(Note: This post contains spoilers for “The Venture Bros.” Season 7 finale from Oct. 7.)
In the Season 7 finale, “The Venture Bros.” finally — finally — confirmed something the show has been slowly teasing literally for years: There is a familial relationship between protagonist Doc “Rusty” Venture (James Urbaniak) and The Monarch (Christopher McCulloch), the supervillain who hates him. And more importantly, now they both know it.
Will “The Venture Bros.” once again refer to more than just Rusty’s sons, Hank and Dean? Sure looks like it. And that has huge implications for Season 8.
Holy crap, everyone.
In the “The Saphrax Protocol,” The Mighty Monarch has finally earned a promotion to the prestigious Level 10 of supervillainy in the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the governing organization for costumed aggression. So he travels to the Guild’s space station HQ for his confirmation ritual, in which he must symbolically commit to the life of a supervillain, which includes sparing the life of his arch enemy so he can continue arching him.
The Monarch’s arch enemy is, of course, Rusty Venture, who at the beginning of the episode is captured by Guild operatives and teleported to the Guild space station. There, while waiting to insert him into the ritual, the Guild conducts a blood test on Rusty that reveals he and the Monarch are blood relatives. The Monarch, it would seem, is a Venture, too.
The episode doesn’t actually reveal how they’re related, but as anyone whose watched the entire seventh season knows, the smart money is that they’re half-brothers.
The first three episodes of the season formed a trilogy that fleshed out a huge part of the show’s complex backstory. It turned out that Rusty’s father, Jonas Venture Sr. (Paul Boocock), was an abusive, bad friend and longtime blackmailer of the Monarch’s father, a vigilante called the Blue Morpho (Paul F. Tompkins). At one point we learned that the Morpho was worried he might be sterile when he and his wife were having difficulty conceiving a child. Jonas told the Morpho he could help — but it was implied his “help” consisted of just seducing the Monarch’s mother and fathering her child himself.
Assuming that’s exactly what happened, and we very much do assume that, Rusty and the Monarch are brothers. The question then becomes what this will mean for the pair going forward.
The fact that they’re brothers may not change the Monarch’s feelings, but it’s likely things are going to a lot more complicated between them. At minimum because Rusty is, after all, a billionaire after he inherited the business and super-science empire created by his late brother, Jonas Venture, Jr., who died at the start of Season 6. The Monarch, meanwhile, inherited a trust fund fortune from his parents, but has since blown through all of it in pursuit of his supervillainous career goals. Earlier in Season 7, he only managed to keep his supervillain career going after convincing Rusty’s son, Dean, to write him a $1 million check. Now that they’re proved to be related — well, even happy families have fallen apart fighting over money.
There’s also the fact the Monarch’s hate for Rusty is deep and abiding, and on more than one occasion the villain has jeopardized his marriage and even his freedom just for a chance to keep “arching” Rusty. How will the fact that they’re related complicate that cycle of hate?
Then again, if Season 7 has been about anything, it has been about personal, albeit incremental, growth in almost all its major players. The Monarch might still be an angry spiteful supervillain, but he’s definitely evolved, (kind of) supporting his wife, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (Hammer), appreciating his connection with Henchman 21 (Hammer) — who he expressly called his best friend in the season finale — and even mentoring a struggling villain.
Rusty has grown a bit this season too. He seems to have dealt with some of his daddy issues, and has even tasted what being a successful super-scientist is like here and there. He also seems to have come to terms with himself, at least a little, ditching some of the toxic masculinity that has long-plagued him, trying to be a better father and friend, and even sort of embracing his own shortcomings, instead of denying them.
So there’s no reason their protagonist-antagonist relationship can’t show similarly positive development when the show returns. Especially considering the Monarch’s reaction to learning about their connection — he can be heard shouting ‘are you f—— kidding me?’ at the end of the episode. Maybe it might actually be hard for him to arch a family member.
Of course, there’s one lingering bit of lore the reveal makes extremely urgent, the reason Monarch hates Rusty so much. “The Venture Bros.” has never actually explained it, and even Rusty doesn’t seem to know why. Early in the show, the Monarch barely even registered on Rusty’s list of enemies. All we know for certain is that they were apparently friends when they were little children, but that for some reason, neither of them remembers.
But just one episode ago, the series suggested an explosive possible reason they’re enemies: the “Venture Brothers” takes place in an alternate timeline created because the original versions of Rusty and Billy Quizboy (Doc Hammer) have been traveling through time, and making a ton of mistakes. The biggest clue comes when the time-traveling Rusty sees the Monarch and calls him by his real name, Malcolm. His tone of voice suggests they’re on very friendly terms — and more importantly, he doesn’t appear to recognize Malcolm as a supervillain.
Could there be another version of the timeline in which Rusty and Malcolm were close? What would the realization of that timeline’s existence do to the Monarch’s lifelong hate? Will Rusty and the Monarch finally reconcile? One wonders what the world, or at least their own somewhat-pathetic lives, would be like if they joined forces. That seems like a move that could break the show — the Monarch’s hatred is a central axis on which many of the jokes and story lines turn. But as “The Venture Bros.” has often proven, anything is possible, and the show is always willing to undergo change.
So unless “The Venture Bros.” finds a way to turn a brotherly revelation between Rusty and the Monarch into a gag (which is very possible, probably even likely) or to turn it on its head to disrupt fan expectations (maybe even more likely), this feels like it’ll be a major turning point for the characters going forward.
Unfortunately, we have to wait an unknown amount of time for Season 8 to see what that change will be. But thanks to “The Venture Bros. Will Return” during the closing credits, at least we know the show is definitely coming back.