most of his life was pretty much a lie. 3. He’s never really had anybody he could relate to. 4. The one person he thought he could reach out to for some sort of love and understanding, even if she wasn’t quite sane, turned out to not be his mother, but a nut bag who thought she was.
    Even though, all of the evidence pointed at her being their mother, wasn’t there a flashback where she was pregnant? I think she was responsible for one of the first Hank and Dean deaths and I’m not convinced that the original Hank and Dean are dead.
    Hank is going in the opposite direction. If you’ve noticed, in some way, everything Hank touches turns to gold, fools gold. But, like his father, he’s oblivious to most of the damage caused.
    I really cannot wait to see what this season is building up to

    • newstarr says:

      There was an episode that flashed back to the time where Hank & Dean were born/babies, but Myra was never shown as pregnant, just there. She was shown yelling at Rusty through the communicator and then escorted off of the Venture Compound while baby Hank & Dean were held by Helper in the background. Also the episode where she was introduced clearly stated that Rusty had sex with her. All of these were clearly red herrings (or perhaps the writers just leaving themselves enough wiggle room that they could change their minds on whether or not Myra was the mother down the road.(

    • lungbarrow says:

      There was a flashback were Myra was being arrested by the OSI and Helper was holding the baby Venture Bros but not one where she was pregnant. I don’t think it was ever expressly shown that Myra caused one of their deaths and I don’t remember any implication to that effect.

  6. Les Bowman says:

    Post-Credits Dermott pretty much spills the beans to the whole clan that he is in fact a VB. So his original mission is now complete, he met/acknowledged his father.

  7. Zach says:

    A theme that I’m starting to see in the venture bros. that might be stronger than failure is the juxtaposition of perceived values (hope that’s an accurate way to put it.). The villainous GCI may professionally hate superscientists, but what about these superscientists? There has been no scientist on the show that can be said to be more than neglectful at best towards the people that rely on them: dr. Impossible to his wife and eventually son, dr. Venture sr towards rusty, rusty towards his own boys, even the never seen dr. Quest towards Johnny. Meanwhile the monarch, while being petty and having nefarious aspirations appears to have a healthy relationship with his wife, misses his erstwhile friend (21), and hates dr venture. Hate is not the true opposite of love, indifference is, and dr venture shows massive quantities of indifference towards pretty much everything; at least the bad guys have feelings! I know this rant doesn’t really relate directly to this particular episode, but it does relate to who I consider to be the most intriguing character on the show and I can’t wait to read what you have to say about him: dr. Henry killinger. He first appears in the same episode that we first meet Myra and appears to be working with the oni

    • Zach says:

      (fat thumbs post early) that seems to be trying to reunite rusty and Myra. Also, Myra admits to never giving birth to hank and dean, but this doesn’t necessarily exclude her from having donated her genetic material to aid in the creation of two boys who have been crafted independently of a womb at least 14 times. Back to juxtaposed values and dr. Killinger, despite his name and skull masked face, he seems to encourage and facilitate the most positive things we see on the show: love, success, self-improvement, acceptance, and faith. One last unrelated note, molotovs father in osi love you has different colored eyes like the sovereign.

  8. Travis E. says:

    Has anyone noticed that Doc treats Dean’s weak rebelliousness the same way Jonas treated Doc’s? I’m thinking back to “Past Tense”, where Rusty is talking on the phone to his dad, and Jonas just laughingly steamrolls over him.

    Dean will be every bit his father’s son, as much as he doesn’t want to be.

  9. Travis says:

    Myra not being the mother makes sense, continuity-wise. In “Past Tense”, Rusty mentions not losing his virginity until he was 24, and then remarking that the woman was not attractive, which really doesn’t fit the profile of Myra back in the day (further emphasized by Rusty’s remarks about hotpants and sexual panthers). I’d almost say it’s odd that the boys don’t inquire further about who their real mother was if it wasn’t Myra, but then again, they never really pursued that question before, for whatever reason.