When this teaser went up eons and eons ago I assumed this had to be Rusty, or some version of him gone rogue – an ambitious clone, perhaps, or a version of Rusty from an alternate dimension? It was unthinkable that The Monarch – the only other character angular enough to be under that mask and fedora – might switch sides. Leaving organized villainy would mean he couldn't arch Dr. Venture anymore! Which, it turns out, is kind of the point?
Let's back up a bit.
This week's episode explores faith and nostalgia, the twinned convictions that it’s possible to exploit history without repeating it. Misplaced faith is the first step on roads better not taken, and "Rapacity in Blue" explores the dangers of placing our faith in the things we want rather than the things we should aspire to be. Because wanting a thing is not the same as deserving it.
For all his faith that he will present something spectacular at the rapidly approaching Science Now conference, Rusty can't even disable his late brother's daily wake-up call. Unless the Pirate Captain is helming OS SparkleDream, these greetings are all that remain of J.J.’s legacy. His vision has been supplanted by breakfast burritos, washing machines, a miracle drug that’s fatal unless you incur the wrath of Zeus, and a religious-experience-inducing gas with barely plausible applications for mind control. This so-called "God Gas" does precipitate suspiciously familiar cultural developments among lab mice in a tremendous background gag that everyone manages to overlook until the mice ignite their enclosure.
Dean, tenderhearted and observant, might have averted the conflagration. But the brevity of his appearance – ducking into the lab to escape his brother’s talk of bathing suit areas – betokens something almost like normal adolescence. While Dean is trudging painfully toward self-awareness, Hank rushes gleefully in the opposite direction. His unwarranted optimism about the upcoming date with Sirena would be creepy if he wasn't too young to know better.
The Monarch has never let being old enough to know better stand between him and immediate gratification. It doesn’t take long for 21 to convince his boss to embrace his destiny – that is to say, his recently-discovered past – with evidence that his dad and Rusty’s were frenemies back in the day. Metamorphosing into the Blue Morpho and Kano to eliminate competing arches without implicating Mr. or Mrs. The Monarch isn’t a bad plan, except that it jeopardizes both their marriage and their status within the Guild.
While new Morpho and Kano prepare to paint the town blue, ConVenTech's "scientastic day" is short-circuited by the tedious and forgettable Haranguetan’s attempt to arch Dr. Venture. Warriana intervenes in the ensuing standoff, knocking out Haranguetan and challenging Brock. Their perversely charming volley leaves Brock so regretful and chagrined that only one response is possible when Billy hits him with the God Gas: With Dr. Venture in pursuit, he abandons his post in search of a religious experience, arriving as a (not unwelcome) supplicant at Warriana’s door. Brock’s absence provides an opportunity for Blue Morpho and Kano to dispatch Haranguetan and save Billy. The Blue Morpho’s mask serves to heighten a certain family resemblance, and Billy’s mistaking The Monarch for Rusty is further evidence of shared DNA.
As enjoyable as it is to watch The Monarch and 21 in action, their fun derives from the transgressive thrill of getting one over on the Guild – and, by extension, over Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Although he expresses reservations about disappointing the spouse who forgave his last, untimely appearance in the city and remained willing to leverage her position on his behalf, The Monarch continues to allow his obsession to cloud his judgement and poison his marriage. If he can’t wait for these competing passions to be anything other than mutually exclusive, he’s going to find himself with a lot of free time to consider the road not taken.
ODDS AND ENDS
- Sympathetic Kitten Watch: Please still be alive, please still be alive, please still be alive….
- Last week’s nanobots would be a perfectly cromulent submission for Science Now. That they didn’t warrant consideration is mystifying at best.
- Rubidium chloride would explain why the breakfast burritos leave White and Billy so happy.
- Warriana’s mythological references square nicely with the show’s penchant for mining old media for jokes. She’s even more of an anachronism than the other characters, but she seems a little more adept at navigating the world in spite – or perhaps because – of this.
- What happened at the last meeting of the Council of Still-Not-Quite-Thirteen? Inquiring minds want to know!
- This is an aspergillum. Surely I’m not the only Catholic school kid who survived long Masses by mentally filling them with paint.
- This week, in real-world references: Jill St. John, Stella Stevens, VTR tape, and what happened to Warriana’s right breast.