Venture Bros: Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel

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As the title suggests, "Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel" is about, well, searching for fathers and steeling your heart. What does it mean to be a man? Are you a man when you kill your father, or when you find him? Does a father hold you back or complete you? Does a father make his son a man by nurturing him or making him fight on his own? And, in a moment of truth, can a man act? Is that what it means to be a man? Can you steel your heart enough to act? And, where do our notions of manhood, or action, come from?

It’s kind of an episode of re-boots: Brock is re-booted and becomes an agent of SPHINX, Hatred is re-booted by the OSI docs to become Hank and Dean’s bodyguard, Hitler is re-booted to become a dog, 24 isn’t re-booted at all, and Helper is re-booted to become a killer Walking Eye.

The episode begins by placing Brock in the context of a comic-book superhero. By placing him in not just a comic book, but Marvel #1, almost the comic book (only Action #1 carries more cultural weight) the show connects Brock in the context of not just cultural immortality, but as a father, or a grandfather, to himself. It suggests that Brock is not only a continuation of pulp action heroes, he is also a progenitor — or maybe he’s in some kind of a time-loop (much like the episode itself) where, by living the experiences of Marvel’s earliest heroes, he becomes who he is.

(Is that what Doe, or Cardholder, I can’t remember which, means when he says he’s found Rusty’s time machine? Has Brock also, somehow, found a time machine that allows him to become grandfather to his fictional self? It’s not just that the show’s creators have given the scenes of his story witty allusions — they’ve actually inserted Brock into the original comic.)

This is a sublime trick The Venture Bros pulls off time after time: it takes its wildly exaggerated characters and makes them somehow seem "real" in comparison to the popular culture that spawned them. The Monarch, with his outrageous eyebrows, his butterfly costume and his giant floating cocoon, finds the whole notion of costumed superheroes absurd and tiresome. He’s leading a perfectly ordinary life, but to him, everyone else, it seems, is some kind of crazy person living a kooky fantasy. Which I guess is why he’s such a good match for Rusty’s arch: they’re both completely annoyed with the trappings of their lifestyles.

There are, of course, two stories in this episode, richly linked thematically. The A story, Brock’s moves forward in time, while the B story, which is primarily Hank’s, moves backwards. Some people have mentioned that the post-credits scene breaks the rules of the episode, since it proceeds chronologically from the B-story scene preceding it, but I prefer to think that it’s an A-story scene that we don’t realize is an A-story scene until almost the last minute.

Far in the future, Hatred (who is "Mister Hatred" now, apparently retiring his rank with his supervillain status), we think, is trying to kill Rusty. But no, he’s trying to kill Nazis, while Dean, down on the tarmac, has been given the assignment to "kill Hitler" before we really understands what that means. The thing I take away from the scene is that Dean "hates his knife." This means that Dean has not "steeled his heart," that is, he can’t bring himself to kill a dog, even if the dog’s name is Hitler, but also may have a sexual connotation, which would explain a lot about Dean. He recoils in fear from just about everything, but is especially incompetent when it comes to weaponry. He can’t use his knife, and he’s utterly incapable of assembling his gun later on (or, rather, earlier on). If he hates his knife and can put his gun together, how does he ever expect to make it with Triana?

While Dean fails to kill Hitler with his knife, Dr. Orpheus steps forward with his magic cane to zap pretty much everything in sight. (This turns out to be the "Cleansing of Fire" Orpheus talks about later — er, earlier.) The visual reference is to Raiders of the Lost Ark, of course, as the divine crystal (or whatever) that Orpheus wields is capable of destroying cloning equipment and Nazis, produces mild static on local walkie-talkies but otherwise leaves people alone. Unlike the wrath of God in Raiders (or whatever it is, the narrative never actually says), it seems you can look at it and not get zapped. In fact, the Nazis don’t look at it and get zapped — this God, it seems, is happy to zap people in the back.

Appropriately enough for a story about sons searching for fathers, Brock begins the episode by being re-born. He’s not only no longer Hank and Dean’s bodyguard, he’s no longer anything — he has no affiliation any longer, he’s a blank slate. As a re-born boy, he does what all boys do: he goes searching for his father. Not his biological father, but his professional father, his mentor, Hunter Gathers. The indication is that he’s going to find his father and kill him (there’s no indication that he’s also planning on marrying his professional mother, if he has one). Like the child he is, Brock assumes that everything happening is all about him. He assumes the surgeons are performing weird experiments on him, he assumes the mind-wipe doctors are plotting against him, he assumes the gunmen are there to take him down. How confusing it is for him, when he learns that none of this is true: the surgeons have been trying to save his life, the mind-wipers are plotting against Sgt. Hatred (apparently so that he won’t molest Hank, in his new job as the boys’ bodyguard).

Next, we have the boys in the bathroom, preparing to "kill Hitler." We’re still not sure who "Hitler" is, which is alarming since Dean professes to love him. He seems prepared to defend Hitler to the death, not a good attitude for steel-hearted man. Hatred has certainly steeled his heart, he’s ready to both kill Nazis and to defecate in front of other men, without even telling them he’s doing so. He’s really pumped about fighting Nazis and killing Hitler, all steel-hearted men need someone to fight. Especially a man who calls himself Sgt. Hatred.

The next scene initially looks like a B-story scene, with Dean being an annoyance to Cardholder (or Doe), but soon is revealed to be an A-story scene, about Brock coming back to the compound to give back his wrist communicator (although, why Brock feels that Rusty would miss a simple wrist-communicator with all the calamities that strike the Venture compound every week is something of a mystery). Hank teases Dean about seeing Brock, as though Brock were as real as the Tooth Fairy. He’s steeled his heart against his ex-father-figure, and he doesn’t seem to feel too attached to Doe and Cardholder, his temporary father-figures. And he’ll be hard-pressed to feel anything for Hatred, his soon-to-be father figure. Hank seems to be rushing headlong into manhood, ready to leave behind the pleasures of boyhood (like Giant Boy Detective mysteries and father-worship) and begin killing all on his own.

Or perhaps Hank is anxious to become Brock. When Rusty receives Helper’s head wrapped in Brock’s jacket, Hank seems rather moved for a boy who recently mocked his brother for "believing" in Brock. He puts on Brock’s jacket and never takes it off again, rejecting Hatred’s attempts at fathering in loyalty to his "true" father Brock. Of course, to "become Brock" means to become a steel-hearted killer — that’s what Brock is. A hammer cannot love a nail.

Then we have the C-story, 21’s journey to get his beloved 24 cloned. The Nazis want to clone Hitler, their father, but 21 wants only to clone 24, his brother, or perhaps only his friend. The Nazis are motivated by lust for power but 21 is motivated by love: why else would he sacrifice his copy of Marvel #1? (I had to check to see who exactly the "Orchard Street Wolf Pack" is: apparently they are a LARP, a concept new to me. I love the idea that 21 would take off time from his job wearing a butterfly costume for a man who lives in a floating cocoon, in order to indulge in a "role-playing game." 21 and his clan are a comic inversion of the Nazis. They’re both dressed up in funny costumes and bent on meaningless quests for power, with each having about the same effect on the world.

Just as Brock assumes that the OSI doctors are trying to kill him, Rusty assumes that 21 is here to menace him — they are linked through their narcissism.

It’s a great joke that Hitler (the dog) is obsessed with ancient relics (as he is in the Indiana Jones movies), and it’s also great that the dog equates the mummified arm of Moses the Black with a copy of Marvel #1 — they’re both holy relics in their own ways, objects of great power for those who believe in them. (I’d also be willing to bet that the comic would sell for more at this point.)

Back at the A-story, Brock ventures (sorry) to Argentina (where else!) to get Helper’s head removed from his chest. Coincidentally, the Nazis are there to pick up their cloned-Hitler dog. I’m at something a loss as to why, narratively speaking, Helper’s head needs to be in Brock’s chest. It’s an alarming visual gag, but thematically I’m fuzzy. Brock needs to have a chest injury so that he can wind up with a steel plate over his heart so that he can survive Molotov Cocktease’s gunshot. Is Helper’s head becoming shrapnel just one more cruel punishment for the show to dole out on the hapless punching-bag Helper? And yet, Brock has the tenderness to send the head (and his jacket) back to Rusty. (Helper, unlike Hatred, receives a total mind-wipe in this episode. Hatred only has the "naked little boys" removed from his head.) Is Helper’s head merely close to Brock’s heart, or has it, in some way, become Brock’s heart? That is, does Brock now have the heart of a robotic head? He certainly doesn’t act like it — he’s as instinctive and passionate in this show as he ever is. In any case, he gets one heart of steel removed and has another one put in its place — the metal plate that will later save his life.

(Anonymous has an excellent observation in the replies — Brock needs to remove the Venture clan from his heart to get on with his life, and Helper’s Head is the perfect visual metaphor for that. Good work, Anonymous.)

Next, it is much later again, although earlier in B-story time, and Dean cannot assemble his gun. Hatred knows all about guns and love, and presses Hank to shoot at him in order to prove his right to fatherhood. Dean can’t assemble a gun, but Hank isn’t much further along — he cannot aim, or is unwilling to aim, at Hatred, and only wounds him by accident. Nevertheless, Hatred takes the wound as a sign of bonding, of love. I’m not a trained psychologist, but I’m not sure that wanting to get shot by boys is a psychological step up from wanting to have sex with them.

Back in the A-story, it is now much later and Brock has taken some time off to get his mind straight, grow his hair back (and then some) and put on a good deal of weight. He’s also been bonding with his brothers-in-culture Steve Austin and Bigfoot. Steve, of course, has far more than a steel heart, he’s got bionic legs and a dozen other apps. And yet, he’s not steel-hearted like Brock, he’s in a happy, giving, loving relationship with 100% natural Bigfoot. Some of the loving in the Austin household seems to have rubbed off on Brock: one might assume he’s "gone soft" with his weight-gain and beard and his new interest in portrait-painting. And yet Brock has spent his healing time planning on killing his own father-figure, Hunter Gathers.

Which he then proceeds to do. Even though he’s got plenty of baggage with Molotov Cocktease, Brock ignores her (to his peril) in his pursuit of Hunter. This episode isn’t about men seeking completion through sex, it’s about men seeking completion through their fathers, either finding them or killing them, or both. There’s a great gag about Brock running into a SPHINX agent in the Blackhearts’ building duct-work; after decades of spies gaining access through those conduits, it’s a surprise this hasn’t happened yet — why hasn’t Ethan Hunt run into John McClane in one of these things yet? Ductwork gets more traffic in action movies than Interstate 80.

Brock fails in his quest to kill Hunter — Hunter gets the drop on him, Molotov shoots him and he goes out the window, where he is immediately picked up by SPHINX. In the interrogation that follows, Brock discovers that Hunter, his target, is no longer in OSI, no longer one of the Blackhearts, and no longer a woman. He sought to kill his father, literally steeled his heart to do so, but in the end re-discovers his father instead of killing him. And so Brock, the grateful, prodigal son, re-joins his ever-faithful father in SPHINX. SPHINX, of course, is the arch-enemy of OSI, but at this point there are no good guys or bad guys, Brock is old enough to understand at least that much, there is only the weird shadow-world of organizations fighting each other to no discernable end. I’m curious to see how the Brock-in-SPHINX story will play out, to see SPHINX either played out as an up-is-down espionage story, or else finding out that there is no rivalry between OSI and SPHINX, rather that they play at this game or rivalry for some other purpose.

The final scene comes along, and once again, it seems like we’re watching a B-story scene, which is confusing since it doesn’t precede the previous B-story scene, but which turns out, in its last moments, to actually be an A-story scene. Hitler gets off his leash and attacks Hank (everyone is after Hank in this episode, no one is interested in Dean), and Brock swans in and kills Hitler almost as an afterthought. He then disappears, and Hank, if he didn’t believe in him before, certainly believes in him now — he calls him an "angel," perhaps in reference to one of the stories he read in Marvel #1 (an issue Brock actually appears in, bringing the themes of the show back to the beginning).

Comments

47 Responses to “Venture Bros: Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel”
  1. mimitabu says:

    (although, why Brock feels that Rusty would miss a simple wrist-communicator with all the calamities that strike the Venture compound every week is something of a mystery).

    i took his motivations to mainly be: a) let the boys and doc know he’s still alive–why? maybe because it might be important in the future for unknown-to-brock reasons, maybe because even though he’s renounced the venture family (which he’s called “his family” in the past) he still feels attached to them; b) he’s giving back the wrist communicator to make absolutely clear that he is inaccessible to them.

    i’ve only seen the episode twice though. could be less (or more) going on.

    • It was pretty clear to me that the act was a symbolic gesture far more than a practical one. It was Brock’s way of letting the Venture clan know he was alright, but also not to try following him.

  2. rattsu says:

    Came here through a tip from , and is friending you because damn, you write a good analysis.

  3. creepingcrud says:

    My take on Brock’s return is that since the OSI helicarrier was in the area, he stopped off to pick up a ride (not sure why the jetcycle wouldn’t work, apart from perhaps too easily tracked), and said hi since he was passing through the compound.

  4. craigjclark says:

    (everyone is after Hank in this episode, no one is interested in Dean)

    “Nobody wants a Dean-in-the-Box!”

    Welcome back, Mr. A. I can’t wait to read what you have to say about “Perchance to Dean” and the relationship between progressive rock and super science.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m at something a loss as to why, narratively speaking, Helper’s head needs to be in Brock’s chest. It’s an alarming visual gag, but thematically I’m fuzzy.

    Doesn’t the scientist who removes it complain about everyone wanting to be Tony Stark since the Iron Man movie came out last year? It seemed a pretty clear allusion. Brock has to remove that superficial tie to the definitive sixties Marvel hero to take his place amongst the much older characters of Marvel #1 (symbolically, I guess).

    It also suggests the difficulty of removing ties to the Venture clan? That they’re really under Brock’s skin (cough cough)?

  6. catwalk says:

    oh, how i have missed your scrutiny of all things venture…

    i also noted the fatherhood theme and rusty’s nearly complete uninvolvement in such.

    • Todd says:

      Rusty is not only uninvolved, he does everything he can to stand in the way of its development. He refuses to clone Hitler, he’s not too keen on cloning 24, he’s indifferent to Brock’s jacket and its meaning for Hank, and his response to Helper’s return (another prodigal son) is to wipe his memory.

  7. notthebuddha says:

    And yet, he’s not steel-hearted like Brock, he’s in a happy, giving, loving relationship with 100% natural Bigfoot

    In the original SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN series, Sasquatch was given bionics by aliens so the VENTURE BROTHERS Bigfoot could reveal them at any dramatically crucial time, as in I, ROBOT.

    • Todd says:

      I actually had to read this three times before I figured out that you’re kidding. You are kidding, aren’t you?

      • notthebuddha says:

        I’m not kidding. It was terribly riveting at six years old to see Steve Austin running through the woods at 60 MPH….and here comes Bigfoot doing 70!

        • Anonymous says:

          I totally spaced that

          I don’t ever remember seeing that on the show in the 70’s but my wife – a tv geek if there ever was one – confirmed for me that the bionic bigfoot was real.

          A little research reveals it was Andre the Giant.

          Also I believe the organization that Oscar Goldman was in was called OSI.

          But Office of Scientific Intelligence rather Office of Secret Intelligence.

          conorb

  8. carlos_v_b says:

    Could Helper’s implantation represent the Venture family being close to Brock’s heart, and his need to remove them in order to heal and become whole again?

  9. charlequin says:

    I’m pretty excited about how this season’s going, but Rusty seems a little weird so far — or rather, he seems too normal. Brock, Hank, Dean, #21 all seem changed by the end of season 3, but Dr. Venture is pretty much behaving the way he used to, and the events of ORB don’t really seem to have rubbed off in any particularly permanent way. That struck me as kind of odd in the episode about everyone starting anew.

    • notthebuddha says:

      That struck me as kind of odd in the episode about everyone starting anew.

      The writers aren’t above using the cartoon medium conceit that gags have limited-term consequences. In a way, the clone storyline is about examining that.

      • Todd says:

        Or, as Bob Dylan once put it, “Sometimes I try to craft poetry that will stand alongside the greats, and sometimes I just stick something in there because it rhymes.”

    • yesdrizella says:

      I don’t know, I think the fact that Dr. Venture hasn’t evolved at all speaks volumes about his character. He is quite possibly the most self-loathing character on the show, and as much as he loathes himself and his life, he never does anything to improve it. He masks his depression with drugs and half-hearted attempts at “doing science” so that he can’t face the fact that his best years are behind him. He probably won’t evolve unless he lets go of the past.

      • Todd says:

        I’m not sure Rusty even had any best years — his “best years” were spent being exploited by his father and his cohorts, not to mention the TV network, or whoever produced the show based on his life, something which still confuses me.

        • yesdrizella says:

          True. He seems to have never had anything resembling a normal childhood. Hah, and he did complain once that he hadn’t seen a dime of the DVD sales for the TV show.

          • noskilz says:

            Maybe Rusty, like the coelacanth and the cockroach, has remained largely unchanged because his adaptions work well enough for the niche he occupies?

  10. icesickle says:

    A couple questions

    Thanks for the detailed analysis as always.

    A handful of disjointed comments: I don’t keep up on Marvel comics, but this was pointed out to me: the whole Sphinx reveal is “made all the better by the fact that Nick Fury–of Marvel Comics fame and a rather obvious inspiration for Col. Hunter Gathers–recently found out he’s been working for HYDRA instead of SHIELD for his entire career.”

    Did anyone notice how most of the season trailer was in this episode? The main things I can think of that weren’t: the Dr. Venture from the future, 21 podcasting, and the Ay Carumba dance (which was in ep 2). This season is potentially wide open.

    Holy Diver was a SPHINX all along? He has the best cover story ever.

    I think it’s important that Sergeant Hatred always calls Hank, “Henry.”

    Hunter’s heart shape cutout on his uniform is all kinds of wrong.

    Hunter gives some sort of job to “Zarra”. I wonder if we’ll see her later.

    Lots of nice lines in this episode.
    “That’s it, work it out, Thinkenstein.” Sublime.
    Hatred: “Hank, I will give you so much money not to shoot your dad.” Hahaha.
    “Helper, come in Helper. Helper… MURDER HITLER.” Hahahaha. Best line of the episode.

    Hank’s making a lot of 80’s and 90’s culture references. “H-E-double hockey sticks.” A sign that he’s getting some previously forbidden culture exposure, albeit a bit old, presumably from his new delinquent friend from Dr. Venture’s camp.

    And some questions.
    21 to Dean: “Sorry about the bad news, Highlander. Looks like you’ll never see the Quickening.” Do you think that’s *just* a reference to how Dean is mortal now or a foreshadow?

    Brock to Hunter: “Do you really have the balls to shoot me?”
    Hunter: “Nope. But she does.” [Molotov] Does that imply what it might? Especially convoluted since it seems Hunter might have his balls back after all.

    Hunter: “Boyo… You don’t know… dick!” Think there could be more to that throwaway remark as well?

    On his return trip 21 says Dr. Venture deceived him. Huh? Guess he was thinking he wouldn’t have to clone 21 because Dr. Orpheus could just resurrect him as a zombie?

    • Todd says:

      Re: A couple questions

      I’m not a SHIELD expert, but Hunter Gathers seems pretty clearly based on Hunter S. Thompson, not Nick Fury, and I thought that the OSI and SPHINX were modeled on G.I. Joe and Cobra. I wouldn’t mind some more overt SHIELD references.

      • Re: A couple questions

        OSI being in a floating fortress in the original episode where we met Hunter, Assassinanny 911, is a reference to SHIELD as are the blue uniforms that show up on Brock and Hunter in the flashbacks in The Invisible Hand of Fate.
        That said, I think Hunter is 95% Hunter S. Thompson, maybe 5% Nick Fury.

        • Todd says:

          Re: A couple questions

          This stems from my ignorance of SHIELD.

          • Re: A couple questions

            Just filling you in. So basically yes, OSI is a mix of SHIELD and G.I. Joe.

            • Anonymous says:

              Re: A couple questions

              And the ’80s version of G.I.Joe started out as Larry Hama’s pitch for a SHIELD reboot, which he reused when he was approached to come up with a new storyline for the G.I.Joe toys. SHIELD became the Joes and Hydra become Cobra.

          • therrin says:

            Re: A couple questions

            I didn’t realize the OSI had any G.I. Joe references? Sphinx blantanly resembles Cobra though.

            I’m a little fuzzy on earlier seasons past the last one (I don’t even remember the last appearance of Sphinx), but all of the OSI stuff I’ve seen (heli-carriers, wanton disregard for personnel) etc. has felt far more SHIELD to me. Where were the G.I. Joe references?

            Also, re: Joe references: The Sphinx guy that shows up in the end of the episode with Brock to kill Hitler is a character from G.I. Joe (one of the good guys). He struck me instantly as a gay parody of Gung-Ho or Shipwreck from the original G.I. Joe show.

            • Re: A couple questions

              In the previous episode where Sphinx showed up (“The Invisible Hand of Fate”), they had OSI guys beating the crap out of them to an up-tempo theme song that was a blatant parody of the G.I. Joe theme song. That, and the fact that some of the OSI characters are designed to resemble G.I. Joe characters (including your mention of Shore Leave as Ship Wreck, who was when he originally appeared a member of OSI and has since become a member of Sphinx) are the main places to take G.I. Joe comparisons from.

              I think OSI was designed to be sort of a combination of G.I. Joe and SHIELD. Or at least it was in the third season flashbacks we saw; in previous seasons it seemed a little more MI-6. I’m referring specifically to the Assassinanny 911 episode, but I think that was the intended feel for most of the first two seasons.

    • notthebuddha says:

      Re: A couple questions

      Col Hunter Gathers does have a bit of Nick Fury in him, mostly costume and job description, but his name, hat, pipe, and face seem to be inherited from “Hill Stree Blues”‘ Lt Hunter (the often figuratively emasculated SWAT-team leader) and there’s some influence from _Dr Strangelove_’s colorful selection of Air Force officers.

    • numbereleven says:

      Re: A couple questions

      21’s remark about Highlander was to Hank, I’m pretty sure. I’ve noticed that Hank and 21 have always clicked a bit more, whereas Dean seemed to be paired with 24 (to his annoyance.)

      I’m pretty sure the Highlander reference is a throwback to that episode where he witnessed Hank die, and later ran into him again. The details are SO fuzzy right now, but I remember thinking that they should have ran with the “21 thinks Hank is indestructible” idea a bit more.

      • icesickle says:

        Re: A couple questions

        I went back and re-watched that part. You’re right, he does say it to Hank. And yeah, it’s obviously a followup to the past encounter where 24 tells Hank he keeps coming back to life and therefore must be like Highlander.

        I also wish they had run with the idea a bit more. 24 is not only beyond dangerously genre savvy but also becoming aware of what’s going on at this point–“dangerous” to his own health, of course. Still, that just makes his response of the commandeering of a LARP group all the more hilarious.

        My main question concerning it though was whether or not this might be a foreshadow. For a show so preoccupied with failure, I can’t think of a much worse ending for the boys then a season 1 death *without* a cloning facility to fall back on.

    • robjmiller says:

      Re: A couple questions

      The Highlander line is a callback to S03E08, “Tears of a Sea Cow.” Here’s a lengthy explanation if you want it:

      In the episode, 21 is chasing Hank around the Venture compound but gets tired and calls a time out. He then explains to Hank that he can’t die and has personally seen Hank die twice “like shotgun to the face.” Hank say, “like the Highlander?”, which 21 affirms before shooting Hank with a dart gun, which he thought would be lethal but was really a tranq. When Hank awakens, he is convinced he is immortal and shouts “Give me the Prize, I AM THE ONE!” Roll credits.

  11. Nothing to add except glad to see you back with your analysis, Todd. I look forward to them with the same anticipation as the new VB episodes, as they are always brilliant.

  12. numbereleven says:

    For the longest time, I wondered where in the world you came from, on my friends’ list. I love reading your entries (the recent one about your son and horror movie icons was a fave,) but I honestly had forgotten why I added you in the first place until really recently.

    I love this analysis. The theme that stuck with me from the episode was the idea of Brock as not only Hank’s father figure, but a fictional, larger than life icon to him, such as a comic book hero. He starts to mimic him in his looks, dress, and actions (as best he can, anyway, with video games and slight defiance.) I think it’s important to note the decreasing value of the comic book itself, though, and even the idea that not a single character at the Venture Compound treats the comic as anything of value. Monetary value aside, Rusty and Hank both think it sucks, and everyone else uses it as everything from a weapon to toilet paper. I took this to mean that not even comic book heroes compare to Brock- the contents of those pages are nothing compared to the lives they’ve led and the heroics they’ve seen via Brock. However, Hank STILL clings to the comic and reads it the entire episode long, because it’s the closet thing he’s got.

  13. greyaenigma says:

    I’m curious to see what the underlying dynamics between OSI and Sphinx will be. I’d thought OSI and the Guild were the two opposing forces — or, perhaps, flip sides of the same coin.

  14. Hooray for the return of the VB write-ups. I’ve been having to subsist off of Mantis Eye, Wikipedia and the A.V. Club reviews. They’re all decent, but they don’t provide a truly below-the-surface glance at the episodes.

    Nice work on this one, Todd. I eagerly await the others.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The core of The Venture Bros. has always been the long shadow that Jonas Venture has cast on Rusty’s life, and how Rusty simultaneously loves and hates his father, and revisits upon his sons (consciously or otherwise) the sins visited upon him. As “Twenty Years to Midnight” revealed, underneath all of Rusty’s snark and bluster and bitterness is a kid who misses his dad, doesn’t understand why he left, and has always been lost without him. (Even when Rusty’s dad was around, it seems, he was never really there for him.)

    In this episode, Brock gets what Rusty has always wanted. The father he thought he lost forever not only returns to him, but embraces him and shows him his true purpose. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen Brock happier or more at peace than we do at the end of the episode — previously, his happiness has always been threaded through with violence. But even though he takes a certain pride in killing Hitler, he treats Hank with real warmth and affection. Dang it, the man seems to be glowing. By getting what Rusty always wanted but never had, Brock has become a better father than Rusty may ever be.

    — N.A.

  16. Anonymous says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! todd, you rule.

  17. redmoon11 says:

    “Is that what Doe, or Cardholder, I can’t remember which, means when he says he’s found Rusty’s time machine?”

    I thought he was referring to the decor in Rusty’s bedroom which looked like it had been decorated back in the 1970s

    • Todd says:

      That’s probably true. It also means that Rusty has, essentially, never redecorated — he hasn’t done one damn thing to make the compound “his.” He’s still living in the detritus of his childhood. He has neither steeled his heart nor killed his father.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I was looking forward to read your analysis – great as always.

    I found transition and bridging (constructed from two sides to reach in the center and fit with a keystone) emphasized in this episode, right from the beginning with the explosion that connects end of one season beginning of the other, to our reviewing of that explosion through getting “inside the head” of extremes – the Venture enemy and the Venture friend – both of whom are kinds of head-cases at this point. There is no stable position to view from in the beginning, although in the end there seems to be the possibility.

    What’s so special about this explosion? People relevant to the narrative die or are wounded deeply, because Brock is outside of his role. The explosion can be the trauma that resurfaces where least expected, suddenly, to insist on being handled NOW, like it or not. Only such a symbolic force would appear to catch Brock while his guard is already down, full of conflicted self-doubt of his role, in order to shake him free of the remaining psychic vestiges by which he is moored to his Venture “family”/ duty worldview.

    If the bomb is the traumatic explosion, the hard kernel of the past, impossible to absorb or divide further up, is naturally enough, “Helper” – the robot, ever talking, who is confused by its condition, between its ’emotions’ (who left home feeling unwanted, is generally scared, needs and gives constant affirming hugs, and so on) and the direct commands that cant be refused. Helper is constantly talking. The last thing Helper does to help Brock before he is removed – working together – is literally to hold his mouth shut – as Brock secures his chances with the surgery by placing a live grenade in Helper’s mouth.

    The rest of the storyline, like the way the episode wears its structure on its sleeve (and all the following episodes accent on “real time” and temporality) seems so close to an analysis session, with the accent on a specific economy at work in telling the tale (vs “naturalism” ) with a specific narrative procedure that is going backwards while going forwards to end up simply where the session began – only different.

    From one main direction, Brock serves as our agent through this narration, and from another “less main” direction, Hank does. Over the process a careful exchange is managed, Hank wants to “forget Brock” but still unconsciously dons Brock’s symbols, the hair style, or the coat, manifesting Brock-ness as a protective second skin he has to grow into. What is the coat except a condensation of Brock in the most sensual sense – the “fleece” lining emulating Brock’s hair, the outer material his jeans.

    Brock, now shorn of his uniform – or the belief in its protection, is naked, searches for the next protection – from “kill your father” to being centered in a team (with your father?) that does killings. To do so, he has to go through analysis, which provides a kind of guidepost to follow, that transforms three times (like the symbolic, imaginary and real of the series family) from embedded with the talking Helper’s head; to “mute” but signifying solid steel plate that covers the wound left by the removal of Helper’s head; and to reaching a final shared symbol of “brotherhood” or association to one corps and duty (freeing himself of his father-issues while also the bodily ropes as “Thinkenstein” to quote Hunter)

    Placed centrally in Brock’s wide chest, they aren’t associated so much to the heart but to the lack of some balance that would help to center him. What Brock joins and feels finally comfortable in, is not superheroes – although they wear symbols on their chest – but a kind of inbetween status as well, a force between the superhero and the illicit, which provides a sense of unity for the moment only.

    And so it fits he leaves behind the signs of his earlier issues from the more traumatic Ventures life, for the younger boys to work out, while at the same time, to shield themselves with. Like all bridges and transitions in this episode, he asks Hank to let him spend time with these other guys who need him.

  19. Brock, Rusty, and Hatred

    I’m looking ahead a bit, but I think it’s interesting to note how the relationship between these three characters and Hank are developing. Brock leaving the Ventures is, in a sense, a divorce, with Dr. Venture “remarrying” Mr. Hatred. Dean, who is more of a protege of Rusty, seems relatively unaffected. Hank becomes rebellious, attempting to show loyalty to his absent true “father” Brock, by shunning Hatred and sassing his “mother” (who is in fact is father). In fact, in the Captain Sunshine episode, Hank says versions of two commonly heard phrases said to step-parents:

    HANK (to HATRED): “I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not the dad of me.”
    RUSTY: “Don’t talk to your bodyguard like that!”
    HANK: “He’s NOT my bodyguard!”

    Hatred, for his part, plays the role of the “step-dad” perfectly by trying to bond with his new “son” Hank over something masculine (in this case, shooting a gun). Hatred, who was (we must assume) in the military at one point, seems to only really understand male bonding under the in-the-trench blood brothers style of male relationships, when he, as Hank’s “father,” should be more in a dominant role than that of a companion in battle. He mentions his authority, but does it in a light-handed sort of way (Hank has to like what Hatred likes on his pizza, and country and western music).

    Finally, based on the first few episodes, it doesn’t seem like the titular Venture Bros. are truly “brothers” in any sense other than the biological at this point. Their story arcs, to this point, haven’t really overlapped (other than both being kidnapped on a couple of occasions). It seems that with Brock’s departure from the Venture family, it has ceased to be a family; Dean and Rusty seem to be somewhat close (insomuch as Rusty can be close to anyone), but the relationships between everyone else seem quite loose at this point.

    *SPOILERS AHEAD: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*
    Also, I took a look at the video of the Venture Bros. creators at a couple of conventions, and apparently Triana and Dean have a kiss at some point in this season. Based on how Dean seems to be progressing (read: regressing) this season, how do Jackson and Doc plan to pull this together? There’s got to be something big coming.

  20. samedietc says:

    I know there’s an Oedipal joke / connection to be made with Brock (going to kill his father) ending up joining SPHINX rather than killing the sphinx, but I’ve got nothing besides the fact that things get reversed in this episode–Dean gets a clone rather than gets cloned, etc.