(Note: This post contains spoilers for the Aug. 19 episode of “The Venture Bros.”)
“The Venture Bros.” frequently leverages its extensive backstory to turn seemingly minor details into huge reveals. And pulled off what might be its biggest reveal ever in the Season 7 premiere: Dr. Jonas Venture Sr.’s brain was somehow kept alive for decades after his apparent death, by being attached to a supercomputer.
Jonas Venture Sr. casts a large shadow over everything in the world of “The Venture Bros.” The possibility that he might now return, for real, changes everything. But how did he actually die in the first place?
Until Season 7, Jonas Sr.’s death has only been explored in bits and pieces — in fact, not even his son, Rusty, knew what really happened to him. There have been some hints over the years, but as with just about everything in “The Venture Bros.,” everything we thought we knew was actually just part of the truth. In fact, the show threw a huge misdirection at viewers several seasons ago when it suggested one possible fate for Jonas, but now we know the truth. In bringing back one of the oldest (and most fun) gags in the show, the legend of Movie Night on Gargantua-1, “The Venture Bros.” has finally explained Jonas’ fate.
If you’re not up to speed with the vast history of Dr. Jonas Venture Sr., though, here’s a quick primer.
To start, Jonas was a rich, very famous super-scientist and adventurer. During his 1960s-70s heyday, Jonas led Team Venture, a group of heroes that, as far as their publicity machine was concerned, were idealized progress, freedom, family and teamwork personified.
But the truth, as told through flashbacks, turns out to be much murkier. His son, Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, grew up accompanying Team Venture around the world and was child star adored by millions of kids as an adventurer in his own right. However, Rusty was actually deeply traumatized by the constant danger he experienced. And what’s more, Jonas Sr. was a selfish, indifferent father who compounded Rusty’s trauma with emotional manipulation. Jonas Sr. also often displayed total disregard not only for Rusty’s safety, but the larger consequences of his actions, with disastrous results.
Rusty subsequently became a feckless, neurotic adult, deeply resentful of his father and bent on escaping from his shadow. Unfortunately, he was instead forced to permanently live under it when Jonas Sr. died while Rusty was in college, and Rusty had to take over the family’s “super science” business. Rusty never learned the full details of how Jonas died. In fact, at one point he straight up asks the remaining elderly members of Team Venture if they “got him killed,” though nobody really elaborates as to what happened. Turns out, they weren’t responsible or even present at the time.
It’s eventually strongly hinted that Jonas Sr. was killed as part of a centuries-long conspiracy. When he was still alive, Jonas Sr. was protected by his silent bodyguard, Kano. Kano previously worked with a deceased vigilante ally of Jonas called the Blue Morpho (who, by the way, was also “revealed” to be the father of Rusty’s supervillain arch-nemesis, The Mighty Monarch, but…). But Kano is just one in a long line of Venture family bodyguards going back to the 1800s, and in Season 3 and Season 4, we learn that the real thing those bodyguards are protecting is a super-powerful artifact called the Orb.
Nobody quite knows what the Orb does, but apparently the orders for bodyguards assigned to the Venture clan was to kill whoever might use the Orb rather than let it be activated. Including Kano, who eventually tells Rusty’s bodyguard, Brock Sampson, that he took a vow of silence as penance for taking “a great man from the world.” When Brock asks Kano point-blank whether he killed Jonas Venture, Kano refuses to answer, but the audience is left to assume the answer is yes.
Turns out, Kano was just being cagey. At the end of the Season 7 premiere episode, Rusty discovers that Jonas’ severed head is hooked up to a machine called “PROBLEM,” and still has a form of consciousness. He then learns something shocking from the elderly members of the original Team Venture: Jonas had left them orders that upon his death, they must preserve his body in a machine called the “PROBLEM” (PROgressive Biological Life Extension Module) housed on his massive space station, Gargantua-1.
This was news to Rusty, who until that moment didn’t even know that “PROBLEM” was an acronym. Instead, he (like viewers) assumed “PROBLEM,” which features a blinking red light under its name, was just a warning light for the space station’s big computer. He first encountered it way back in Season 1, when it lit up, and the resident astronauts of Gargantua-1 asked for Rusty’s help figuring out what to do about it. Rusty thought he fixed the problem indicated by the light when he found a melted action figure inside one of Gargantua-1’s components. Turns out, that was actually Jonas, only vaguely aware and trying to communicate.
Gargantua-1 later crashed on Earth, but the PROBLEM module survived and was eventually discovered by Jonas “JJ” Venture Jr., Rusty’s twin brother, who salvaged it. JJ apparently didn’t know what the PROBLEM housed, either, and the original Team Venture members never bothered to mention the machine, or its contents, to anyone.
So Jonas Sr.’s head was now at Ventech HQ in New York, and we finally discover how Jonas met his end. In that same episode in Season 1 on Gargantua-1 (titled “Careers in Science”), we hear the story of “Movie Night,” a ghost story astronaut Bud Manstrong tells Rusty’s sons, Hank and Dean, when they visit the space station. Most of the original crew of Gargantua-1, hundreds of people, gathered in the hangar bay to watch a movie together, when someone opened the bay doors to space, killing most everyone.
We found out in the third episode of Season 7, with the cheeky title “Arrears in Science,” what actually happened. After years of backhanded “friendship” (and blackmail) at Jonas Sr.’s hand, the Blue Morpho was killed in an unrelated plane crash, Jonas Sr. turned him into Venturian, a cyborg who basically resembles Robocop. The Morpho recovered some of his memories at some point and, struggling to parse his new existence and his former life, attacked Rusty as a child. Kano snapped Venturian’s neck to save Rusty — and that was the start of his vow of silence, which he said previously was penance for “taking a great man from the world.”
A supervillain, Dr. Z, found Venturian in the Venture compound’s Dumpster and took it back to his lab to repair it and turn it against Dr. Venture, so the Blue Morpho was reborn a second time as the robotic supervillain Vendata. Later, with a group of supervillains, Vendata attacked Gargantua-1 with the plan of taking everyone hostage and “menacing” Jonas Sr. When Vendata confronted Jonas, the super-scientist revealed Vendata’s true identity; when Vendata threatened to vent Movie Night into space, Jonas Sr. responded that he didn’t think his heroic friend would hurt anyone.
We don’t actually see Vendata open the bay doors: when Vendata, remembering his Blue Morpho identity, returns in Season 7, he refuses to believe he killed all those people. But those doors were opened, and Jonas Sr. was among the people killed when they were sucked out into the vacuum of space. Team Venture managed to rescue his frozen body outside Gargantua-1 and get him (or his head, anyway) into the PROBLEM machine.
It seems pretty clear Vendata/Blue Morpho was responsible for the Movie Night Massacre, but as the third episode of season seven just proved, unless we see it happen, it could go any number of ways. Whatever the truth,after the events of “Arrears in Science,” Jonas Sr. is seemingly dead once again. Rusty turned over his father’s head to the Office of Secret Intelligence for “research,” and the finale of the episode seemed to suggest show creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer are making a joke of this apparent obsession with history as much as anything else. Jonas Sr. might return, but right now, it seems like he’s dead again — maybe for good this time.