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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Venture Bros.: "The Silent Partners"

Illustration for article titled The Venture Bros.: "The Silent Partners"
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Venture Bros.'s super compressed storytelling style can be exhilarating, but it requires careful balance. Go too fast, and you're in danger of losing the audience. "The Silent Partners" managed to pull together by the final act, but man, those first ten minutes or so were a little rough. The show is always watchable, since even when the story is a mess, the characters and jokes are enough to hold your attention. But while I enjoyed seeing Billy play surgeon at a hospital, and the introduction of The Investors was as creepy as obviously intended, I got distracted when we jumped to Billy and Pete's trailer. Apparently, they'd been the beneficiaries of a sudden influx of cash, and Billy was freaking out about it because—the cash came from the freaky people he saw in the hospital, stealing King Gorilla's heart. (So long King Gorilla, I guess.) It makes sense looking back, but there was a definite scene-missing vibe; just because it's possible for us to figure out what's happening without seeing everything doesn't mean you can skip every beat.

A while back, I figured out by watching way too many crappy genre movies and TV shows that the basic rule of exposition is, you always give an audience just a little less than they want to know. I think that still holds, but it's also possible to deliver information in a way that's possible to understand, and yet still mucks up the pacing. "Partners" worked best once it finally became obvious just what was happening: Monstroso had paid Billy, then kidnapped him via the Investors so that Billy would perform a heart transplant using the organ they'd swiped from King Gorilla, saving Monstroso's life. But this is information that doesn't become clear until the end, and while I enjoyed the the surprise, there was too much diffusion in the subplots for any of them to be much beyond time-killing until the twist hit. Funny time-killing in some cases, but without a strong through-line, the episode didn't work as a whole. (I desperately wanted to use some version of "vamping for time" here for the pun, but failed utterly. My apologies.)

Really, "Partners" just tries for too much. There's Billy's kidnapping, and his time spent enjoying life with Monstroso; he thinks it's his last day as a human being, but Monstroso is just getting the most out of his old heart before the new one is installed. Then there's the S.P.H.I.N.X. ("Sphinx!") operation to rescue Billy and trap the investors, featuring Brock, Hunter, and Shore Leave. Finally, there's Pete, stuck in the safe room with Sgt. Hatred at the Venture Compound. Of all of these, Pete's handful of scenes seemed the most extraneous, as nearly everything with Sgt. Hatred seems these days; Hatred's accusation that Pete was a "starfucker" was interesting, but there just wasn't enough there to really be worth the time spent. The S.P.H.I.N.X. ("Sphinx!") sequences were more enjoyable, because Brock and the others are a hoot, but this is all something we've seen before. We've also seen Billy struggle to find some respect, but at least here, the episode gave him something to be proud of (he's actually a great doctor), and the final button—Brock allowing Billy to finish Monstroso's surgery, then waiting patiently for Monstroso to get better again so he can kill him—is great stuff.

One of the big reasons "Everybody Comes To Hank's" worked so well is that it had one very strong central gimmick, Hank's noir hat. The multi-level plotting can work, but it's a well the show has returned to so many times now that it needs to switch over to a more direct approach. The cast of characters here is so rich, but every one of them seems like a guest star on someone else's series at this point. Every week, it's a new block of twenty minutes crammed full of mythology and strange new faces, but it never feels like anything gets anywhere anymore. Venture Bros is never going to be about epic story arcs, but at least before there was a general sense of change. That sense is still there, but it's getting buried. Somebody needs to start digging.

Stray Observations:

  • Robo-Bo, the robot Bo Duke. How could I ever stay mad at you, show?
  • "If they're just regular and they're pointing a super laser at your daughter, that's when you call S.P.H.I.N.X." ("Sphinx!")
  • "I once jerked off 12 times in one day, just to see if I could."
  • What is it about silent men in dark suits that just sets off our fear sensors?
  • If anyone asks, pot and gay marriage are legal on Spider Skull Island
  • "I don't want to be bitten. Can you just do the sucking part and not the biting part?"
  • "Magic guys. That sucks."
  • "Sphinx!" "I didn't say it!" "It was implied."