The Venture Bros.: The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part Two)
And so we’ve come to the end of season three. Remember when thirteen weeks seemed like a long time? Now it feels like it’s just flashed by. There’s at least one year until season four begins, and, in true Venture fashion, the show leaves us with an awful lot to consider in the meantime.
Big spoiler warning here: if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I’m going to spend some time dwelling on a major (and hugely unexpected) development. So read on at your own risk.
Overall, I’d say this episode was stronger than part one, which, as you should remember, was pretty damn good itself. In fact, as a complete two-part finale goes, I’d say this was better than last season’s Showdown at Cremation Creek. Last season, part one was absolutely perfect in every way, but part two—while very tense and very exciting—did kind of rely too heavily on its action sequences. Also, the final cliffhanger (cutting off Dr. Girlfriend in the middle of her sentence) was pretty cheap compared to season one’s excellent murder of its title characters.
This time around, in season three, the cliffhanger is perfect. It’s natural, it’s organic, and it’s well-earned. When Brock surveys the carnage all around him at the end of the episode, he is faced with a difficult choice. The episode doesn’t end before Brock can make his decision. He makes it on camera. We start to consider the consequences of his leaving the Venture family before the episode even closes. The cliffhanger is now a cliffhanger of implications. It’s more than a simple yes or no. We know his decision. And we get to spend a full year debating what it now means to the show and its characters.
I’m slightly getting ahead of myself. The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part Two) picks up right where part one left off: Brock and the Ventures are arrested after dispatching the third assassin in their motel room. Once they are broken out by an associate of Molotov’s they find themselves pursued by both The Monarch and the OSI. Brock, formulating what might prove to be his final cunning plan for the benefit of the Venture family, tells them both to meet him at the Venture compound, where he intends to square them off against each other.
That’s basically the entire episode, in terms of plot. There are some excellent flourishes, however, which elevate it above simple “climactic battle” status. First of all we have HELPeR’s heroism, The Monarch’s solid gold armor that prevents him even from moving his limbs, a good cop / retarded cop routine, the minor redemption of Sergeant Hatred and the excellent Toby Huss as General Traister. (Does anyone else hope that Huss sticks around for a while? His brilliant Traister, coupled with his show-stealing performance as Scaramantula in Now Museum — Now You Don’t!, makes him a very valuable addition to the voice cast.)
What happens at the end of the episode, after The Monarch’s henchmen do surprisingly effective battle against the OSI (yes, lots of them are killed in the process, but the simple fact that they manage to take any of them out proves that they learned something from Brock’s leadership during Cremation Creek), Sergeant Hatred marches an army of Hank’s and Dean’s clones into the fray…clones which are immediately slaughtered…and Brock steps in to put an end to the madness.
(In the episode’s sweetest moment, Hank expresses frustration that he can’t be fighting alongside his clones. Dr. Venture, who realizes now that his boys can’t afford to die another time, calms him down by telling him, “You only live once.”)
It turns out that those of us who didn’t understand the cause of Brock’s termination were right to be confused: OSI never terminated him. Molotov set him up to murder the assassins so that she and her Blackhearts would have no competition. The OSI was just trying to find out from Brock what was happening and—if necessary—protect him.
Realizing that he’s foolishly allowed himself to be used as a pawn, he decides to resign from the OSI. The Ventures, at first, celebrate this decision, until he explains that he’s leaving them, too.
Brock, as we’ve seen in the previous few episodes, is becoming increasingly aware of his own mortality. Surveying the carnage in the Ventures’ back yard, he knows that it’s only a matter of time before the next bullet that hits him takes his life. And is this what he’s going to die for? Why give his life for a failure like Dr. Venture? Back when he was impervious, it didn’t matter—it was more a game than anything.
But now Brock realizes it’s a game that he’s no longer in control of. There’s no question that the Ventures need someone to watch out for them…but it’s no longer going to be Brock.
And, as if to reinforce the fact that nobody can live forever, Henchman 24 is, almost unbelievably, killed at the end of the episode. Despite 24’s reckless storming of Spider-Skull Island in The Lepidopterists, absolutely positive he’d always be guaranteed survival on the grounds that he was a “main character” in The Monarch’s operations, he is here blown to pieces. And lest anyone in the audience believe he might have survived the explosion, the episode ends on the image of his flaming severed head landing in Henchman 21’s hands.
It’s a surprising and frustrating death of an important minor character that threatens to derail one of the most satisfying character relationships in the show…but I’m careful not to become too upset about it. Like Brock’s resignation, there’s too much riding on it for Jackson and Doc to have tossed it off without knowing full well where they’re going with it.
One thing’s for sure, though: 21 is going to be devastated. In fact, most of my sadness about the loss of 24 comes from putting myself in 21’s shoes. Season four—having to cope with both the Ventures’ loss of bodyguard and 21’s loss of his best friend—has the potential to be the freshest and most oddly emotional season yet.
Yes, season three has ended on a cliffhanger, but it is not a cliffhanger of frustration at all. The season has, after a few twists and misleads, dropped us off somewhere very interesting. We may have to wait a while for Jackson and Doc to bring us further along, but I doubt anyone’s going to mind the wait. We should know by now to trust these guys. I admit I have no idea why they would have killed 24 (personally, I think it’s just as bad as killing off Pete White or Billy Quizboy) but I know they have their reasons, and they may even have their resolution to the problem in mind.
Or, hey, maybe there will be no resolution. It’s not out of line to believe that 24 will stay dead; Venture has no reason to clone one of his enemy’s henchmen and I doubt Orpheus would have any desire to resurrect him either. Perhaps 24’s death is just going to contribute to a very different outlook on life for 21.
Oh well. I’ll find out right along with you in season four. Thanks for joining me along the way.
Bonus Inevitable Ranking of the Season Three Episodes:
1) The Invisible Hand of Fate
2) What Goes Down, Must Come Up
4) Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny
5) The Buddy System
6) The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part Two)
7) The Lepidopterists
8) Tears of a Sea Cow
9) The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part One)
10) Now Museum—Now You Don’t!
11) The Doctor is Sin
12) Home is Where the Hate Is
13) Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman