There's no question by now that Doc "Rusty" Venture is a jerk. He's also selfish, immature, irresponsible, bitchy, an unreliable friend, and a terrible father. That he's likeable at all is a tribute to the writers of Venture Bros and the terrific voice work of James Urbaniak. But while two and a half seasons haven't softened his wankishness, they have gone a good way towards explaining it, through a series of brief glimpses of Rusty's childhood. Turns out, when it comes to rotten parenting, daddy Jonas was there first, and he dropped the bar near as low as it could go.
"What Goes Down Must Come Up" plumbs those depths in a fairly literal fashion, by having Doc and Brock accidentally stumble onto the lower levels of the Venture compound. While Brock inadvertently locks himself into the control center of a nuclear fall-out shelter, Doc wanders through the bowels of the shelter itself, stalked by shadows just out of reach. Hank and Dean get worried when they can't find either man, and go running to Dr. Orpheus for help–he summons the Triad, but a brief psychic bad trip convinces them still more help is needed, and Whitey arrives to show everyone the compound's security room and it's many (many) cameras. He finally finds Brock, but it may be too late for everyone; the A.I. running the control center, M.U.T.H.E.R., makes her presence known and demands to see Jonas Venture. She won't take no for an answer, either, and when the others can't give her what she wants since its been dead for years, she starts preparations to launch a nuclear missile.
Doc is having problems with his own. After being discovered by a group of mental defectives dressed like defunct rock bands, he's brought to meet their leader, a data card they name Father. And wouldn't you know it, the card is actually a video of old Jonas himself, providing Rusty with instructions on how to manage himself in the event of a nuclear holocaust (all of these instructions revolve around hygiene and Sex Ed). Doc, with his usual sensitivity, grabs the data card, tells the group he's killed their god and that they shouldn't have been messing with his stuff. They do not take this very well.
While Jonas Venture is nominally a take off on Dr. Benton Quest, father of the eponymous Johnny, he's also a satire of scientist pulp heroes in general; with his square-jaw, booming voice, and over-sized ego, he's the sort of man who decides what's best for the world and does it, whether the world likes it or not. The big reveal of "What Goes Down" shows us the standard collateral damage for Jonas's experiments. During a tour of the shelter facilities, M.U.T.H.E.R. gasses a group of orphans with a powerful hallucinogenic–Jonas's intentions had been to use smaller doses of the gas in the shelter air supply to ensure the compliance of the inhabitants, but the A.I. disagreed. While Jonas's adventure team manages to get out, the orphans are left behind to suffer the after-effects of the gas; and worse, they're left there for decades. In some ways it's a throw-away joke, as this is the sort of attrition one has come to expect from Jonas, but the fact that nobody ever came back to check on them shows an astonishing callousness. It's no wonder Rusty grew up to be a jerk. If this was his role model, it's a wonder he's a human being at all.
Psychological mumbo-jumbo aside, "What Goes Down" had its share of excellent bits, from Dr. Paul Entmann, the shrunken scientist Brock finds in the control room who isn't enough of a Marvel fan to have heard of Hank Pym, to the Triad's various squabbling and complaints. As seems to be par for the course this season, the ep was thoroughly stuffed with plot–never so much as to be a huge detriment, but with so many cool ideas winging around, it's sometimes frustrating to have some come and go so quickly. But I'll take too dense over dull any day of the week.
Metalocalypse is going on a short break after "Dethdad," and for now, the show leaves us much the way it came in; amused, entertained, and still hungry for more. While Dethklok is mucking around with fireworks (the continual torment of Murderface, and its ultimate pay-off, was the ep's best joke), Toki gets some bad news: "Dads gots cancer." (aka, "The Big K.") This leaves the poor guy in a bad place, and his band-mates are ill-equipped to comfort him. When Ofdensen suggests they try and give Toki their support, the conversation spirals into a dodge session that ends with the group convinced that Toki is going to kill them. All Toki really wants, though, is to go back to Lillehammer, Norway to see his dad before he goes, and for his best friends to come with.
Which, after some guilt-tripping and the understanding that if they stay behind they'll have to do actual work, they do. After a tour of Lillehammer that disappoints on nearly every level (Norway has the lowest the murder-rate in the world, which is pretty freakin' un-metal), Toki remembers his abusive upbringing long enough to have a solo number in the woods and then work up the courage to face his fading pa. Dad' last wish, to see the house he was born in, nearly comes to fruition; but Toki slips at the last moment, dropping his father's body into a frozen lake to drown.
It feels petty to criticize a series for not delivering more than it promises, so I can't find that much fault in "Dethdad." The biggest problem is that the characters and music are so much fun, you kind of wish they'd play with the structure more, especially given Brendon Small's involvement (the much missed Home Movies, while nowhere near as over-the-top, did a great job engaging audience sympathies with a similarly immature cast). Toki's grief ricocheting off Dethklok's selfishness was great, though, and the final sequence, with Toki carrying the cancer-riddled body of his authoritarian father across a frozen wasteland, managed to be both hilarious and hardcore at the same time. It ends things on a high note, at least.
Not ending on a high note, or approaching a high note, or even landing anywhere near a recognizable tonal scale, this week's Fat Guy Stuck In Internet, "Eating With The Goddess," was lousy. In college, I got stuck going to some sketch comedy shows because my friends were involved and I didn't have enough of a social life to risk losing them, and FGSII reminds me of college comedy at its most dire; a series of cheap sets, self-congratulatory riffs, and easy to identify cultural references that exist largely to earn the audience's goodwill, since none of the jokes or storylines are going to be enough on their own. But at least with college theater, I could brutally withhold my laughter in the hopes that somebody on stage might notice.
"Goddess" has the mismatched duo of Gemberling and Chains wandering in the wilderness. Chains having gotten rid of their food supply, the two sit down in front of a campfire to flashback about their lives. Gemberling's past? A painful Dirty Dancing parody about "dirty computing," with Gemberling as a rogue programmer breaking all the summer camp rules to woo "Toddler." (As opposed to "Baby." I snickered at that, and then immediately felt bad about it.) Chains' monologue, on the other hand, comes in the form of a slightly (slightly) less stale Teen Wolf riff, with young Chains inheriting the Dracula gene from his dad instead of lycanthropy. It all ends in blood, which is a good thing, largely because there's an end.
It's a standard criticism of modern parody movies that simply recreating a scene from a popular film doesn't constitute "parody." "Goddess" goes a little further than that, but not much. The "dirty computing" sequence is particularly lame, because it still has all the characters dancing, just like in the original–only, see, now they dance with computers. Ha. Ha. Ha.
When it comes to comedy on campus, I was willing to cut some breaks. After all, everybody kind of sucks in college; and it's not like anybody on that stage was getting paid. FGSII, though Gah. I've seen I Know Who Killed Me three times. "Eating With The Goddess" hurt worse.
Venture Bros., "What Goes Down Must Come Up": A-
Metalocalypse, "Dethdad": A
Fat Guy Stuck In Internet, "Eating With The Goddess": D+
--Looks like next week is a light load for me, Sunday night wise. Maybe I'll crack open a couple early Venture eps, just for the hell of it.
--How great was Jefferson getting "blue balls in [his] blood eye"?
--I think this was the longest post-credits bumper yet.