Part Two of "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together," the last episode of the third season of Venture Bros, is not touchy feely. Nor is it namby pamby, blubbering, or weepy-eyed. Despite the death of a recurring character and the resignation of one of the show's leads, there's nothing going on here that should move you to tears or give you a warm fuzzy all over. Rusty Venture doesn't grow up in any way I can tell, and there's no pay-off of the ORB stuff; Phantom Limb doesn't return for the climactic final battle; and we don't learn the real parentage of Dermott, or meet Hank and Dean's actual birth mom.
But honestly, who the hell cares? That effin' rocked.
When I asked to do Adult Swim coverage at the start of the summer, I had a lot of reasons–the chance to get more writing on the site, the chance to stick my foot in the door of the TV Club section, the chance to be insulted by a larger, more diverse group of strangers. My biggest reason, though, was that I love the hell out of this show. I can't think of another series on air right now that fills me with this consistent a level of glee even at its most belabored. What separates Venture Bros from most other multiple reference shows is the clear love the creators have for every gag, every nod to a pop culture icon a decade past its sell-by date. It's like getting to hang out in the biggest nerd toy-box around.
Sure, there are flaws. The writers occasionally get so caught up in the last ten minutes of an episode that the first ten feels a little like stalling, and we get some of that here. The end of part one of "Family" had the Ventures and Brock arrested; the second part finds them being interrogated by the cops. The Cleaner, a Mr. Clean look-alike with a spray gun full of acid, arrives, kills the cops, and helps the heroes break out of jail. It's gruesomely funny, but the whole arrest-and-escape thing seems unnecessary. It's not like the police are exactly relevant in this world.
But hey, it does give Molotov a chance to briefly reappear, wearing street-clothes that can only be described as ill-advised. (Though top-heavy as ever.) And while the Ventures are watching faces get melted, the Monarch and his goons are torturing H.E.L.P.eR. for their location. (It's sad that I never noticed just how much H.E.L.P.eR. comes off as a robot Beaker.)
The whole ep builds to a final confrontation Brock engineers on the Venture compound between the Monarch and his goons, and the OSI team (General Treister and the two lepidopterists) that Brock believes is still working to kill him. The whole two-parter has been a show-case for Brock, and it culminates here; I'm not sure the series has ever shown him to be this expert a manipulator, but it makes perfect sense. Once you get past his rage, Brock is easily the show's most competent character. Besides, it's not like lying to the Monarch and Treister requires Verbal Kint levels of subterfuge.
As the battle rages on outside, the Ventures are holed up in the panic room; that's where Sgt. Hatred finds them and tries to get Doc to strangle him. Doc obliges, but he doesn't have much luck. Hank, though, has gotten a glimpse of the battle outside, and he's convinced that Brock is in trouble and that they need to help him. Which leads to my favorite twist in the show, and in the running for one of the best season three moments: Doc says they have no way to help, and Hank tells him, "Not unless you let us open our Christmas gifts early."
And that's when the naked army of boy clone slugs enters the fray.
Oh man, I got a grin just typing that. The "gifts" line is a nod to season two's, "Viva Los Meurtos," when the Venture boys stumbled across the room full of their clones. Ever since the concept of clones was introduced at the start of second season, a moment like this one had to come; since our attachment to Hank and Dean makes it unworkable to keep killing them off, you've got to deal with all the back-ups hanging around. Having them slaughtered en masse is both a terrific visual (Sgt. Hatred leading the team actually made all the pedophile jokes sort of work), and the perfect way to close off that particular dramatic loophole. The current Hank and Dean are with us for the duration, looks like. As Doc says, "You only live once."
Plus, there's the death of 24; I'm not sure if it's sad, exactly, but it was definitely unexpected. Brock's resignation was less unexpected, and makes me damn curious to see what's going to happen in Season 4. (And hey, who set off the bomb that killed 24 and H.E.L.P.eR.? Dr. Etc. clearly left the remote control on the chair when she left the cocoon.) I said before that this wasn't a "warm fuzzy" kind of episode, but I think maybe it was after all; while it doesn't nearly resolve everything that came before, the plates are still spinning, and it gives you hope for next year.
With "Snakes N Barrels II," Metalocalypse returns from its hiatus. Pickles' pre-Dethklok band first popped up in "Snakes N Barrels" back in season one; the Tribunal used a mind-control drug on the band to try and get to Pickles himself, and while that didn't exactly work, the band members were blank-slated enough that a sobriety-fixated sociopath named Rikki Kix (Mike Patton!) was able to swoop in, take the lead singer slot, and convince the group that drinking and drugs are actually bad for you.
This really, really pisses Pickles off, so he decides to revisit his former band-mates one more time. The rest of Dethklok comes along to Snake N Barrels' big concert; while Pickles struggles backstage, Nathan and Skwisgaar face the horrors of a non-alcoholic bar, and Toki tries the clean and free lifestyle. Murderface makes a terrible discovery on the Internet. And there's Rockso the Rock 'n' Roll Clown who's given up the drug lifestyle and now wants to be called by his real name, Leonard Rockstein. (Dude is scarier without make-up.) And also, those drugs the Tribunal gave the band last time have a tendency to go haywire when exposed to bright lights. Fortunately, you don't get much in the way of lighting at a rock show.
"Snakes" is the first "full-length" Metalocalypse episode, running a half hour with commercials instead of the usual fifteen. The plot's more complex–okay, not the plot, exactly, but there's definitely more going on. The standard Dethklok repetition jokes last longer than usual, with okay results; the meeting in Ofdensen's office starts strong, with Pickles breaking many, many lamps, but by the time Nathan and Skwisgaar poke their heads in, you're just waiting for it to end. (The fact that somebody brings in a new box of lamps to break was great, though.)
But that's the way it works with that sort of joke; if it clicks, the stretching makes it funnier, but it doesn't always click. Overall, the longer ep was a great success. It never felt rushed, and the ending climax was a satisfying capper, instead of just a glimpse of something awesome. Toki's explosion has been a long time coming, and seeing him go to town on a dumb frat boy was great, as was the nod to the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark in "blue snake" freak-out.
The best part of "Snakes" is the tour of Hollywood Pickles gives the rest of Dethklok. The animation is different than anything else we've seen on the series; lots of montage stuff and silhouettes. But what rocks the hardest is the obvious passion it shows for its subject. Pickles talks about the way metal used to be, all hardcore and vomiting and nasty, and how weak Rikki Six's so-called sobriety is in comparison; even with the gags, it's a hard point to argue. For once, Metalocalypse actually stands for something more than gore and delayed response humor; there's always been a great deal of care put into the music on the series, and now we get a glimpse of the reason for that care. And it is damn sweet.
"C.O.R.B.S.", this week's Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, has a lot going for it. The C.H.I.P.s parody that gives the episode its title is all right, and thankfully brief; as are the two "normal" Tim and Eric bits, with the guys just hanging out playing with balloons. There's a decent ad about eye-tanning for men who wear sunglasses on the beach–it follows the standard T & E ad-template of introducing a largely useless product and then showing the torturous steps a person would have to go through to actually use it, but it lacks the tactile unpleasantness of the Cinco phone. Steve Brule's homemade video should be popping up on Videocracy soon. Then there's a family dinner divorce scene that's saved from complete boredom because it's shot like an after-school special; it's still mostly just so-so, though, even with the burp ending.
Screw all that, though. "C.O.R.B.S." gets an A, and you know why it gets an A? Ray-freakin'-Wise. He appears twice as Grill Vogel, giving a seminar on business hugs for people who like to touch each other in the office place, but aren't sure how. The hugs are absurd enough for a laugh, but it's really Wise's presence that sells the sketch. He's got the perfect voice and level of sincerity to sell just about anything. I don't think I've ever laughed as hard at Tim & Eric before.
The Venture Bros, "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together, Part 2": A
Metalocalypse,"Snakes N Barrels II": A
Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, "C.O.R.B.S.": A
—Looks like this is it. Adult Swim Sunday coverage is going on hiatus. I'll be back next week for the season premiere of Robot Chicken, and keep an eye out for occasional write-ups of new shows; but the regular coverage is over, at least until season 4 of Venture starts up. It's been a blast!