If you like villains, The Venture Bros. has got you covered. This week, the new Council embarks on their final arches and Doc is willing to risk his life to hook up. It’s a lot of fun despite its ominous title. Get ready for “The Terminus Mandate”!
We open at Vincenzo’s. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and Red Death meet outside in civilian clothes. Or as civilian as a seven foot dude with no skin gets. Inside, Phantom Limb is waiting for them, in costume. He hadn’t realized they were going low profile, so he goes to find a change of clothes.
At another table, Night Dick is giving Doc a briefing. We saw him in “Hostile Makeover” last season. He’s the undead detective who hates crime so much. There’s a black widow who’s killing a string of husbands. It’s clear he wants to use Doc as bait, but Doc is mostly just turned on. He’s willing to risk his life to score.
While Red Death and Dr. Mrs. enjoy some wine, a loud blind man comes in, yelling about supervillains. He’s Blind Rage and he’s here for a meeting. (Also, he sees with radar, like Daredevil.) Blind Rage is with the Peril Partnership and he’s complaining that Wide Wale has not been honoring a deal. Dr. Mrs. doesn’t care about their side deal but will take his threat to the Council. Phantom Limb shows up at the last minute in a chef’s outfit.
The Council meets on their asteroid to discuss Blind Rage. They resolve to pay them off to go away. Also, Dr. Mrs. acknowledges that they can’t come up with 13 members for the Council of 13. That’s not part of their charter, it turns out – the Sovereign came up with thirteen later on. They decide to finalize this lineup as the new Council. And that means they all have to stop actively arching – they get one final assignment from Watch and Ward, and once that’s done, they’re no longer active villains.
Doc and Hank creep on the black widow online – Doc’s trying to meet up on a dating site and Brock is disgusted with how dumb he is. Doc says he hasn’t been with a woman since Hank’s graduation, and you may remember that she turned into a fly monster. (Doc: “I’m a man! I need to be touched! I want to be touched by an amazing-looking woman who only wants to please me. I don’t want to be laughed at, denied, or even feel like the pathetic man I clearly am.”) Brock decides he’ll help out.
Over in Jersey, the Monarch isn’t happy about Guild events. He hates that Dr. Mrs. will never be able to be in his Number Two again, and he goes into a sulk. (Gary: “He’s not going to commit suicide or anything.”) She gives Gary the envelope to read, and it’s an arch from her Lady Au Pair days. In a flashback, she’s about to steal the Faith Diamond (with the Moppets), when a superheroic bride named Novia bursts in and stops her.
In his Mansion, the Phantom Limb calls his assigned arch, who’s already heard about it. He agrees to something “old school” and further agrees to meet in Central Park at midnight. Wide Wale is amused to see that they went all the way back to the beginning of his career. His arch is Curtis Sliwa, the real life founder of the Guardian Angels and current conservative talk show host. They made peace a long time ago and even play poker together, so Wale instructs Rocco to go slap him around and then buy him dinner. Dr. Z’s arch assignment is one word: Johnny. There’s a flashback to Z menacing Action Johnny and getting humiliated by his dog. It is important to remember at this point that for the first two seasons, Action Johnny was canonically Jonny Quest and Dr. Z was Dr. Zin. Then apparently they had to cut that out so everybody got re-named and redesigned just a little.
Radical Left’s assignment is Right Wing, which seems to be his right, undamaged side. We’ve never really spent much time with him, but his right and left side actually do argue. Also, Right Wing makes a reference to Radical Left “absorbing” him and man, does this guy ever need a solo episode. Finally, it’s Dragoon and Red Mantle. They’re in no hurry to open their envelope, and they’re hoping it’s Richard Karn because he would never hurt them. They decide to eat dinner and watch Downton Abbey first.
Red Death meets up with his arch in Chinatown, and it’s Blind Rage. In costume, he looks like a mix of Daredevil and Guy Fieri, which is amazing. Blind Rage makes fun of him for being old, and Red Death knocks him out with one punch. By the way, Blind Rage and Action Johnny (when he appears later) are voiced by Brendon Small of Metalocalypse and Home Movies. He’s great.
Cut back to Radical Left, playing Clue against himself. Hee! That’s how you arch somebody who lives inside your body.
Doc runs through some date prep. Dean, wearing a veil, plays the black widow. They go over all the potential deathtraps, and it’s clear they’ve run through this a bunch of times and he’s not getting it. This time, Dean manages to fake poison his drink. It’s weird how little time this story gets, actually. The Guild stuff is just so fun, but I feel like Doc trying to date a sex murderess needed more room to breathe.
Phantom Limb meets Hunter Gathers in Central Park. It’s staged very dramatically and feels like it’s going to turn into a gunfight until they both pull out rulers with which to measure themselves. That’s right, Phantom Limb’s final arch is a dick measuring contest. HA!
Blind Rage wakes up gagged and tied to train tracks. Red Death lectures him about this classic death trap which offers the possibility of escape. He taunts him as the train draws closer and flies off as it (presumably) turns Blind Rage into hamburger. Dr. Z shows up at the rehab facility where Johnny is staying. It’s after visiting hours, but he charms the receptionist enough to try and bend the rules. (“You’re very kind. I will spare your life!”)
Red Mantle and Dragoon decide to watch more Downton Abbey. Dr. Mrs. tracks Novia to the Ventech Building. Also, she’s got Gary helping her and he’s wearing a Moppet costume. They’re both getting frustrated with this and Gary decides to embrace change and ask Dr. Mrs. if she wants to cut off his ponytail when they’re done. She hates it, so she’s happy to cut it. Hey, it turns out Novia is there for her date with Dr. Venture. Gary goes to talk to her and she’s surprised that Tim-Tom has grown. (“I’m not a moppet. Biologically.”) Dr. Mrs. is just embarrassed to be there and can’t even bring herself to arch. Novia is very nice and understanding. Dr. Mrs. gets more upset about how dumb she looks and how her husband doesn’t support this decision and Novia gives her a big hug.
Back at the home, Z and Johnny talk. Johnny looks healthier than we’ve seen him, but not yet OK. Z tells him that his wife and Ro-Boy (who they adopted in Season Four’s “Self-Medication”) are fine with him moving in. Johnny appreciates the offer and Z tells he loves him. Johnny feels like maybe it isn’t a good idea to rush anything and maybe Z should give him a few bucks. Then they start reminiscing about old times and Johnny agrees to run and hide one last time. It’s a surprisingly sweet scene and the kind of thing this show can absolutely nail.
Red Mantle and Dragoon open their envelope to find there’s nobody for them to arch because all of their enemies have been dead for years. They outlived everybody and get to call it a night.
We catch up with Doc and Novia. She’s in the living room and Doc acts drunk. He’s hopped up on a poison antidote that Brock gave him. Doc’s about to pass out and he asks if he has a chance and she says people have the wrong idea about her. Doc passes out, and suddenly there’s the red dot from a sniper sight on her forehead. “I didn’t do that!” she insists.
Gary and Dr. Mrs. head back in a Guild limo. She’s embarrassed that she cried and her nemesis had to calm her down with a hug, but now it’s over and she cuts off Gary’s ponytail. Then she shows Gary that she still lifted Novia’s wallet. (“Little Miss Fancy got herself arched.”)
In the tag, the new Council assembles. Wide Wale ends up declining. He’s still got a load of old grudges and isn’t willing to give up individual villainy. He’s willing to accept a diplomatic appointment, though. Phantom Limb declares that he was like an inch mightier than his adversary. After everyone else accepts, it’s Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s turn and she stutters before it cuts to black. We don’t know if she took the oath or is willing to give up leadership for her husband!
The Titmouse chirp is Hank saying “Gross”.
–I covered most of the continuity, so since we’re getting near the end of the season, I just have a few words. This episode is a great example of what Venture Bros. does best, but it also shows off the trap they’ve set for themselves.
I loved this episode. I thought the final arches were all clever and I love that each one took a different approach. The jokes land, the character bits are great, and it was genuinely touching. Let’s be honest, for most of the run of this show, Dr Z was as nothing a character as this show had. His whole deal was that he was a Jonny Quest villain, and it felt sort of random that he ended up as a member of the Council of 13. At the time, it seemed like he matched a silhouette and they went with it. And it felt like he survived the culling because he has a funny voice. Since then, they’ve sort of worked him into Venture history in an interesting way, and now we have a genuinely emotional scene between Z and Johnny. And even though we see him only occasionally, Johnny has this really affecting character arc. This is brilliant, and Venture Bros. does it so well.
The problem is, we only get ten episodes every couple of years or so. And the roster of characters who’ve grown beyond one-joke goofs keeps growing, and they all need to be serviced to some extent. And this means more and more that the Ventures are getting shortchanged. Doc’s story in this episode feels so incomplete – it could have been a full episode on its own, and I think there’s enough there that it’s going to be revisited, but that could be in Season Eight, airing Lord Knows When. I mean, having too many amazing characters is a good problem to have, but it’s a show with short, occasional seasons. There’s a lot they can do with Dean in college and maybe starting a relationship with Hank’s sort of girlfriend, but there’s so much to deal with that you can get one Dean-centric episode a season. I feel like if they even went back to 13-episode seasons, it would help. But that may not be fiscally and creatively possible.
And the thing is, there isn’t really any supporting character stuff I would have wanted cut this season. Would I like to check in with Hank more often? Sure. Do I think, say, the Augustus St. Cloud episode was a waste? No! It was great! So I don’t know how to resolve this, because I love Dr. Venture and I would like them to explore how he’s dealing with the revelations of the Morphic Trilogy, but I also love the Guild stuff and Brock knifing supervillains.
So it’s not a complaint – it’s mostly just the realization that there’s a real discrepancy between the size of the world Jackson and Doc have built and the number of episodes they can produce. And there’s not much to be done about that, so I’m just going to enjoy the ride.