The Venture Bros.: The Saphrax Protocol
October 8, 2018 9:39 AM - Season 7, Episode 10 - Subscribe

It's the season 7 finale! Deep inside Guild Headquarters, the Monarch and 21 face their ultimate ordeal; the Venture brothers confront one of their own.
posted by GuyZero (38 comments total)
 
So an interesting ending. It didn't end on a huge bang like, say, Gargantua-2 crashing into the Venture compound. But it certainly sets up for an interesting season 8.

As the stinger says, "THE VENTURE BROS WILL RETURN..."
posted by GuyZero at 9:44 AM on October 8 [2 favorites]


I really really really liked this. Like almost every beat was perfect. Brock Samson the murder machine- haven't seen that in a while! Dean confessing to Hank- Hatred stripping in the lobby- Hank and Action man AND Phineus Phage in coma town! "Un-diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." lol.
The guild stuff was perfect, and lol the increasing pile of bodies as Watch and Ward giggle over Doc and the Monarch's family connection.
The Monarch's WHAT was perfect
But oh my god. "I am the Bat"
I was expecting something so much more serious and then- Boom Hank's still Hank.
This was perfect!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:15 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]


I ... disagree somewhat.

The coma fantasy seemed like a giant pointless time-wasting copout, and derivative of that one in Archer, elderly psychopomp, parental revelation and all. (Is it a specific pop culture reference I’m missing, or just a cliché?) It didn’t add anything; Hank could have left straight out of last week’s episode and nothing of substance would be any different.

The Monarch storyline also seemed like it was mostly filler (with a lot of wholly unsurprising surprises) leading up to the payoff of the Rusty-Monarch blood connection, which wasn’t much of a payoff for us, since we were just waiting for confirmation of the obvious and already got it earlier in the episode. They’ve been hinting at it for years, massively in the recent PROBLEM episode, and they don’t even bother to build up to the reveal. They just plop that card on the table early in the episode. Meh. Maybe it was supposed to add drama to Rusty’s peril? Yeah, no.

The Brock storyline was pure filler, and so was the Hatred one. I didn't quite understand why Brock would bother fighting all those guys when there was no one there to protect from them. It’s fun for him, but he has a sense of duty, right? Is he just there to protect the building? Isn’t there a whole OSI branch in it? Couldn’t they do that?

All three stories had BS death teases in them, too. Hank obviously wasn’t going to die (see: name of show), nor Rusty (the Monarch would never). For a second I thought Brock might, but it turns out he’s literally bulletproof, so, meh.

To sum up the developments: Hank left. Monarch and Rusty are *definitely* blood relatives, though we don’t know if they’re brothers or half-brothers or clones or half-clones or what. Monarch and 21 are Level 10, and this matters for some reason. That is all.

Overall, considering how few episodes this show gets, this was a pretty big waste of one.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:23 AM on October 8


Overall, considering how few episodes this show gets, this was a pretty big waste of one.

So I think the Guild, uh, tradition was more silly than funny. If it's supposed to show that the Guild is just a big club that's more Shriners than the Mob, sure, I guess. But yeah, I didn't find it that compelling.

I think Brock's behaviour is defensible in that a) he fucking love killing Guild minions and b) he had no idea what was on the far end of the teleporter so it made sense that he'd only go as far as sending a note over on a body.

The coma sequence was also silly, but hey, at least it was funny.
posted by GuyZero at 11:37 AM on October 8


The coma sequence got us more of Hank and the Action Man, which is a fantastic pairing with great chemistry and who are surprisingly similar people. They're fun to watch and haven't had a lot of time together outside that one episode at the end of season 5.

The Guild ceremony is the pinnacle of the Monarch's progress since the end of season 5. He's been feeling underappreciated and unfairly dismissed since season 6 and has been working at rising through the ranks. This is what he's been working for, and he's finally getting it, and being recognized as a paragon of the Guild and its ideals. It's also interesting that the Phantom Limb, who has historically loathed the Monarch as an upstart and a competitor for Sheila, seems genuinely pleased by his success. I have to assume Killinger foresaw this moment when he, at the end of All This and Gargantua 2, refused the Monarch a seat on the Council.

Brock, meanwhile, needs no defense- he's being given exactly what he enjoys most in the world. I don't think he's bulletproof- I think the Blackout shot him center-mass, and center-mass for Brock Sampson is currently a metal plate where Helper's head used to be.


Hank obviously wasn’t going to die (see: name of show)

They've already (apparently permanently) killed off one Venture Brother.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:17 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]


Yeah. Because title totally refers to that peripheral recurring character.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:27 PM on October 8


his is what he's been working for, and he's finally getting it, and being recognized as a paragon of the Guild and its ideals

But wasn't he a 10 before?

Yeah. Because title totally refers to that peripheral recurring character.

I don't think I'd put down JJ as a "peripheral" character - his death was a major turning point in the show (ok also they destroyed the Venture compound, but the two events are intertwined)
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]


Yay, hey introduce a side character who happens to be female, and promptly sexually harass her.... wait, I meant grrrrrrr. >:|

The double fake out test was good though. Hench 4 lyfe!
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 2:25 PM on October 8


The ending of the episode was a take on the ending of Darkman!
posted by Catblack at 3:41 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]


Solidifying the Gary + Monarch friendship was the biggest thing for me. It's never quite sat right with me that he went back to the Monarch after being tricked into thinking Hatred betrayed him, Sphinx Gary always felt like the ultimate version of Gary to me and the OSI crew snubbing him felt like a huge mistake on the part of the good guys. A love of the henching life never quite felt like a strong enough explanation for him going back, but here he spells it out, that the Monarch is his best friend and he just wants to help his best friend hate this guy, and more importantly the Monarch is on board with Gary being his best friend no matter how much Monarch puts up a front? That's one of those moments where this show gives me life.
posted by jason_steakums at 3:59 PM on October 8 [8 favorites]


I don't think he's bulletproof- I think the Blackout shot him center-mass, and center-mass for Brock Sampson is currently a metal plate where Helper's head used to be.

Yeah, there's a clear bullet hole/indentation in the metal plate when he's standing shirtless with the spear.

Overall I enjoyed the fact that this was a quiet episode - compared to some of the finales we've seen - and the fact that growth in this show isn't about radical change, but about learning about who you are and how to live with it.

One of the interesting things about the coma sequence is that Hank is with two characters who are deeply comfortable in their own skins - Action Man and Phage aren't guys who are particularly hung up about who they are. Hank's been hung up for most of the season, trying out different personas, trying to figure out who he wants to be - being an adolescent, in other words. I feel that he made a quiet breakthrough here, in that he's back to zany Hank but this time he's chosen that, rather than just it being a reaction to an insane upbringing and (if Phage is right) a lack of meds. Dean's still not there yet. Their father probably never will be, which is why he's in some ways the central tragic figure of the show. Action Man straight-up warned Hank not to be his father (very Empire Strikes Back indeed).

The whole point of the ridiculous guild drama ritual is (my interpretation) to gauge how far along the inductee is on that process - to see whether the incoming villain is comfortable with who he is/has chosen to be, whether they really want to be the sort of person who dresses up and arches, whether in the relatively showy or ritualistic way that most of the Guild members seem to handle things or in the downright lethal way that Red Death does.* It's a weird but subtle way of weeding out the ones that don't fit their club, the sort that are going to turn into another Sovereign, or what Phantom Limb started out as - a villain who couldn't be satisfied just being that, and turned dangerous.

We see Brock being who he is comfortable being, which is a killing machine.* We see Sergeant Hatred (still) being someone who can't be comfortable in his own skin anywhere and is extraordinarily uncomfortable for everyone else to be around in consequence - although I felt the way they illustrated that was pretty cliche.

There's been a lot this season about how ugly things can get when people aren't capable of looking at themselves, making choices to accept who they are or to become something else - Venture Sr is probably the biggest example. Everything we've learned about him paints the portrait of someone who was never satisfied, with himself or his life or his friendships. From its beginning this show has always had a powerful tension between a glorious, vanished Golden Age and the shoddy present, and I think we're seeing the flip side of that - the age of pushing, thrusting, gleaming heroic endeavor was also in some ways the age of repression, dysfunction, an inability to connect with the self. These new villains and heroes have a chance to be, well, happy? At peace with themselves?

*Eventually I think we're going to see Red Death vs. Brock. They're both people who find themselves in violence, and with Molotov off doing her own thing with the OSI Brock has no foil.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:09 PM on October 8 [8 favorites]


or what Phantom Limb started out as - a villain who couldn't be satisfied just being that, and turned dangerous

it's a little ambiguous whether the guild has always done this nonsense or whether it's been made up for the "new guild".

Although I will say that the Guild making themselves out to be the inventors of "made you look" and "I fucked your wife" (???) is sort of hilarious in how they'll take credit for anything.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]


Yay, hey introduce a side character who happens to be female, and promptly sexually harass her.... wait, I meant grrrrrrr. >:|

So, yeah. But this is sort of Hatred's lot in life. He's so sexually repressed that he's incapable of most types of human interaction outside of his immediate family.
posted by GuyZero at 5:45 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]


We see Sergeant Hatred (still) being someone who can't be comfortable in his own skin anywhere

The interesting thing about Hatred is that he's way, waaaay too comfortable in his skin as part of a team, whether Team Venture or a military unit, but when he feels like he's alone or his place in the team is questioned he gets super uncomfortable. Belonging is such a huge deal to him, he needs a purpose and comrades that rely on him or he falls apart.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:58 PM on October 8 [7 favorites]


This show gives me the glimmering hope that, like the Up Series of documentaries, we will be seeing more of the Ventures as they grow throughout the years. [cue fusty music as curtain closes]

I ain't gonna overthink this, I'll just enjoy that it promises to continue, and it makes me laugh. I'm not going to squirm in my seat, but I will wait patiently until the next season is released in 2021 [my guess].

This episode? was another okay episode in an entire series of mostly good-to-awesome episodes. A few plot points were moved forward on the gameboard. They've left the door open for many more to come. There were a few handwavey things that explained stuff, but those tropes were employed deftly and with homage.

I am hoping somewhere in the future of this timeline, Dean and Triana team up for extra necromancy/sciency adventures.
posted by not_on_display at 11:34 PM on October 8


I think we're all dancing around the important implications:  it is now Uncle the Monarch and Aunt Dr Mrs the Monarch.

Come to think of it, wasn't there a first or second season episode set on the cocoon where the boys were treated in a nephew-like fashion by the Monarch?  Been a while; I need to go watch those again.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:14 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Something very disappointing is that they had previously in the season set up Think Tank to be the one to come in and save Hank and Action Man... but they weren't able to book Jeffrey Wright! Which is why they had to awkwardly patch in Phineas Phage instead. That stinks... I love Doctor Ndaba.
posted by painquale at 1:04 AM on October 9 [9 favorites]


So, will we eventually find out that the Monarch is actually the original Rusty Venture, and Doc is his clone? (They're not identical, but maybe there will be some explanation for that.) Or, maybe the Monarch is actually the clone that the red Helper bot was talking about. That would almost make more sense, given that Doc apparently has dark memories going all the way back to childhood while IIRC the Monarch's memories of his own childhood are foggy enough that he believed he was raised by butterflies. Or maybe they're both clones and the original Rusty Venture is hiding somewhere. (Could he be the one in the Scare Bare suit??)

Jeez, when the series began the title seemed to just refer to Hank and Dean, but now there have been at least FIVE Venture brothers, that we know about. And that's not even counting the army of Hank and Dean clones!

This wasn't the most jaw-dropping season finale, but it worked. Last season I didn't even realize the season finale WAS the finale, and this one had a lot more oomph. The Hatred stuff didn't take up much time but what was there did feel forced, like they were just coming up with something gross for him to do to keep him in the show. I felt like Hatred was mostly trying to seduce the nurse so he could see Hank, so it wasn't QUITE as creeptastic as it could have been but it was still gross. I feel like Publick and Hammer have always liked Sgt. Hatred a lot more than the fans did. Hatred just seems to be this perpetual cringe-comedy device and his awkwardness isn't endearing the way it is with most of these other characters. I think almost everybody would be glad to see Hatred written out with Brock restored as the sole protector for the boys, but instead we get this weird situation where it's mostly Brock's gig again but we get a lot of stuff catching up with Hatred being weird at the reception desk. He kind of seems like he's outlived his time on the show, but they like him too much to just get rid of him already.

Dean's letter to the comatose Hank was generally very touching, but he kind of seemed to be saying he slept with Sirena because he was missing Hank, which is... Wait, what?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:49 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


Red Helper called Dean "Rusty", so Rusty is a clone. Speculation: the Monarch is also a clone -- remember when Ben was examining Dean, and remarked that he did not have "idiopathic hirsutism in the orbital region"? That explains the Monarch's eyebrows.

Further speculation: Billy is also a Venture Brother. Red-ish brown hair, talent for superscience, mother was a Venture associate (Triple Threat).
posted by fings at 8:53 AM on October 9 [8 favorites]


I think this season has been amazing, and this was the perfect finale. Dean reading Hank the list of ways he has been a bad brother is one of the best character moments Venture Bros. has ever done. Ending with Hank going walkabout was perfection.

After this episode, the list of Venture brothers is: Hank, Dean, Dr. Rusty Venture, The Monarch, Dermott, Jonas Jr.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:51 AM on October 9 [6 favorites]


Further speculation: Billy is also a Venture Brother. Red-ish brown hair, talent for superscience, mother was a Venture associate (Triple Threat).

How about albinism?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 AM on October 9


Was it just me, or did the Monarch and Gary's outfits look like they came from the Roger Stone Steampunk Collection?
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:30 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]




Idle speculation: Monarch, Thaddeus (Rusty), and Dean are all clones, possibly of Jonas.
posted by Marticus at 3:31 PM on October 9


I forgot Dermott! Jeez, maybe EVERYBODY on this show will turn out to be a Venture brother!

It was funny that Dr. Mrs. The Monarch portrayed the rather un-gendered role of the gatekeeper while the Two Face guy was in drag to play the adulterous lady. He looked kind of uncomfortable about it too!

My girlfriend was wondering if the GCI ceremony was a parody of a specific Masonic thing, or a scene in some movie. It did seem really detailed and specific. I'm kind of bummed we didn't get to see the scene in the tent between Doc and the Monarch. Since it seemed like Doc was still gagged when the Monarch came out, I presume they didn't have a conversation in there... but jeez, that moment between them had to be a heck of a thing.

Did Doc have any lines at all, other than muffled screams? If not this has to be the first episode, or at least certainly the first season finale, where Doc Venture didn't say a word!

Did anybody catch the name of Hank and Dean's supposed real mother, Bibi something? I'm wondering if she's ever turned up in the show before.

Maybe this is the place for me to finally share a little story about why I'll love Jackson Publick forever, beyond him just being the co-creator of this amazing show. A few years back I made an animated music video for the fabulous songstress Abby Travis. I knew almost nothing about animation and spent months on the damn thing. When the monster walks in that clip, it's the first time I'd ever animated anybody walking! I sent a link to a bunch of people I admired and Publick was one of the few who responded, calling the clip "pretty adorable." I was in a really bad place in my life then, working a shitty job and spinning my wheels, and sometimes when I was feeling sad and gross I'd think, "Well, at least Jackson Publick liked my video!" Just him taking the time to respond made a difference, right when I needed it.

(Abby is truly a rock n' roll genius, by the way, and a sweetheart, and she deserves to be bigger than Beyonce.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:56 PM on October 9 [4 favorites]


Did anybody catch the name of Hank and Dean's supposed real mother, Bibi something? I'm wondering if she's ever turned up in the show before.

I didn’t catch the name (though it was made clear she’d changed it anyway, so that probably doesn’t matter), but he did say she was an actress.

Totally random factoid: An actor/singer/dancer is known as a triple threat.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:23 PM on October 9


According to the coma Action Man, Hank's mom -- and presumably Dean's, though who knows -- was Bobbi Saint Simone. Or at least, that's how the Adult Swim subtitles spell it.

Rose's name (Triple Threat) is because she was a showtune themed hero. She and Action Man do a maneuver they call "Meet Me in St. Louis"
posted by fings at 6:36 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


I just figured Rose was Triple Threat because she could sing, dance, and kick ass!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:57 PM on October 9 [3 favorites]


Triple Threat might be my favorite superhero name in the Venture or any universe.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:06 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


The thing that made me squee was in the Hank & Action Man driving scene, the way the background jostled exactly like the old-school primitive green screen special effect used for people driving in cars. Perfection.
posted by whuppy at 5:31 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


It also ties in with the fact that Rose's voice is just Doc Hammer doing a Carol Channing impression.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:31 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend was wondering if the GCI ceremony was a parody of a specific Masonic thing...

Yes, it is a direct lift of certain "rituals" that initiates are made to perform when joining a Masonic Temple or Lodge. See Masonic Ritual and Symbolism.

I know this from a) by grandfather tried to join a Temple and had the literature at his house, and b) a coworker joined a lodge and explained the meaning and purpose of the performative rituals, as they were explained to him while joining.

It seems really weird and creepy, but as the show kind of informs you, the purpose is for the newly initiated members to demonstrate their understanding of the purpose of the order in which they are being inducted. All of the little parts have to be done from memory. The twist with the way the Venture Brothers presented this was that the Guild leadership threw in several things that appeared to be "off-script" to both the Monarch and Gary, such as elevating Gary from Henchman to actual Level 4 villain. Plus the final part where Dr. Z gives the Monarch a real sword, instead of the wooden one he started with was an alteration from what the Monarch expected. Also, also, he was expecting the final part of the little drama/play/rite to have some other Guild member standing in, instead of being presented with the choice to _actually_ kill his arch.

I really love that they used this format to present the whole thing. I also love that they chose to have the Monarch pick the "correct" choice, and to be welcomed into the Guild fully. That was one of the main things that was crucial in this, was that they told him point-blank, "kill your sworn enemy and then go do whatever" which I took to mean "kill your sworn enemy and you are out of the club". Similar to earlier in the season where the OSI did the whole Eyes Wide Shut thing to Rusty, and he chose, shall we say... poorly.
posted by daq at 5:05 PM on October 10 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the info, daq! Wow, I didn't even think of the contrast between Doc and the Monarch's choices. When pressed the Monarch stayed true to his principles, and Rusty didn't! But in fairness to Rusty, he was given a choice between letting his invention stay a secret and getting all kinds of stuff he wanted, or being horrifically raped to death and probably having his invention buried anyway. Faced with a choice like that, I don't know how many people would pick the Dildo of Death!

I hadn't thought about this before, but in that moment when the Monarch was ready to turn his back on the Guild, it's likely he was ready to walk away from his marriage too. DMTM is on the council, and if he was quitting the Guild he couldn't have assumed his wife would be ready to support that. I'm not quite sure what he was planning in that moment. Was he actually ready to renounce villainy and do something else, or was he going to go sign on with some rogue outfit?

I'm still surprised about the Monarch declaring Gary to be his best friend. The Monarch just doesn't seem like a best friend kind of guy. He tends to be such an imperious, selfish character, I'd figure he'd just take Gary's endless hard work for granted. Is the Monarch actually growing as a person?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:18 PM on October 10


I think the set up for the Gary / Monarch thing goes all the way back to Season 2, when the Monarch escapes from prison and the _first_ person he calls is Gary. Gary, the one henchman he has because he kidnapped him when he was a teen, and Gary joined up to be a henchman and has been, through out everything, the Monarchs sometimes _only_ real friend.

When the Monarch needed someone to go on a stealth mission to infictrate Spider Skull Island, who did he pick? Gary (and 24 and Scott/Henchmen Zero). But Gary/21 was ‘cursed’ with the inability to die. He doesn’t always succeed, but he never dies. When 24 died, and Gary/21 became “Two-ton 21”, went off and trained and became the most bad-ass henchman ever (and got the HenchLife tattoo), the Monarch noticed. Gary/21 went and kidnapped both the Venture twins and performed the ‘chinese water torture’ on them in a freaking tree-house. Meanwhile, the Monarch wants to do Game of Thrones role-playing, because he is totally into Game of Thrones _because_ he watches it all the time _with_ Gary/21.
When Gary/21 was off running Sphinx, the Monarch was adamant that he was still the Monarch’s best operative, going deep cover and infiltrating the Venture Compound (and, of course, in true Monarch megalomaniacle style, Gary/21 was doing it for the Monarch).

There is _soooooo_ much in every season showing how much Gary/21 and the Monarch have been inseperable (more-so than even the Monarch and DMTM) for years and years and years.

I think a lot of people miss out that because of the villain/henchman dynamic (a very uneven power dynamic) and how often the Monarch kind of abuses or explicitly threatens Gary/21, that they are not friends, but that to me is the part of the dynamic that makes it all work. Over the seasons you see Gary/21 earn the Monarchs respect and even admiration. By the time we reach season 6 (and the whole Blue Morpho plot), the Monarch not only relies on Gary/21, he actively seeks his opinion and help in plotting his arching.

Can you tell, I uh, have watched (and re-watched) this show a lot?
posted by daq at 7:48 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


When the Monarch needed someone to go on a stealth mission to infictrate Spider Skull Island, who did he pick? Gary (and 24 and Scott/Henchmen Zero). But Gary/21 was ‘cursed’ with the inability to die. He doesn’t always succeed, but he never dies.

"I know it sounds crazy, but they both have the rare blend of expendable and invulnerable that makes them the perfect henchmen."
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


Something cool I didn't notice the first time: Phantom Limb's exact words are "you and your henchman are level ten villains", plural. Gary's a level ten villain now too? Holy crap.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:12 PM on October 16


I guess that the villain and number two are considered a team and therefore share a level, yeah! Probably with the caveat that neither would command that ranking on their own (the Monarch mentioned at the beginning of the season that a "deadly partner" is one of the things that qualifies you as a Ten).

I wonder if the status can be taken away once you're a Ten, or if you have to be particularly high-ranking to be on the Council? Kind of seems like the latter is a no (of the whole council, only Wide Wale even has henchmen). Dr. Z inspects and ranks the Monarch earlier in the season, but doesn't seem to command anything himself beyond a nice jacket and a ranch house with a Z on the garage.
posted by thesmallmachine at 6:35 PM on October 16


(by "the beginning of the season" I do mean "A Party for Tarzan")
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:14 PM on October 16


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