Oh man, this is a good one. The whole season I’ve been reluctant to go above an “A-,” my standard “this is terrific, but I’m not completely convinced” grade I use when I’m hedging my bets. But I’m going all out “A” on this one. Objectively, I’ll try and explain why, but it’s probably best to be up front right here: I could totally see making a case for a full “A” on an earlier episode, because the difference between the grades is so thin as to be nearly transparent. There are lots of reasons why “The Forecast Manufacturer” worked for me, but as to why this one worked just that much better than, say, last week’s episode? I’m not entirely sure. Here’s a peak behind the curtain, folks: almost a decade in and I’m still making it up as I go.
But let’s not let my lack of critical rigor distract from the fact that this is, again, a good one. This week’s episode finds New York buried in snow from a blizzard—an unnatural blizzard, created by a weather machine stolen from the Guild of Calamitous Intent. The OSI sends Team Venture to take care of the machine, while the guild tasks the Monarch and Gary to track down the villain they believe is responsible for the chaos: the Creep, leader of the new, more aggressive iteration of the Peril Partnership. While the Guild can’t officially sanction a murder, Dr. Z does everything in his power (including a bad riddle and wordplay) to get the message across. The Creep must die. So why not send a couple of villains with a row of bodies in their wake?
It turns out the weather machine and the Creep aren’t exactly connected. Rusty and Billy discover that Agent S464 is responsible for the blizzard, having taken the machine as yet another step in his efforts to win his OSI agent lady love. I’ll admit, I could be a bit fuzzy on the details; I assumed that S464 and the Creep were acting independently of one another, but it’s possible that the Creep stole the machine, and S464 simply “borrowed” it from him. Regardless, one of the more impressive aspects of the episode is how it’s two major plots (three, if you could Hank’s romantic ruination) are ultimately unconnected—and yet “The Forecast Manufacturer” feels as well constructed and tightly interwoven as anything we’ve seen so far this season.
Terrific structure isn’t a new thing for The Venture Bros., but everything here is just about perfect, each individual storyline carrying enough drama and humor (especially humor) to support itself as well as ultimately mixing together to create a full picture of thwarted romance, doomed aspirations, and time traveling presidential wardrobes. (Well, you travel through time inside the wardrobe, but close enough.) The pacing is excellent, cutting between vignettes to give enough time to develop each without letting any overstay their welcome. It all builds to a climax which creates the illusion of cohesion, which in some ways is more impressive than the actual fact.
I’m thinking here for the way Rusty and Billy appear in the Monarch and Gary’s story at the exact right moment to help them completely their mission—yet it’s not the Rusty and Billy we’ve spent the whole episode watching. That Rusty and Billy is busy hovering over the weather machine; the pair that pop out through the wardrobe, distracting the Creep just long enough to get him stabbed in the face with a lawn dart, are from some other timeline. The Creep isn’t responsible for the blizzard, despite both the Guild and OSI blaming him for it, but it would’ve been disappointing if Rusty and Billy hadn’t run into Gary and the Monarch at some point. Here, we get a fine example of having cake and eating it too, with a great last minute gag that suggests possibilities down the road without locking anything in.
Still, while the Monarch and Gary’s trip into the heart of dorkness (I’m very sorry) is great, it’s arguably the slightest story in the episode, because it doesn’t really do anything new. It works beautifully, but watching the two squabble and nerd-riff through a crisis is old hat by now, and the Creep is the sort of character whose death is neither surprising nor grief-inducing. We’ve seen Rusty and Billy banter before, but something about Billy’s enthusiasm for a Team Venture mission set against Rusty’s usual grumpiness makes for some charming friction. And it’s fun to watch the show do a storyline that actually follows the usual rules of action comics—a crisis, adventure, and then the heroes super science their way into a solution. Yes, the super science here is “Billy shitting a thermal regulator suppository into a vent,” but this still counts as an unqualified success for the pair.
That’s two wins, then, but poor Hank is doomed from the start, as anyone who’s ever dated could’ve told him. Sirena has been dodging his texts, so Hank decides she’s been kidnapped (or something); he goes out into the storm to rescue her, only to give himself a nasty headwound. He gets rescued by someone in a stained bear costume with a machete for a left hand. The bear brings him to Dean’s dorm room, where Hank discovers his brother and his girlfriend in bed together. The whole thing is surreal and eerie as hell, while also hilarious (they stop for chips on the way) and surprisingly sad. Hank’s too out of it to get mad at anyone in the moment, but there’ll probably be consequences from this. Between this, Agent S464 getting his brain wiped, and the Doc striking out with the black widow, it’s worth remembering that whatever else happens, the one constant in the Venture-verse is that love? Sucks.
- The joke about Doc having a restraining order out on him (and Facebook stalking his intended in response) just kind of bummed me out.
- On the other hand, Billy and Rusty mocking Brock for saying “pasghetti”? Brilliant.
- That was definitely some Shining carpet in Dean’s dorm.
- Are we supposed to recognize the bear? I thought I did, but then I realized that it was just an image from the show’s promotional page. (Used above. ENJOY THE BEHIND THE SCENES MAGIC.)
- I like that it’s entirely possible we never get an explanation for why Rusty and Billy were traveling through time, and that it’s equally possible we’ll see that story before the season ends. It works either way. (Unless it’s referencing something I missed, which is always possible.)
- Doc calls the Monarch “Malcolm,” which suggests a change in their relationship.
- Almost forgot Gary slapping a little girl near the start of the episode because he’s trying to teach her karate.
- It’s okay that the Creep dies, because he murdered a lot of Boy Scouts.