June 8: "The Doctor Is Sin/Dethgov/Krystal Light/Showdown In Magic City"

June 8: "The Doctor Is Sin/Dethgov/Krystal Light/Showdown In Magic City"

Humiliation comedy and continuity make for strange bedfellows. The former works to put characters in situations that are embarrassing without being pathetic, but the latter makes sure none of those situations are ever forgotten, making each new misadventure the culmination of all that have come before. Loser A stops being quite so amusing once you realize his life is a Beckettian hell of existential despair; but as shows like The Office have shown, turning a season of twenty minute yuk fests into one long window on a persistent world can actually work to the humor's advantage. There's a richness to seeing Michael Scott ruin his life that you don't get from Moe hitting Curly with a wrench–both are funny, but only one is funny with soul.

"The Doctor Is Sin" is all about soul (including a bonus trip down the river of dreams). Things aren't going well for our heroes; while brother Jonas gets magazine spreads and lucrative advertising gigs, Doc is forced to try and con the U.S. army into believing that Venture Industries is a thriving lab of Science! It goes poorly, even after Dr. Orpheus's excellent turn as a member of European Space Agency, and once again, Doc is reminded that he can't live up to the standards of his father, which would be tragic enough on its own if it weren't for the very real bills that threaten to push the whole family out of house and home.

But all is not yet lost, for Dr. Henry Killinger and his Magic Murder Bag pop by to turn the not-so-good doctor's life around. Killinger made his debut in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Kills," reuniting the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend in his delightful Mary-Poppins-Is-A-Hot-Topic-Fascist way, but it looks like he's got a darker agenda this time around, as he evicts the Orpheus clan, charges Brock for back rent, and staffs the compound with "Venchman" in short order. The highpoint comes when Killinger forces Venture to face his feelings of inadequacy in relation to his dad, feelings which began the morning Dad wore a too-revealing pair of boxers to breakfast. Doc defeats his father and apparently starts his life anew, but when his new suit comes in black and blue spandex, and Killinger starts talking about "arching" Jonas, Rusty is forced to decide between the villain he could be, and the failure he already is.

After the backstory-heavy "Shadowman 9," "Sin" pushes things forward by directly addressing one of the show's centerpieces: namely, Doc's idea of who he is, and reality's consistent refusal to back that idea up. Which is where continuity comes in. While a connected storyline makes each fresh abasement resonate against the past, the passage of time also brings with it the possibility of change, of escape. Doc is never going to be the model father or super-genius that his place in the world demands, but in the show's final moments, when he's forced to face his literal and figurative nakedness, it feels like something new might be coming.

It makes you wonder what the Season 3 focus will be. Maybe a little redemption is in the works? Probably not, but man, Brock's response when Doc asks him, "Am I a bad person?" had me on the floor.

Florida gets a hit of bad politics in "Dethgov"; I didn't catch any references to Bush/Gore (apart from a lot of the latter), but it's hard to imagine anybody targeting America's dangling chad without looking for a little payback. After the state's current governor Kip Slaughter unwisely slags the 'klok to a pre-rabid public (is it just me, or is everyone in the Metalocalypse universe suffering from Sammy Jankis Disease?), he's slaughtered, and Nathan Explosion is elected in a landslide write-in campaign. Nathan and the others are initially reluctant to get involved–Nathan has this bag of chips, and he's totally into eating them–but when they realize how easy it is to exploit the gubernatorial position, Explosion takes the job, assigning the rest of the band prime positions with predictable results.

There's nothing particularly surprising about "Dethgov," unless it's Skwigelf's passion of GILFs (actually, has that been mentioned before?), but the great thing about Metalocalypse is that it's not supposed to be surprising. You don't really think Pinky and the Brain will ever take over the world (or, if they do, that they'll still be holding on to it by the last commercial break); nor do you expect Dethklok to not inadvertently murder hundreds, maybe thousands, of its loyal fans. The orchestration is what counts, and this was a pretty sweet eleven minutes of mayhem.

While Metalocalypse may not follow the same obsessive detailing as Venture Bros, it does have an internal logic all its own; if a character dies in one episode, he won't be coming back later. (On that note: Crozier lives!) Compare that to Squidbillies and Assy McGee, where each individual episode appears to take place in a separate, vaguely related parallel dimension. It's the same place that sitcoms of old used to live in, before everybody got soap opera happy; Lucy's latest scheme never lingered past the end credits, although it's hard to imagine even her mating corn with kudzu.

"Krystal Light" wins the Number of Times I Wrote "Ach!" In My Notes Award this week. (Three, at which point I just gave up.) When the grotesquely obese Krystal, mother of Rusty, cons her way into a roll of scratch-off tickets, she wins big, attracting the attentions of Early, her former paramour, and the always-looking-for-an-angle Dan Halen. She also gets an emergency gastrointestinal bypass, which amounts to having a doctor punch a hole in the back of her neck so that nothing she eats ever makes it to her stomach. She'll die in about a week but until then, she'll look great.

Hard to know where to start, really–between Krystal's rapid weight loss and resultant skin flaps, and Early's history of violence (Quoth the sheriff, "Domestic abuse isn't funny, although you tried to do it in a funny way."), "Light" is a buffet of loathsomeness. Points for consistency of purpose; being annoying isn't exactly art, but there is something impressive about achieving such intense unpleasantness in a series who's main art direction seems to be "sketched vomit."

"Showdown In Magic City" is short enough to need a longer opening sequence and the standard car ad, and it still feels padded. After a jai-alai player is brutally murdered, Assy and Sanchez head to Florida to investigate the Miami crime syndicate. Assy plays in the pool–okay, what's the urban legend he mentions? Jerks bleed when they swim and leer?–while Sanchez gets kidnapped. Ever the concerned partner, Assy returns to Exeter, dresses up as a Rastafarian to explore Little Jamaica, and eventually finds his friend tied to a chair in a backroom, near death from infection after getting his upper lip ripped off.

I said "Light" won the Ach-award, but seeing a diseased Sanchez with a moustache made of flies made it a close race. As always, Assy is nominally a parody, and you can see certain familiar elements in "Showdown": the out of town trip to show off an exotic locale (worse punishment: a Dethklok government or a visit from El Asso?), the disguise, the hero's anguished screams over his partner. But also as always, there's not much effort here. Assy's distraught instructions to the departing medical team had some energy, but other than that, it was another adventure in trying to decipher what he'll say next, and waiting for the end credits to role.

Grades:

Venture Bros, "The Doctor Is Sin": A

Metalocalypse, "Dethgov": A-

Squidbillies, "Krystal Light": B

Assy McGee, "Showdown In Magic City": C+

Stray Observations:

-I caught two movie references in "Sin": a Yoda bit when the Doc steps in the bag, and a possible Ghostbusters nod in, "I'm very excited about this plan." Others?

-The lame super-villains attempting to arch the Venture compound now that Monarch has moved on looked, like most guest spots on the show, vaguely familiar. I know I've seen Man-O-Saurus.

-Speaking of which, I wonder if Doc will end up getting a new arch in the end, and if he does, who could possibly take the Monarch's place?

-Jonas has an iPod ad. The tool.

-"Man I love chips."