The Venture Bros. (Season 6) / *****

venture-bros-season-6-featureIt’s going to be hard for me to be entirely objective about the latest season of The Venture Bros. First of all, here’s a show that I’ve really come to love over the years, one that makes me happy just by being on again (something triggered in no small part by the long wait between seasons). Between the surprisingly rich characterization, the spectacular sense of humor, the more-intricate-than-expected mythology, the great voice work…well, the list could go on, but the short version is, The Venture Bros. is reliably great every single season, every single week. Even the “off” episodes are still pretty great. And yet, even as a fan, I was worried that the last season felt a little purposeless, a little adrift. There was no real need for the story to continue, no big motivation. Hank and Dean knew the truth of their origins. The Sovereign had been defeated, more or less. The Guild and OSI were back in their proper places. And while I was never going to turn down more Team Venture, what was the need for things to keep going? I loved hanging out with these characters every week, but narratively, it felt like creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer were running out of material.

I needn’t have worried. Season 6 did something new for the show, delivering a more-tightly serialized and layered story that pretty much flowed between episodes. More than that, the show basically hit a massive reset button, letting the Guild rebuild itself, the Ventures start a new life in New York City, forcing the Monarch to figure out how to make himself “Mighty” again…in other words, basically letting everything start from scratch. And as the season developed, that turned out to be a genius maneuver. From watching Rusty Venture deal with the possibility of success to the Monarch finding out some secrets about his family, the season had an energy, a life, and a thrust that it’s been lacking for a little while.

What it hadn’t been lacking for, though, was the humor, and that was back just as strong as it had ever been. Between Hank’s love life, wonderfully odd new villains (ranging from a performance art collective to a middle-aged family man who takes one night a year to be the most nightmarish villain of all time), Brock F’n Samson returning to central focus, and Monarch’s unique efforts to help out his career, season 6 of the show delivered some of the funniest, most hilariously smart moments of the show so far, all while never neglecting the character depth that’s made the show great over the years. In other words, it’s everything I’ve always loved about Venture Bros., all with new purpose and narrative drive.

And then, of course, it ended, and with a little bit of a weak finale. (Apparently that’s the result of backstage issues, unfortunately.) But for all of that, the season served as a reminder that in its own quiet way, Venture Bros. is one of the funniest, smartest, richest, and just plain best shows on TV. It may not be one you always think of in the new canon of Peak TV, but don’t miss it if you’re a fan of superheroes, nerdery, or just smart TV.


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