Because Venture Bros. has such a large cast, with so many getting their time in the spotlight at one point or another, it’s inevitable that not every episode is to everyone’s taste. An episode focused on Dr. Orpheus’ mystical adventures is going to be very different from one dealing with Gary’s angst, and that’s a good thing. It keeps the show extremely fresh, especially as its cast is always growing larger. Its ever-ballooning universe always has space for another hero or villain, and this season’s main addition has come in the form of Billy’s new archnemesis, Augustus St. Cloud, who returned last night after his lengthy appearance in the season’s premiere.
Unfortunately, I don’t really care for St. Cloud, as he brings out some of my least favorite parts of Venture. His obsession with collecting memorabilia means a multitude of jokes based upon references, and not subtle ones either. Venture has always been rife with allusions, of course, but when St. Cloud and Billy discuss old movies and TV programs it’s a very different from, say, making characters out of David Bowie lyrics. Essentially, St. Cloud rarely makes me laugh, particularly because thus far he’s a one-note character.
However, while St. Cloud does his best to ruin Rusty’s Spanakopita, as well as the episode “Spanakopita,” the celebration and its history with Rusty is fascinating, not to mention extremely clever. This is the side of Venture’s backstory-intensive world that I do love. Whenever the original Dr. Venture comes into play, the mixture of fantastic adventures with emotional trauma hits just the right notes, and it’s no exception here. It turns out that Spanakopita, the celebration Rusty dragged his pals out to a depressed Grecian island to see, was all a sham based upon the island’s desire not to disappoint Rusty in the way his father did. Rusty’s everlasting fondness for it came from the fact that it was one of the few good memories he had from growing up. That it’s the result of his father’s negligence only makes this more poignant.
At this point, it seemed like the demented father-son relationship between the two Ventures had gone through pretty much everything it could, but this added another brilliant wrinkle to Rusty’s past. The obvious self-delusion he shows at not realizing, even now, that Spanakopita isn’t real, and the way Brock and Hatred agree to go along with this, is incredibly moving. St. Cloud ruining the fun for everyone also saps some of the fun out of the episode, but once it becomes more about Rusty, things get back on course. While I don’t care much for St. Cloud—nor Billy Quizboy, really—seeing yet one more heartbreaking betrayal of Rusty by his dad is still devastating.
“Spanakopita” was the weakest episode of Venture so far this season, but within that it also contained the strongest emotional notes. I’m hoping that we get a break from St. Cloud for a while, as there are far more interesting characters whose stories we’ve barely glimpsed this season, but if he’s what it takes to explain that haunting picture of a young Rusty tied up in a chair and smiling, then it was worth it. I don’t expect to necessarily like all the elements of Venture, but I always appreciate the way they elegantly fit together.