The Venture Bros: “The Devil’s Grip” part 2
The Monarch finally has his prey, Dr. Venture, where he wants him. After much deliberation over a long list of choices, he decides to use “the bell.” Unfortunately, Rusty is, apparently, partly deaf due to years spent on his father’s jet. Meant to be used as a marital aid, he instead becomes a cockblock.
Meanwhile, back in Tangiers, Col Gentleman recounts a scene from his youth to Dean for the sake of his memoirs. (Included in the scene, but not explicitly pointed out, is “Triple Threat,” who appears to be Rose, the Action Man’s crush.) And in Boca Raton, Hank and the Action Man proceed with a plan to dupe Rose into falling in love (or at least falling in bed) with the Action Man. (I guess Triple Threat must have been hypnotized by Brainulo when she fought him way back when?)
At the Monarch’s cocoon, Sgt Hatred runs into another henchman, who mistakes him for 21. Hatred’s response is curious: he turns shy and timid, leaving Gary to club the other hench unconscious. Hatred is shy when discovered in Gary’s outfit, I’m guessing, because he looks down Gary, and all the Monarch’s henchman I would imagine, for their dorkiness and lack of ambition. Why be a henchman when you can be a supervillain? Or a super-helper, which is what Hatred is now. Hatred is both surprised and affected by Gary’s skills as a soldier, and for the first time he sees Gary as an equal, or even a “buddy.”
The Bell having failed, the Monarch tries the Marathon Man trick of drilling the victim’s teeth, but Rusty’s foul breath foils him once again. Rusty, it seems, is so full of failure that he can’t even succeed as a torture victim.
In Tangiers, Col Gentleman, the man who disarmed a thug half his age and defeated (I guess) Brainulo is now undone by a cute Arab boy named Kiki. (Probably not William S. Burroughs’s Kiki from Naked Lunch, who would be quite elderly by now). What is revealed here? Col Gentleman, an adventurer with the voice of Sean Connery, who can best lizard-people in an arena of combat and has drawn more sexual partners than many people draw breaths, is a failure in the arena of love. This is true of the Action Man as well, but the difference is that the Action Man is trying to make amends, while Col Gentleman is too wrapped up in his own sense of self to compromise. (Although, to be fair, it seems to me that Kiki, in his fez and hot pants, is nothing but trouble.) Worse still, he is suddenly reminded that, after all his adventuring, all his friends are dead, he’s a relic from a lost generation.
Back at the cocoon, Tim-Tom and Kevin attempt to divide and conquer Hatred and Gary. They succeed in turning Hatred against Gary, but fail to convince Gary of Hatred’s betrayal. And how could they? Hatred and Gary just became best friends, and nobody, but nobody, likes the Moppets, especially not Gary, who knows that they killed Henchman 24. Gary, who came along on this mission to rescue Dr. Venture, when offended by Kevin (or Tim-Tom, I can’t remember) suddenly finds a new mission: to protect the Monarch from the Moppets, who have become would-be usurpers of the Monarch’s throne. He quickly stages a coup, turning all the henchmen against the Moppets.
Down on the ground, the Monarch’s third and final attempt at torturing Rusty fails when his plug can’t reach the outlet (no symbolism intended, I’m sure). This leads to what addicts refer to as a “moment of clarity.” And the addiction part is key, not just to the Monarch’s arc but to everyone’s. The characters are all addicted to their lifelong cosplay, to the extent that it’s prevented all of them, all of them, from growing up, from having what you and I would call “normal lives,” lives where you fall in love, start a family, wade into the stream of life.
That’s what Action Man seems to want, and even Rose has her regrets, having lost her son over issues of pride and shame. Hank, in the nick of time for both Rose and Action Man, realizes that Rose’s son is Billy Quizboy, thus sealing the deal between Action Man and Rose, who could only fumble toward normalcy before Hank, ever helpful, makes the connection.
The Monarch, meanwhile, confesses to Dr. Girlfriend that he let Rusty go, but then turns his failure around to make it that he “broke his spirit,” and then proceeds to crow about his dastardly master plan, thus finally allowing him the sexual triumph he needs. But he, and we, know that the Monarch has truly found something in his failure to kill Rusty; there is a real reckoning at stake here and a journey into the Monarch’s self has begun.
The Monarch’s moment of fake-triumph is dashed, of course, first by Gary’s homecoming (the prodigal son returns), then by Hatred, who, burned by what he perceives as Gary’s betrayal, comes to destroy both the cocoon and the Monarch’s house. At their moment of crisis, each character realized their true nature: Gary is a hench for life, not a leader, and Hatred is a supervillain, not a mother-figure.
After the credits, we find the Monarch moving in with the remains of his family (the Moppets and all the other henchman presumably dead), while a new Venture family forms back at the compound. Action Man is now with Rose, Rose is back with Billy, Dr. Entmann is in another grave, Col Gentleman invites the Action Man to room with him in his new home in New York’s West Village. The scene is a funeral, but what is really being buried here? Is it “the past?” Is such a thing truly possible in the Venture universe?
Almost as an afterthought, Dean reveals his terrible secret to Hank: he knows that they are clones who have died many times over. Hank, far from being shocked or dismayed, exclaims that that is the neatest thing ever. The world, for Hank, never stops getting more cool. Whether it’s helping old people get together, playing bass or finding out he’s (in a sense) immortal, everything is just fine with Hank. That marks him as a fool, but perhaps a holy one: if one cannot help the life one’s been given, why not enjoy it for what it is? He and Dean never asked for this life, but why waste time fighting one’s nature?