I’ve started most of my recaps of this season of Venture Bros. despairing at how difficult it is to summarize each episode. Weirdly, the season 5 finale is actually super easy to recap, because it’s so low-key — especially compared to the rest of the season.
After the Monarch apparently steals Doc’s body after the end of last episode, Sgt. Hatred drugs the boys and drops them off at their godfathers’ — Dean to Col. Gentleman in Tangiers, and Hank to the Action Man in his Florida retirement home, just in case Doc is dead. Dean helps Gentleman record his memoirs, while Hank helps Action Man woo the elderly mother of Billy Quizboy.
Meanwhile, Hatred enlists Gary in an attempt to rescue Doc in case he’s alive; they break into the cocoon, Gary dons his old henchman uniform, and Hatred gets into a Henchman disguise, but Tim-Tom the Moppet discovers them, catches Hatred, and convinces the easily misled bodyguard that Gary betrayed him, before tossing him out with the trash.
Elsewhere in the cocoon, an excited Monarch gets ready to finally torture his nemesis Dr. Venture — complete in an elaborate Ming the Merciless outfit, perfectly paired with Dr. Mrs. The Monarch in a sexy version of Amidala’s dress from The Phantom Menace — but a small series of technical difficulties deflates him, and he realizes he’s not actually that into it. After a small minute of the two bonding over their lives being a little pathetic, the Monarch lets Doc go.
Gary confronts Tim-Tom, revealing to the other henchman that the Moppet has broken their most important law when he and Kevin killed Henchman 24, and the henchman overthrow the Moppets as Sgt. Hatred comes back with the Hatred-Tank and blows up the Monarch’s cocoon. This forces the Monarch and his crew — which includes Gary again — to move into his childhood home, which will surely lead to a surprise or two next season.
And after everyone reunites at the Venture compound, Hank confronts Dean about why he's been so damn somber. Dean reveals that they’re clones, which of course Hank thinks is completely awesome — so much so that Dean starts to embrace being a Venture again.
And that’s it. Even now I feel like I’ve overexplained it, although more things happen: Col. Gentleman and Action Man end up as roommates, Billy’s mom thinks Billy and Pete are gay because Billy thought that was a simpler explanation than the truth, Dr. Entmann has died and it's revealed Venture funerals involve both pissing and shitting on the deceased, and most of all, Gary apparently rejoins the Monarch. But after the epic scope and massive changes over the rest of the season, “The Devil’s Grip” can’t help but feel… small.
I guess part of the problem is that the rest of the season was so damn exciting, and part of it is that after the amazing cliffhanger last week, Doc is pretty much perfectly fine. The long-awaited Doc and Monarch confrontation comes and goes, not with a bang (or any major revelations) but a whimper. And I admit after all the development Gary’s been through over the last few seasons, seeing him return to being Henchman 21 kind of feels like a step back to me.
Now, I know part of this, if not all, must be intentional on Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick’s part. Immediately deflating the “Is Doc dead?” possibilities, seems like something they’d do — because really, it was the last thing I’d expect — and after all the build-up, the Doc Venture/Monarch moment almost had to end with them both disappointed and sad. It’s still a good episode; really, the biggest problem with “The Devil’s Grip” is timing — between being the finale and following the glory of “O.S.I. Love You”, “Momma’s Boys” and “Bot Seeks Bot,” it’s no wonder that what is simply a quiet episode feels a little underwhelming.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not unspeakably sad that another season of The Venture Bros. is already over. Even if this episode had been bad, which is clearly wasn’t, this season of VB would still be one of the best in the show’s run, and that’s really saying something. I hope it doesn’t take another three years for Hammer and Publick to make season 6, but as I’ve said before, if they’re making a show this damn good, they can take all the time they need.
• Action Man is quite the poet.
• “Did you just cock your stick?”
• So Sgt. Hatred’s “V” is a tattoo. Mystery solved.
• “Hello, old man! I was just playing my bass at a volume that’s unreasonable! Can you give me some money to buy record with clear warning labels?”
• “You ain’t never going to stop me from overly sexualized dancing and dressing like an indigent! LOUD ROCK MUSIC!”
• “Showtunes? If I play them backwards, will they make me want to try reefer cigarette marijaunas?” I might be able to tell I really liked this scene.
• I did not foresee Col. Gentleman as a Sabrina the Teenage Witch fan.
• Chris McCullogh does a million voices on the show, almost all of them awesome, so this is not intended as any kind of insult, but Sgt. Hatred and Action Man are pretty much the same voice. It’s a little weird when they star in the same episode together.
• “Who the fuck is Gary?”
• Dean, not being upset about being a clone: “[Upset] about what? That I’m like some kind of super-cool probably magic Highlander cyborg clone? No. Just one more reason why it’s great to be a Venture.” Dean is kind of the best.