The last two episodes of “The Venture Bros.” have set a new tone for the show’s seventh season. As always, the series is all about fathers, but this season is specifically about moving out of their shadows… and maybe killing them.
Two weeks ago, Adult Swim’s “The Venture Bros.” completed a three-episode arc that it described (after it started) as “The Morpho Trilogy.” The episodes wrapped up the events of Season 6, in which the Monarch (Christopher McCulloch) took on the role of the anti-hero Blue Morpho and started killing rival supervillains. The trilogy also dealt with a bunch of history and lore Season 6 introduced and teased — like the identity of the original Blue Morpho (Paul F. Tompkins), who turned out to be the Monarch’s father, and what ultimately happened to Jonas Venture Sr. (Paul Boocock), the father of series protagonist Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak), who supposedly died years earlier.
The Morpho Trilogy revealed all kinds of new info about an event that had been discussed way back in Season 1, in the episode “Careers in Science.” That event was “Movie Night,” a massacre that occurred on Jonas’ space station, Gargantua-1. The original story of Movie Night was almost that of an urban legend — most of the staff of the huge space station was gathered in the cargo bay to watch the Burt Reynolds movie “Sharky’s Machine,” when someone opened the bay to space. Almost everyone was sucked out and killed.
We learned during the second episode of The Morpho Trilogy that Movie Night actually happened, and that part of it was an attack by a group of supervillains attempting to take hostages. Many of the villains were killed in the massacre, too, but bad guys Red Death (Clancy Brown) and Vendata (Doc Hammer) survived.
The final episode in the trilogy, aptly titled “Arrears in Science,” paid off a lore debt the show had been building up since it first mentioned Movie Night. As it turned out, Jonas’ death, which had been discussed but never explained, occurred during the massacre. He was seemingly killed by Vendata, who was the original Blue Morpho, turned into a cyborg called Venturian by Jonas after being was killed in a plane crash.
The supervillain Dr. Z found Venturian and reprogrammed him to turn him against Jonas, creating Vendata — and it was Vendata, seemingly, who opened the bay doors and killed Jonas and a whole bunch of other people. Vendata hated Jonas because senior Venture had been blackmailing him for years as the Blue Morpho, forcing him to do Jonas’ dirty work. While Jonas called the Morpho his friend, it turned out Jonas was actually a pretty terrible guy.
The Morpho Trilogy revealed that Jonas’ disembodied head had survived in a special life-preserving machine aboard Gargantua-1, and was brought back to Earth and unknowingly installed in the Ventures’ New York building, Ventech Tower. Meanwhile, Vendata remembered his Blue Morpho persona and showed up to confront Jonas. It turned out, both Rusty and the Monarch’s fathers were still alive.
Then “The Venture Bros.” pulled its best move in the whole Morpho Trilogy. The end of “Arrears in Science” found the Monarch attacking Ventech while the two cyborg dads had their showdown. Vendata wound up grabbing the computer that was preserving Jonas’ head, the Monarch accidentally triggered Vendata’s robotic jet boots, and the two dads and the villain went flying out of the tower to crash across the street. Vendata, dressed as the Blue Morpho, was killed, as was Jonas’ head. That resolved the issue of removing the Blue Morpho, who other villains were trying to hunt down and kill, and got rid of both resurrected dads.
“The Venture Bros.” spent three episodes finally running down a ton of lore about what happened to Jonas, who the original Blue Morpho was, what happened on Movie Night and more — and then literally threw it all out the window, propelled by rockets.
It’s a move that shows what’s important in “The Venture Bros.” The show is ridiculously aware of its own history and lore, and one of the best things it does is call back small, seemingly throwaway ideas, jokes and references and spins them out into something deeper and more elaborate. Movie Night was one such throwaway gag, a minor joke from Season 1, that turned out to be much more involved.
But while the show is aware of its history, that’s not the story creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer want to tell. What’s important isn’t that we finally found out what happened to the previous generation of superheroes and villains — ironically, no one cares. The show instead moved on to deal with its current crop of failure-ridden protagonists and their mental baggage. It’s all about dad issues, but in Season 7, we’re dealing with some other dads.
The very next episode, “The High Cost of Loathing,” shows where the season is really going. The episode largely focuses on Dean Venture (Michael Sinterniklaas) as he heads to college, hoping to finally figure out who he is. Rusty wants his son to follow in his footsteps as a super scientist, but Dean wants to study anything else. Just like Rusty when he was young, Dean wants nothing to do with the nonsense superhero/supervillain life Rusty has forced on him — and yet, he can’t seem to escape it.
That experience is echoed by a new character, Professor Victor Von Helping (Gary Cole), who convinces Dean to take a science class despite his reservations of being stuck with a career in super-science. Von Helping is, himself, the son of a supervillain, and rejected his dad’s plan for him. But when the Monarch shows up to attack Von Helping, his anger causes him to revert back to his supervillain alter-ego, Victor Von Hellfire. It’s Dean who has to convince Von Helping not to slip back into his old patterns — something Dean is struggling with.
In “Arrears in Science,” Rusty (and the Monarch) got some fairly definitive closure on his relationship with Jonas, who has always overshadowed him. But while Rusty freed himself from his dad in Season 7 — at least to some degree — it’s still clear he’s unable to stop himself from becoming his father. Season 7 feels like a realignment of “The Venture Bros.” to refocus on the actual Venture brothers and their attempts to grow up.
Rusty might have finally confirmed that his father is dead and he can move on, but there’s obviously no shortage of dad issues going forward on “The Venture Bros.”
“Venture Bros.” airs Sundays at midnight on Adult Swim.