Well hey there--it's me again, after a three week hiatus where I solved some crimes, uncovered a few conspiracies, and coughed up phlegm. (I'm not going to lie to you. There was a lot of phlegm.) Much thanks to Leonard Pierce for covering for me, over three good-to-great episodes. Can't say I disagree with much of anything he said, although I am somewhat annoyed that he said it so well. My job is tough enough without anybody going around all willy nilly raising standards and everything.
My time off was mostly circumstantial, but I'll be honest: I haven't been entirely happy with my coverage of the show on the back half of season four, because I've been having a heard time getting the right perspective. I watched all the episodes that Leonard was kind enough to write about, and it was fun watching the show purely as a fan, but now it's back to business. And wouldn't you know it, I come back on one of my favorite kinds of episodes on the show, a "Why is Rusty Venture such a self-centered ass?" episode. "Assisted Suicide" started off a little rough, and for the first ten minutes I had the weird feeling I was watching something that was hitting all the expected Venture Bros. notes without really getting the rhythms right. But the ep picked up considerably in the second half, giving us a fun character connection, some clever jokes about the workings of Rusty's mind, and ending with a monologue which once again helped find some humanity in the (not so) good doctor without giving in to sentimentality.
Part of my dissatisfaction with the opening of "Assisted" probably comes from the plot teaser my Tivo provided--it claimed the episode was about everyone trying to convince Dr. Venture not to kill himself, and while that's kind of true, it promises a much darker, more direct plotline than what we actually got. Sure, Rusty is trying to kill himself, but only because the Monarch, using a "Mind Infractor," has taken over Rusty's body. When the initial attempts to break through to Doc fail, Orpheus becomes convinced that he's possessed, and goes about breaking that possession, first via incantation, and then, when that doesn't work, he projects himself into Rusty's mind to deal with the problem head-on. (He uses what Rusty loves most in the world to do this, which includes neither Hank nor Dean. Which makes for a good, sad joke, and also makes sense--one of the interesting things about the show is Venture's ambivalent relationship with his kids. Being a father is as much a part of playing the role Jonas created for him as being a super scientist is; his failure at both is understandable, even if its more damning in the case of the boys.)
As always with the show nowadays, the focus is split a few ways: we've got Orpheus wandering around in Rusty's head, we've got Dr. Mrs. the Monarch and #21 (Or "G-A-R-Y!") trying to keep the Monarch from flat-lining under the influence of his new machine; and we've got Brock and Hatred chatting and butting heads a little over bodyguard responsibilities. Of the three, Orpheus's adventures worked the best. Some of it was a little random (all right, Pete and Billy Quiz-Boy have to appear in every episode I guess, but why are they Thanatos and Eros respectively? Is it just because Billy is short and Pete is pale?), and it cut off just as it was getting really interesting, but the various stages of Doc Venture's mind were cleverly imagined. It makes sense that his insides would be run like a giant machine, since Rusty's whole life has been dictated and programmed by scientists. All those dead Hanks and Deans were appropriately haunting, and the various forms of Rusty's psyche gave James Urbaniak a chance to have some fun with his vocal work.
As for the other two stories, only the 21/Mrs. the Monarch segment had enough of an arc to count as a plot (the Brock/Hatred stuff mostly just felt like color), and while it wasn't bad, I'm not sure there was enough of it to really justify the distraction. I can see an arc about the two hooking up working well, and the scenes we see here aren't bad (although some of the jokes don't really work; the "Bernie Taupin and Elton John" line was forced and not very funny), but it never really connected with the main action of the episode. I enjoy the show's attempts to cram lots of plot into a scant twenty minute framework, but there are some stories which justify a more consistent focus, and there was enough potential in the machinations of Rusty's mind that I felt short-changed by the end.
I may just be a sucker for a good monologue, but my favorite moment of the episode might've been the post-credit's stinger, when Doc explains to Hank just how terrible his life can be sometimes. It's rare for anyone to talk for this long on the show without something weird happening around them, which made the speech seem important; and while we don't learn anything hugely new (beyond the fact that Venture Sr and his friends were amazingly bastardly bastards), I appreciate the self-awareness on Rusty's part. I'm not sure this is a show that will ever go in for massive character shifts, but Doc's slow crawl towards some form of humanity is still a powerful running thread. There are characters worth caring about here. Fingers crossed that the writers don't forget that.
- I did not ever need to see #21 wearing a ball-gag. However, Dr. Mrs. the Monarch in a cheerleader's uniform was quite nice. (And of course they'd have all this equipment kicking around.)
- "If you need a Bible, I have one on tape, narrated by Mr. Darth Vader."
- "He gets that way around death, it's like he's in a Creed video."
- "Gird me!"
- Blade Runner reference! And Star Trek. Nice.
- I can see how it makes sense dramatically, but I wish we'd seen those Tragic-Memory Ducts. (Although maybe we got a version of that in Doc's story at the end?)
- "What happened when I was 16? That is my life."