‘Venture Brothers’: The Fifth Season Starts With A Bang

Last night one of the most eagerly anticipated episodes of television ever aired. OK, so Game of Thrones got most of the attention, but let’s spare a moment for the triumphant return of The Venture Brothers, which launched its fifth season with one of the best episodes in the show’s run.

There’s not really a more skilled mix of line-crossing humor, pop culture gags, and character development on the air right now, and the fifth season proved it. The episode opens with the immediate follow-up to the events of the fourth season finale, and it’s just as messy as you’d think for everybody involved while simultaneously pulling the clever trick of filling in characters without exposition. The overall plot picks up after the events of the Halloween special, with Dean finding a potential new girlfriend and Dr. Venture building a massive force field for Jonas Jr.’s new space station.

One small problem: It mutates the squad of geeky interns Venture hires into a bizarre stratified society of beetle-people, alligator monsters and, well, “Student Green”. More interesting, though, is the seeds the show lays for the rest of the season, especially around 21 and Dean. 21, having quit the Monarch, gets completely screwed by the OSI and the rest of the Sphinx team, who go back and leave him behind… but give him the entire Sphinx operation lock, stock and barrel. He also demonstrates that he hasn’t lost any of his newfound competence from Season Four.

Dean, on the other hand, is doing what Hank won’t, namely growing up. Within five minutes he’s changed his look, told off his father, moved out of his room, and is moving on from his crush on Triana. Granted he’s not exactly turning into a huge winner, as there’s a truly hilarious montage where we discover he’s both innocent and definitely in the throes of puberty, but at least he’s in the long, awkward, and probably painful process of finding himself. You feel for the kid by the end of the episode.

Not that this is a serious drama. The episode is often fall-down funny, and you don’t have to get the pop culture references it works in seamlessly, and the show mocks itself for, for it to be hilarious. It’s been too long since we’ve seen the Ventures, but man are we ever glad to have them back.