Spoiler Bros.: The High Cost of Loathing
Your father returned from his presumed grave just long enough for you to lose him again. How do you deal?
If you’re a Venture son, you snap back to doing whatever it was you were doing back when he was still dead. Your dead father’s reappearance is as much of an aberration in your routine as a visit from the cable guy. If he’s dead again, nothing has changed – at least, nothing that matters
Season 7’s breakneck first three episodes were packed with action and reveals; according to Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, what they’re calling “The Morphic Trilogy” is an arc that previously would have gotten a dedicated between-season special. “The High Cost of Loathing” dials down the pace, reverting to the place-setting typically preserved for a season premiere. We open two months after “Arrears in Science.” The Monarch is fantasizing about raiding a VenTech container ship to escape the humiliation of Dr. Z assessing his Equally Matched Aggression Level (EMA). Of course his fantasies still revolve around getting one over on Rusty Venture. And of course they deflate like his counterfeit flying cocoon when he has to account for the extent of his equipment and the state of his henchmen. With a (slightly) redecorated and rebranded Morpho Cave (80% of which is pinker lighting and a new paint job on the Morpho Mobile), the Monarch is barely able to eke out a single level up from last season.
Since money has a history of solving his other problems, he hauls 21 to a bank to demand a loan from a loan officer who is even less impressed with the Monarch’s resources than Dr. Z. Still smarting from the bank exec’s dismissal, the Monarch also discovers that his trust account expired shortly after his father. After years of funding flying cocoons, ill-fated buttergliders, and lavish home restorations, the account is finally overdrawn. He has nothing left (unless you count the loving spouse, competent lieutenant, and a mansion in Newark). He can’t buy any more equipment, or uniforms, or anything that would haul him up out of his sub-Venture EMA. As a final humiliation, the Brown Widow thwarts his last-ditch attempt at robbing the bank with spider-goop and a dorky pun. Once again, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch has to peel her husband off the floor and talk him into working his way up through the ranks, starting with his newly assigned Level 5 arch.
Dr. Venture is also strapped for cash: Even before Jonas inflicted all that costly damage on VenTech Tower, VenTech was already struggling to recover from the loss of Gargantua-2. Now they have even more debt and nothing newsworthy in the pipeline – or so they think. What Doc plans as a dramatic stunt to impress the board and “introduce” yet another device dredged from his brother’s archives backfires spectacularly. Instead of being wowed, shareholders watch him bleed out while the Pirate Captain (presumably) calls an ambulance. (Spoiler: It’s the little waistbelt jet pack J.J. used to use to get around. ConVenTech is going to run out of old J.J. ideas pretty soon.)
Doc is hopelessly out of his depth in the boardroom. However much he may have hated it, Rusty understood the world his father dragged him into. Poisonous snakes and murderous kidnappers hold the same level of menace for him as traffic jams hold for most other people. But Doc has no head for business. He likes doodling in his lab, and although he mimics his father’s callowness, he inherited none of Jonas’ canniness about public relations or marketability. By insulating his child from normalcy, Jonas effectively ensured that Rusty never learned to navigate corporate jungles. It’s sad but unsurprising that after surviving outlandish attempts on his life, Doc nearly kills himself trying to be a businessman.
When he regains consciousness, Doc starts asking about returns on his own investments: Where are his kids and what are they up to? Dean is settling into his first semester of living on campus, where he’s rooming with Jared/Brown Widow. And he’s still under his father’s thumb: Determined to continue the Venture tradition of reluctant unhappy super-scientists, Doc has signed Dean up for lots of unwanted science classes. And he’s refusing to let Hank loaf around unemployed and uneducated – or at least he thinks he is. But the boys are in full adolescent rebellion mode: While Hank monetizes the spare room in their penthouse (via AirBnMe, a wholly owned subsidiary of HankCo), Dean tries to carve a path out of the twin traps of super-science and organized villainy. Escape seems to be within reach until an affable professor, the apparently escaped scion of a supervillain, convinces Dean to at least try out botany before he writes off science forever.
Botany class turns out to be an evening class with just one other student: Sirena Ong. Before either of them can register how…peculiar it is that they are the only two students in this after-hours class taught by a supervillain’s heir, the Monarch crashes the party. Neither student blinks when Professor von Helping’s skin melts off to reveal glowing red eyes and a metal body, but Dean intervenes before the arching can heat up properly. He is tired as hell of this nonsense and he will be damned if it follows him to the one place where he thought he’d finally taste normalcy. So he buys the Monarch off, issuing a check for what may be (unbeknownst to him) VenTech’s last million. Impressed by his handling of the situation and touched by his gentlemanly (if unnecessary) concern, Sirena bids Dean good night with a friendly peck on the cheek. Dean’s involuntary reaction does not bode well. Circumstances seem to be conspiring for Dean’s experience of “normal” life to include a love triangle with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. This poor kid just cannot catch a break.
Hank has no idea what’s happening, or what is likely to happen. Now that Sirena’s in school, the gulf between their shared interests is only going to deepen. Dude, boyish charm and the sort of half-assed entrepreneurship that gets your customers killed by your bodyguards aren’t gonna be enough to sustain her interest. Although I hardly expected a happy ending, this is not the direction I wanted their relationship to go, and I’m already feeling anticipatory sadness at all the heartbreaking ways this arc could play out.
Doc and the Monarch are brothers in more than the biological sense: Both squandered their potential on obsessions. Doc still wants to outdo his dad, or get out from under his shadow, or shake his memory. However you frame it, he’s still trying to define himself in opposition to his father. And the Monarch can only define his life in opposition to Rusty’s, his life meaningless without his chosen arch. They’re so deep in their chosen ruts that not even the literally earth-shaking return of Jonas Venture and Don Fitzcarraldo from the actual dead could shake them loose. The real tragedy now might be how this narrow vision sabotages their own romantic and filial relationships – and in Doc’s case, constrains his children’s ability to imagine better lives for themselves. Dean will do anything to have an ordinary life but lacks the space and possibly the vision to create one for himself. And Hank will do anything to avoid ordinary life even as he fails to grasp the nuances and forces that govern the extraordinary life he has.
In the end, the Monarch thinks he’s getting what he wants (did that check actually clear?!), but everyone else seems to be getting set up to find out just how much they have to lose. Brock and Hatred have dispatched Hank’s AirBnMe guests. Doc will surely return from the hospital to a pile of bills, news of Dean’s check, and even more dire financial news about VenTech. Hank seems poised to lose his girlfriend, and Dean seems on the edge of losing his sanity and his brother. We never saw 21 confront his PTSD, and we’ve hardly seen what a toll her husband’s antics combined with her workload are taking on Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. All the pieces are in place for heartbreak, disappointment, and disaster.
Welcome to another season of The Venture Bros.
- “God can’t hear, you, dieciséis!”
- “We’re gonna start you off on the classics with a little help from visiting professor Mr. Zach Snyder!”
- “Pop wanted only two things in life: to rule the world, and to make his son just like him. Also to destroy Dr. Atomicus, so…three. Three things.”
- “I know Dean’s your favorite, but do you have to act like it?”
STRAY THOUGHTS & IDLE SPECULATION
- Adrienne lives!
- This week in voice talent, Nathan Fillion continues to voice Brown Widow/Jared and Gary Cole features as Professor Victor von Helping!
- Professor von Helping’s picture of his father is signed “Son, you are my greatest disappointment.”
- Do you think any remnants of Jonas and/or Vendata could be embedded somewhere in the building’s systems?
- Apparently Professor Nidaba survived his plunge, and Stars and Garters/Tosh Tompkins sneaks into his hospital room to sing to him: Could it be romance, arching, or something else entirely?
- The Monarch needs the pliable hold that is only possible with precious ambergris. He is decidedly not a Dapper Dan man.
- Almost everyone seems to be having trouble adjusting to life in a major city: Brock is going nuts in traffic. The Monarch is accustomed to the relative impunity of arching in much lower-density areas. Hank is confusing wealth with worldliness.
- Jared/Brown Widow’s dorm décor: a Canadian flag and a poster for a hit musical called Stuyvesant, featuring the titular character silhouetted astride a star.