There has never been a better time to get into Venture Bros., except possibly the future when the interminably long gaps between new episodes have disappeared entirely. Even so, if you were to begin the show today, and watched straight through to “Gargantua-2” last night, no doubt the episode makes more sense than to most longtime viewers. Venture’s commitment to an increasingly convoluted continuity has always been both admirable and foolhardy, something that makes the show unique, yet also a barrier to entry or, far more often the case, re-entry, since in the more than 12 years since the show began, it’s had fewer than 70 episodes. The large gaps between seasons means that you’re always trying to recall what every character is up to in a universe that never stands still.
The extended-length spectacular “Gargantua-2” is both hilarious and somewhat frustrating, because of the way it attempts to tie up, or at least tie together, many of Venture’s long-running plot threads. Jonas Venture Jr. (you know, Rusty’s twin brother who erupted from his body in a tumor) has finally completed Gargantua-2, a massive spaceship he means to be the successor to his father’s only somewhat successful Gargantua, and plans a massive virgin voyage for his greatest creation. Meanwhile, the Guild of Calamitous Intent is both planning a huge attack on the ship, and having its Council of 13 being dispatched from within; the Revenge Society is planning a heist at the behest of Henry Killinger; S.P.H.I.N.X. plans on defending the spaceship, but without notifying Jonas Jr.; and many, many other people and events are also converging there. Nearly every important character in the show makes at least an appearance (though weirdly not Pete), and they all collide in odd ways by the end of the episode, which explodes not just the spaceship, but also the show’s entire status quo.
I don’t want to waste too much time on plot summary, though, because the show’s convoluted machinations don’t actually matter all that much. In fact, despite the amount of effort spent making all of these strange events converge like this, the show’s plotting has never been the reason anyone watches it, and Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer’s obsession with this aspect of its continuity always seemed like a bit of a misfire. There’s an element here of parodying the way comic books contort themselves for their large-scale events, but it’s also proof that the show’s creators simply got carried away. While it’s certainly intimidating to watch a show like this without looking up what just happened in the previous season, I suggest assuming the show’s creators know what they’re doing (which is certainly true) and just enjoying the ride.
That’s because “Gargantua-2,” like all episodes of Venture Bros., comes alive when it actually spends more than a few seconds with its characters. The show’s dialogue is still absurdly good and its character relationships are deep and meaningful. The moment when Rusty and Dean fix Gargantua-2’s shield generator together is one of the most poignant things the show has ever done, while at the other end of the spectrum, the swift and brutal manner in which Brock dispatches Henchman 0 is stunning and hilarious. “Gargantua-2” took a little time to get into because of how much baggage it has weighing it down, but once it gets going, it’s one showstopping moment after the last, and almost every one of them is built off of something we’ve seen before in the show. I wish I’d caught every in-joke, but so long as you’re not completely new to the show you should still be completely caught up in both the action and the pathos.
I hate the fact that it may be a long time before I see another Venture Bros. episode because I’ll probably have forgotten half of the small events in “Gargantua-2,” and it’s those small events, the little exchanges between characters and the throwaway lines that are really anything but (the Sovereign’s “just some bloke who wanted to be anyone but himself” comes to mind), which make the show. For all the show’s sprawl, it’s incredibly tight and controlled, and it has an incredible memory. All of this is a result of the commitment its creators have to Venture Bros., which borders on insane. Even in its attempts to contract itself, Venture is always getting broader, more arcane, but it’s also always getting more real. The superpowers are silly and the villains’ identities ridiculous, but in each season the characters are more defined, the problems more believable. I wish I’d come into “Gargantua-2” off a huge marathon viewing of everything before it, because then I’d be able to fully appreciate its massive level of accomplishment. But even without this, the episode was grand, affecting, and funny, which is to say, a fitting continuation of the series. Now let’s just hope we see more from the show before 2016.