Venture Bros. Review: "Bot Seeks Bot" (Episode 5.07)
In the Venture Bros. universe, superheroes and supervillains and aliens and demons and all other creatures, whatever they may be, are just like us. Sure, they might have the ability to fly or super strength, but they have all the same foibles and follies as anyone else, sometimes moreso given the strangeness of their identities. At times, it’s almost as if the entire cast of the show is made up of neurotic characters from Woody Allen movies, only with the ability to destroy the world should they get tipped over the edge.
Because of this, one of the joys of the show has been exploring the weird niches of these characters’ lives. Not only does Venture ask the question of what do superheroes do for a living, it’s also about what they do for fun, how they socialize, how they blow off steam. Like the Marvel or D.C. universes the show so frequently parodies, Venture is so overloaded with super-powerful nuts that there has to be some sort of strange societal infrastructure to support all of this.
“Bot Seeks Bot” offers up another glimpse of the super-powerful’s downtime with its myriad of similarities with any other social scene. Brock and his friends at the O.S.I. are still trying to crack the identities of the Guild of Calamitous Intent’s Council of 13, but the only member of it they’re sure about, the Clue Clown, has recently died. They spy on his funeral and are able to identify another member of the guild, an android originally designed by, of all people, Jonas Venture. After finding a sadly obvious posting of his on Craigslist, they ask a “civilian” robot to masquerade as one of the Guild’s members so as to learn more about the rest of the Council. It’s a classic spy mission, staged as by-the-books as the O.S.I. can manage.
Things go terribly wrong, of course, and it’s not long before Brock and Shore Leave need to enter a Guild nightclub in order to rescue him. It’s the first time we’ve seen such a thing, but then, why shouldn’t the Guild of Calamitous Intent have a nightclub? Most of the episode concerns what goes on there, detailing for us who’s in the cool group and who’s left out, because that’s what’s really important to the villains, not piddling things like plans for world domination. Things get even worse when Rusty find out Brock is headed to a “costume party,” which is of course true in a way, and is immediately captured.
The real energy of “Bot Seeks Bot,” despite all the secret operations, is on the weirdness of these people socializing. They’re all still in costume and as eccentric as ever, but that doesn’t mean they’re not looking to hook up with someone for the night. There are cool kids and nerds, and it’s hard not to feel for those left out, even when they’re Rusty Venture. It’s also fun to watch such a goofy cast interact in ways that aren’t just fighting against each other. One of the things Venture Bros. discovered long ago was that while it’s fine to have heroes and villains face off in battle, the real joy comes from when they’re forced to interact without the fighting. “Tag Sale” was such a revelation in the first season because the truce between the O.S.I. and the Guild forced everyone to speak with each other. It’s the same case here, only with more dancing and much higher stakes.
I usually don’t care about spoilers in these reviews, but the end of “Bot” features a big enough event that I feel I’d best warn anyone who hasn’t seen the episode now before I get into it. Has Rusty been permanently killed by the giant disco ball that falls on him? To be frank, I really doubt it, as despite the hundreds of other Venture Bros. characters, Rusty is still the center of the show. What makes the event so great, though, is that we know by now that Venture is willing to kill off characters, even main ones, so there’s some real risk here. Venture without Rusty is a very different show, but it wouldn’t be the first time Doc and Jackson decided it was time for something new and pulled the chairs out from under us. Again, I don’t think that’s the case here, but then… maybe I’m wrong? Next week is this incredibly short season’s finale, and with it we should get an answer, one way or another.