On one hand, yeah, it's been a bit of a wait. Two and a half years passed between "official" episodes of The Venture Bros., and
If you need more of a review than that, I don't really know what to tell you. I guess I could start with the whole plot summary thing, though. The usual routine in any review of The Venture Bros. is to point out for the eight hojillionth time that this is a show about failure. That's not so much the case this time around, though. 21 -- once a lowly minion of the Monarch! -- now commands the mighty resources of SPHINX. Okay, SPHINX's roster is awfully thin these days, but still...! Gary's the boss, even if he's not leading anyone but himself. Billy Quizboy scores an arch-nemesis of his very own, a quadraseptazillionaire collector whose arsenal consists of props from every geeky movie ever made, big or small. Dean stumbles onto one of Team Venture's most closely guarded secrets. It's a revelation that rattles everything Dean thought he knew, yeah, but it also helps him grow into his own man. He torches his learning bed, cranks up The Smiths, and sulks in his bedroom. Okay, maybe "man" isn't the right word here, but he's past the whole boy adventurer thing, and that's gotta count for something. Sgt. Hatred grows this season as well. Literally, in the chesticular region. I'm talking about boobies here. Hank's still a wide-eyed kid who rolls with the punches. Pump him with enough caffeine when the chips are down, though, and a hero will rise. Doc actually delivers as a super-scientist this season. Okay, by farming out the work, mutating a hundred or whatever college students, and suffering heavy casualties along the way, but still...! Delivers. We get a peek at Rusty's childhood, including one of his happiest memories that's only fucked up a little by his absentee square-jawed-adventurer father. Ooooh, and speaking of Rusty, The Monarch at long last is in a position to crush his arch-enemy once and for all. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!
Legions of the walking dead! Mutant armies infesting the Venture compound! Socialist revolutionary monsters lurking in the jungle! The most dead-on guy-who-did-the-voice-of-Cobra-Commander-and-Starscream impression ever! A playful Greek festival threatened by the heir to America's largest plastics fortune! A vintage tale of Team Venture squaring off against a cyborg L. Ron Hubbard during Jackie O's wedding! The conflict between O.S.I. and the Guild of Calamitous Intent raging to a head (including Tank Top, the sensational character find of 2013)! The threat of way-Freudian vagina stuffing! A cybernetic blind date! A funeral for a friend! I can't begin to tell you how much I love, love, love The Venture Bros., but if you've made it this far in a review of the fifth season of a TV series, I'm guessing you're right there with me. This season really was worth the long wait too. Aside from the dreadful and thankfully short Behind the Music riff "From the Ladle to the Grave", everything on this Blu-ray disc, top to bottom, is perfect. Even with cannibalistic mutants and dead-on G.I. Joe spoofs, this is still very much a character-driven show, and there's a whole lotta growth and change on that front this season. The best gags still have me howling, especially one near the tail-end of the season about Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The season's fat-packed with action, from G.I. Joe-style battles royale all the way to Arkham City-style stealth Batman takedowns. The Venture Bros. revels in its gloriously dense mythology without getting too distracted as it sometimes has in the past. As ever, these episodes hold up startlingly well to repeat viewing. Admittedly, season five doesn't build to the sort of frenetic finalé you're usually treated to with The Venture Bros., and I sure wouldn't have complained if it were a few episodes longer, but I honestly don't have anything to gripe about this season. For crying out loud, there's an episode where Hank, Dermott, and 21 go full-on villain to infiltrate an insane asylum so their father can talk to the voice of Teddy Ruxpin in person. Keep your True Detective or whatever. This is the best thing on TV. Highly Recommended.
Episodes and Stuff
The only thing is that one of the specials, "A Very Venture Halloween", is set in the middle of "What Color Is Your Cleansuit?", and there's a plot point lurking in there that helps shape the entire season for Dean. When you click "Play All" from the main menu, it only plays the eight main episodes and shrugs off the specials, so you'll probably want to start with the Halloween ep and move onto the rest of the season from there. "From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story" is listed last despite airing first, but it's not really a continuity-heavy thing, so it really doesn't matter when you watch that.
If you've grabbed the past couple seasons of The Venture Bros. on Blu-ray, you pretty much know what to expect here. The linework is crisp and really well-defined, definitely setting itself apart from anything DVD is gonna deliver. Its colors are bright and vivid when appropriate as well, so don't expect any gripes on that front either. Even though the entire season is crammed onto a single BD-50 disc, the VC-1 encode almost always holds up well. 'Course, The Venture Bros. has a clean visual style that plays nicely with encoders. When it's not, though, such as during Billy's nightmare in "Spanakopita!" with all that faux film grain, the image breaks up really badly. You'll probably need to open that case-in-point below to full size to see what I mean, though:
Yikes. I didn't notice much in the way of posterization throughout the meat of the season, although the "From the Ladle to the Grave" short suffers from a couple hiccups like that. Look at the banding, posterization, and those strange vertical lines in Hank's face, f'r instance:
There's a bit of that sort of sloppiness, yeah, and it's inexcusable. If you can look past those brief moments, though, this season of The Venture Bros. lands right where I expected it to be.
Oh, and speaking of sloppy, the flipside of the case says that this season is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, but...nah. It's straightahead 1.78:1, the same as it aired in high-def on Adult Swim.
Some techie at Warner Bros. dialed the Way-Back Machine to 2006 or something, 'cause not only do you get a VC-1 encode for the visuals, but you're lookin' at a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well. Lossless is lossless, and the 24-bit, 5.1 audio sounds pretty terrific. I can't
No dubs or anything this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) only.
The good news...? Commentaries on all eight episodes and one of the bonus shorts. The bad news...? That's juuuuust about it for the extras.
The packaging for this season of The Venture Bros. has a whole vintage young adult adventure novel motif thing going, and I especially love the painted artwork on the slipcase. This isn't one of those combo pack deals, but you do score an UltraViolet digital copy code along with a little table-of-contents insert.
The Final Word
I know, I know. I had you at The Venture Bros., and if I didn't, I don't know why you scrolled all the way down here anyway. This is a short but brilliant season, and it's the sort of Methadone fix I need to tide me over till the next special sometime this Fall. Highly Recommended.