The Venture Bros. just blew themselves up. I'm not referring to Hank and Dean, actually, who used to have a nasty habit of dying horribly. I'm referring to the show itself, which returned with an hour-long special that not only brought years of storylines to an end, but set up a new status quo for the Venture universe.
It is not hyperbole to say that "All That and Gargantua-2" could have worked as a series finale — that's how many major arcs it wraps up— but it also serves as new beginning for the series, another example of the show reinventing itself. The catalyst that begins this particular transformation is that Jonas Jr. finally opens the Gargantua-2 space station to the public, mainly as a space casino. The main Venture family, the Action Men and Billy Quizboy are invited to the opening, and pretty much everyone else crashes it. That includes:
• Brock and fellow OSI agent Amber Gold, who are justifiably worried that supervillains are going to take Gargantua-2 and whatever other tech Jonas Jr. has lying around
• The Revenge Society, the rogue group of supervillains which include Phantom Limb and Baron Underbheit, and led by Henry Killinger, who plan on robbing Gargantua's passengers in a classic heist
• The super-creepy Investors, who apparently helped fund the Gargantua-2 for mysterious but obviously sinister reasons
• The Monarch and Henchman 21, who are chasing after Phantom Limb after realizing that Limb had been squatting in the Monarch's childhood home (long story)
You'll notice that the other main VB faction, The Guild of Calamitous Intent, isn't mentioned in this list. That's because the Sovereign has finally snapped. He kills most of the Council of 13 (he actually tries to kill all of them, although a few escape) because he wants to blow up the Gargantua, against all Guild/OSI treaties, in order to kill the Investors, but also because he's lost his mind.
With these pieces in play — and many others as well (the return of pee pee cancer sufferer General Treister being just one of them) — and all basically running wild at the same time, "Gargantua-2" may be the epitome of that dense, almost byzantine plotting that Venture Bros. usually does so well. Here, though, it's almost too jam-packed with characters, storyarcs, nods to the show's mythology, major reveals (Phantom Limb can't even keep track of how many times he gets 'crossed), and action sequences. It's not bad in the slightest but it did make me wish that creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer had the time and resources to turn "Gargantua-2" into a two-hour special and let everything have a little more breathing room.
Still, my only issue here is that the special was too packed, and no one can ever truly complain that they've gotten too much Venture Bros. Unfortunately, though, it does mean that trying to recap it blow-by-blow would take forever, as every little subplot advances the next, creating one massive story that is wholly dependent on every aspect of itself — one that is infinitely more fun to watch than methodically list. So instead, let's list the special's highlights — as well as the most insane changes to the show's status quo.
• Jonas Jr is dying. He has cancer, and there's a genuinely touching moment between him and Rusty as they move past their egos and come together as brothers. By the end of the episode, Jonas Jr. sacrifices himself to pilot the self-destructing core of the Gargantua to save the space casino's passengers.
• Imprisoned for sneaking about the Gargantua, Brock recognizes Revenge Society member Zero — formerly Henchman Zero — and mocks him. Zero gets too close to Brock's bars and, of course, is promptly murdered.
• The Sovereign manages to kill pretty much all the members of the Council of 13 except Red Mantle, Dr. Z, Dr. Phineas Phage, and new member Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Dr. Mrs. Is shot trying to escape from the Guild's compound, and I've literally never been more concerned about the fate of a Venture Bros. character.
• The Sovereign reveals he's not David Bowie, just a shape-shifter with a flair for the dramatic and good taste in music. But that's not all!
• Red Mantle and Dr. Z tell OSI about the Sovereign's location for full immunity. OSI (albeit accidentally) shoots the Sovereign while he's in his eagle form. THE SOVEREIGN IS DEAD. THE GUILD OF CALAMITOUS INTENT IS NO MORE.
•The Investors fight Henry Killinger with red lightsabers. They reveal that Killinger was once their brother; this does not stop Killinger from destroying them. THE INVESTORS ARE DEAD.
• With a little help from the Monarch, who left a flaming butterfly symbol in the ground after stealing one of Doc Venture' rockets, the Venture compound has completely burned down. Where will Team Venture live now? (Answer below.)
• Billy Quizboy's mom kicks some major Revenge society ass, hinting at some kind of mysterious, apparently ass-kicking history.
• Dr. Mrs. rescues the Monarch and Henchman 21 just before they get to the self-destructing Gargantua, and land in the Revenge Society's former HQ named Meteor Majeure. Killinger is waiting for them there, and teleports Phantom Limb and Fat Chance over, too. There, he reveals the Guild of Calamitous Intent can start anew, here… as long as the Monarch isn't one of the new members of the new Council of 13. THE GUILD LIVES, UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT.
• In his will, Jonas Jr. leaves his massive, successful Venture Industries and its NY HQ to Rusty. So that's where the Ventures will be living next year, and now, suddenly, they'll have a lot of money. I have no doubt this will go swimmingly for them!
• Oh, and in case this wasn't obvious — this entire chain of events, was very possibly engineered entirely by Killinger.
Holy shit. I can't imagine how completely unintelligible all this would be if you're a reasonably new fan of Venture Bros., but for hardcore fans? This is crazy. A new Guild, no longer run by the Sovereign? No more Investors? The end of the short-lived Revenge Society, and the Monarch, Dr. Mrs. the Monarch and Phantom Limb working together again? This is a major, major change from the established VB world — and that's even before you remember that it appears the Venture home has been destroyed. God only knows when the sixth season of Venture Bros. will premiere — maybe we'll be lucky and it'll come in the fall — but when it does, we're looking at a whole new status quo for the show.
Which is one of the things we love best about The Venture Bros. — that it never rests on its laurels, and that its world continues to change and adapt, just like its myriad characters. And where so many shows seem desperate to think up ways to pad out every episode, The Venture Bros. always has so much story to tell that you almost have to be a hardcore fan to get it all — which may not be the most conducive to gaining new viewers, but always makes watching The Venture Bros. such an intensely rewarding experience for those who do love it.
Here's hoping season six comes sooner rather than later. Because as "All That and Gargantua-2" proves, even too much Venture Bros. is never enough.
• I got a screener, which was lacking the "Special Epilogue" that I assume aired on Adult Swim. If somehow you missed it, you can watch it here.
• "Nobody but spies play baccarat." Truer words were never spoken, Brock.
• Hey, that was Stephen Colbert as Dr. Impossible again! Neat! I assumed he was done doing silly voiceovers for brilliant but small animated shows, but apparently not. But once he takes over the Late Show, I sincerely doubt he'll be returning to the role.
• Any theories on what the deal with Billy's mom is? I'm thinking she's an Agent Carter-type.
• "I would like twenty Hank Bucks of plastic gambling money, please."