(Note: This post contains spoilers from the Sept. 2 episode of “The Venture Bros.”)
Now that “The Venture Bros.” has dished out a bunch of lore twists and set them aside, the Adult Swim animated series has quickly come back on track of telling the story of two young men trying to find their way through their weirdo life.
The fifth episode of the season, “The Inamorata Consequence,” still does that awesome “Venture” thing of plumbing the depths of things that have been mentioned on the show before to drop a lore reveal you probably never thought about, but makes perfect sense. Unlike in the first three episodes of the season, though, when the show was tying off a bunch of threads in “The Morpho Trilogy” just because they were dangling, the latest piece of historical info serves to create a quiet character moment for young Dean Venture (Michael Sinterniklaas) in keeping with Season 7’s themes.
That reveal is that Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak) is a clone. It’s a play on the big reveal from the beginning of Season 2, way back in what feels like the show’s infancy, that Rusty’s sons, Dean and Hank (Christopher McCulloch), are themselves clones created by Rusty. As their dad put it then, “If you have an accident-prone child, you make them wear a helmet; if you have death-prone children, you keep a couple clones of them in your lab.”
It was established in Season 1 that Rusty’s clone technology, like every other breakthrough of his, was built on the work of his father, Jonas Venture Sr. (Paul Boocock). In Sunday’s episode, Dean learned that Jonas cloned Rusty, just as Rusty did with Dean. It’s likely Rusty was just as “death prone” as his own sons, given Rusty’s childhood as a boy adventurer alongside his super-scientist father.
It’s an interesting element that the show doesn’t play as a huge reveal — Dean doesn’t even tell Rusty what he’s learned — but the information gives Dean a moment of self-reflection, as he realizes that he and his dad are more similar than he realized. Dean’s arc for the last few seasons, and in the last two episodes of Season 7, has been one of trying to find his own path by stepping out of his father’s shadow. In “The Inamorata Consequence,” Dean gets some perspective on that journey, and on his dad.
It’s shaping up to seem like Dean’s arc might be the real heart of “The Venture Bros.” Season 7. He spent Sunday’s episode in an attempt to visit Ben Potter (J.K. Simmons), an associate of his grandfather’s who lives near (or on?) the old Venture compound and helped with the genetics work that made the clones of Hank and Dean possible. Ben revealed to Dean his true nature as a clone a few seasons back, but when Dean tries to visit him upon his return to the compound after a season and a half, he finds someone else: A H.E.L.P.eR. robot (Rhys Darby) that Ben has made sentient.
Dean’s time with the red H.E.L.P.eR. provides him with a look at someone whose history keeps them literally locked in stagnation. The Venture family has had a blue H.E.L.P.eR. robot that only beeps, R2-D2-like, since the beginning of the series, and only now do we learn that Jonas Venture created a whole commercial line of the robots. The red H.E.L.P.eR. reveals those robots were destroyed in a wave of consumer hysteria (“The Great Recalling,” he calls it), but he was rescued by Ben. When Dean tries to help the robot get out into the world, the H.E.L.P.eR. immediately succumbs to his fear of other humans and heads home. He’d rather stay forever in the tiny world of Ben’s house than break free of his history, or take a risk on something else.
That’s right in line with where Dean has been this season, and his previous arc of dealing with finding out his nature as a clone. He struggled last week with his father signing him up for a bunch of science courses at his university, when Dean wants to do anything but follow in Rusty’s footsteps — despite being right on track to become a super-scientist himself a few seasons ago.
“The Venture Bros.” has always been about sons reconciling with a failure to live up to their fathers. In Season 7, the show is giving the titular brothers a chance to finally grow into their own lives. For Dean, that means finding some independence, but it also means understanding his father in a way he never quite has before.