Venture Brothers: 3rd Season, The (US - BD RA)
Gabe isn't alarmed as they engage...the nozzle. He waits while it calibrates...
Season one of The Venture Bros. was all about the jokes, the references, and the generally silliness. If it wasn’t popular, and if it had ended there, fans would’ve still had a fun time. Season two started a real story for the characters, using bits and pieces from the first season for the sake of continuity. Season three starts the ball rolling for a true mythology for the characters, rather than giving back-story jokes on the run for humour’s sake. The approach is both a blessing and a curse. The curse comes from the twenty episode count which is shorter than most network television, and robs the season of a full arc. After the tight overarching plot of season two I’m assuming most fans (like me) were expecting more of the same, so there is a hint of disappointment in comparison. There is continuity to some of the later episodes, but nothing as serial as season two.
Things begin with ‘Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny’, the story of everything that occurred between the Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, and Phantom Limb. The episode is a little light on jokes, but positively packed with back story, and the structure is extremely elegant. It’s also pretty cool that the episode is almost entirely villain-centric.
‘What happened to your legs?’
‘What do you know... of evil?’
‘Why? You 'eviled' your legs?’
‘The Doctor is Sin’ is a surprisingly poignant tale of Dr. Venture skirting the dark side. Without the Monarch obsessively pestering him and his brother showing him up in the super-science venue, Venture is somewhat lost. The episode might’ve worked a little better a little later in the season, but it’s possibly the most original and emotional place the series has been taken yet.
‘Brock… Am I a bad person? Am I?’
‘Home is Where the Hate Is’ is one of the season’s lesser episodes, but reintroduces us to Sgt. Hatred, who is now Dr. Venture’s assigned arch enemy. The standouts here are The Monarch who allows his hatred for Venture overtake him, and the b-plot, which sees Hank, Dean, 21 and 24 running from Dr. Mrs. The Monarch’s ‘Murderous Moppets’. The pseudo friendship that blossomed between the boys and Monarch’s ‘boys’ during the season two finale is probably one of the show’s more endearing developments. The Moppets, who aren’t my favourite new characters, are also used to great effect here as Jaws-like forces of nature.
‘You're a brainless failure and live entirely off your father's name and fortune!’
‘I'm George Bush?’
‘The Invisible Hand of Fate’ is another flashback heavy episode, which finally reveals the story behind Billy Quiz Boy’s robotic hand and missing eye. This packed episode also gives major insight into Pete White, Brock Samson and Phantom Limb. The haphazard fashion in which the writers reach into side gags from the previous seasons and pull a fully formed back story is admirable in that it actually works. The episode doesn’t really play into the rest of the season, but it features the best stand alone joke of the year—a spoof the opening title credits of the G.I. Joe movie.
‘Well, the Village People called, and they want you to go fucking kill yourselves, you prancing bastard!’
‘The Buddy System’ is possibly the flat out funniest episode of the entire season, and introduces Dermott into the equation, who starts his Venture Bros. career as a mystery for fans (it’s unclear who’s son he is, though most assume he’s the spawn of Brock), but looks to be a valuable tool for the continued separation of Dean and Hank. The Johnny Quest spoof is thick at Rusty’s Day Camp for Boy Adventurers, including direct references in the return of the ‘Action Johnny’ character. I also personally appreciate the episode as a guy who grew up in Southern Arizona during the advent of the failed Biosphere project.
‘If you touch something that melts your fingers off, tell your buddy. If you get a face-full of burning hydrochloric acid, it's your buddy who drags you to one of the many eye wash stations’
During the commentary track writer/director Jackson Publick expresses some dissatisfaction with ‘Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman’, but the episode fits snuggly and rightly in the centre of the season. The episode expands on the season theme of Hank and Dean separating as they age, and features more flashbacks to Rusty’s terrible childhood. The doppelganger effect of the Quymn and Venture families is good for many laughs, and fans can likely appreciate the ‘back to basics’ plotting, which both mirrors and teases the boy detective angle that started the series.
‘You've gone soft on me Henry Allen So-Called-Venture! You used to be all ‘Go Team Venture!’ but now… now you're all ‘Go Team B-Boobies!’’
‘What Goes Down Must Come Up’ has some shortcomings (the Keith Flint joke is appreciated more than it’s actually funny), but is an Order of the Triad heavy episode, so it easily slips in as a personal favourite. Honestly, I could go for an Order of the Triad miniseries. Children of the ‘80s keep your eyes peeled for all your treasured MTV rejects.
‘You're not my mama. She was taken by marauding Blackulas when I was ten.’
‘Tears of a Sea Cow’ opens with the best pre-credit sequence of the year. After promising to not ‘arch’ the Ventures, the Monarch and his wife are put up against Dr. Dugong, who the Monarch murders rather unceremoniously. The joke of archenemies being demoted to a simple job title thanks to the bureaucracy of the Guild of Calamitous Intent and O.S.I., who have robbed comic book violence of all its real threat in the Venture Universe. It’s a joke that hasn’t gotten old yet. The rest of the episode is solid as well, featuring more Hank, Dean, 21 and 24 team up time, and a stunning moment where Hank is endowed with the (mistaken) knowledge that he’s immortal (which hasn’t paid off quite yet).
‘What are you doing?’
‘Um, giving your robot Chlamydia?’
‘Now Museum, Now You Don’t’ runs along similar lines to ‘The Buddy System’ in tone. It’s nostalgic, it could stand alone, and it brings back forgotten characters from season one. The saddest aspect of the episode is that the crew couldn’t afford Stephen Colbert anymore, so Dr. Richard Impossible’s voice has changed (though in his depressed state the new voice works). Beyond the Colbert problem are more classic comic spoofs that actually fit the plot.
‘Oh, man. This is all kinds of uncomfortable. On, like, a couple of levels.’
‘The Lepidopterists’ takes place immediately after ‘Tears of a Sea Cow’, but for some reason they’ve separated them on the disc (the episodes did air in this order, but I believe ‘Invisible Hand of Fate’ originally aired before ‘Home is Where the Hate Is’, so that apparently doesn’t hold any sway). The episode opens with a spectacular Voltron spoof, and leads into the final three episodes pretty smoothly. The show’s creators swore they’d permanently kill a major character in season three, and the most likely suspects were henchmen numbers 24 and 21. Upon a first viewing the episode was actually quite suspenseful, as the cocky henchmen tempt fate, and the power of Brock Samson.
‘Oh my god, when you were a kid, did you ever make G.I. Joe hump Rainbow Brite?’
‘He’s what their kid would’ve looked like’
‘Orb’ is the most layered and impressive episodes in the show’s history, but it’s so thick with conspiracy and back story it’s also a pretty confusing episode, leaving many questions unanswered. Without a doubt, though, this opens the narrative up to much larger possibilities than any of the other flashback episodes, flashing back not one, not two, but possibly five generations back, to some kind of Victorian era pre-Team Venture.
‘I don't wanna play World of Warcraft. Get me a regular dictionary. Uck, internet, it's only good for finding out that your boyfriend is sleeping around. Friggin' MySpace. What, I'm not supposed to look at his friend's comments? They're right on the first page! It's hardly snooping!’
Everything comes to a mostly satisfying end with ‘The Family that Slays Together Stays Together Parts I and II’. Things just don’t add up to the same level of heart pounding fan boy smatterings of season two’s epic final two, but I’m not ready to call it a backslide. The final episode follows a similar pattern to last year’s finale (a three party battle with a huge minion body count), and this time the big cliff hanger is clear, as is the effectively upped anti.
‘He said, and I quote ‘I, like Patty Smyth before me, am a warrior, and will die at the hand of my arch enemy.’
You could easily argue that hi-def is unnecessary in the case of all television animation, but I’m thinking most fans will adore this transfer, warts and all. The major advantage is the vibrancy and smooth colours (some red gradients do display minor noise), but the increased detail is a big advantage as well, especially concerning backgrounds. When I saw season three on television I noticed the newly detailed backgrounds, and I noticed that the episodes were widescreen, but it never dawned on me that Adult Swim was preparing the show for hi-def. The cell animated characters don’t quite blend into these newly detailed backgrounds, and some of the special effects are a little too ‘digital’ looking. The classic Team Venture adventure that precedes ‘Now Museum—Now You Don’t’ is subtly dulled and browned, another bit of fun I didn’t notice during the TV airing. As covered during the commentary, some scenes are animated Japanese style, threes instead of twos. I didn’t actually notice this on the original airings, so I suppose this might be a disadvantage to the 1080p format. Realistically speaking though, it’s pretty minor, and kind of part of the charm. Eagle eyes may notice what they think is low-level noise and blocking in the backgrounds, but these instances aren’t moving, and are actually just part of the painting style.
The back of the box misprints the aspect ratio as 2.40:1, rather than the actual presentation of 1.78:1, as seen on television.
I’d still like to hear the glorious metal of Metalocalypse in 5.1, but of all the Adult Swim series Venture Bros. is the ideal for the Dolby TrueHD format. We’re talking low-budget cartoon television here, but the digital age affords a pretty big scope of action and music. Most of the track is a mix of dialogue and music, with the dialogue taking over the centre channel, and the score owning the stereo channels. There’s not a lot of bleed back to the back channels, which occasionally spring to life during the larger action scenes. The dialogue is ever so slightly over done, but is crystal clear, except, of course, when it’s supposed to sound like crap. One of my personal problems with season three (which likely didn’t matter to anyone else in the world) was the fact that Publick and Hammer did almost every voice, which robs the series of a little production value. For the most part J.G. Thirwell’s music is the star of the track, and it features Hollywood scale depth, though I could use a touch more pump in the LFE department.
Like last year extras begin with another awesomely tangented commentary from Publick and Hammer. Subjects of coverage include the duos discovery of cos-play, their thoughts on The Giger Sanction, their thoughts on the Sugarcubes, the impossibility of Dean and Trianna ever having a real relationship (Shut up! It can happen!), the shock of getting animated sex back from overseas animators, Beverly Cleary books, crazy fan message boards, belt allergies, good hair pieces, Star Wars references (which they promised they wouldn’t do during season three), watching people break-up on Myspace, Tetris high scores, and Bibleman. The sound errors of the second season commentary are mostly corrected, though when a truck goes by the Astro Base it’s pretty freaking loud. There also appears to be a censored section to the ‘Tears of a Sea Cow’ commentary. I’m guessing there might have been some possible legal issues.
The Blu-ray disc finishes off with a whole lot of deleted and extended scenes. The scenes are presented at hi-definition storyboard art (in varying degrees of completion), and feature temporary audio, most of it from the real cast (which I suppose isn’t saying much considering the writer/directors do the vast majority of the voices). There isn’t a lot of deleted plot development, mostly just jokes that couldn’t fit in the twenty-two minute runtime. I lost track of the number of scenes, but the total runtime is almost twenty minutes, and are divided by episode for those not fond of the ‘play all’ option. Also, there’s a Tucson joke.
Besides the increased resolution, Blu-ray buyers also have the advantage of getting a CD copy of the series soundtrack. The Music of J.G. Thirwell Volume 1 (which is available separate for DVD fans) features twenty tracks of varying length, and varying rock levels. Many of the tracks are awesome for driving. I speak from experience.
There have been some hints that season four will mark the end of the series. I certainly hope it isn’t the case, as I don’t think the slight mishandling of this all too epic season is at least full of ideas, and it leaves the groundwork for plenty more mythology and comedy (maybe even a few spin-offs). The 1080p HD and Dolby TrueHD sound isn’t needed, but if you’ve got the set up and want an additional soundtrack CD it’s worth the upgrade for sure. I can’t wait until this fall.
I should also make a special note of this uncut presentation, which features unfiltered naughty language, and oceans of animated penis (even a few boobs). No, I’m not kidding.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release. Thanks to Troy Anderson for the screen caps.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 24th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Writter/Director Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, CD Soundtrack
Easter Egg: No
Director: Christopher McCulloch
Cast: James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas, Christopher McCulloch, Doc Hammer
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation and Comedy
Length: 300 minutes