At long last the third season saga of Dr. Thaddeus Venture reaches DVD. For those of you who have followed the insanity of The Venture Brothers on Adult Swim won't need much information other than, "yes, you should buy this if you don't already have it." However, for those three or four people who aren't up on their Venture Brothers, might I recommend buying/renting the first two seasons and catching up because, like Lost, The Venture Brothers is epic and not episodic. Thus, coming in cold to season 3 can be done, but you'll miss a whole mess of jokes and references to events that occurred in the first two seasons.
For a short warm up, try these reviews– Season 1 and Season 2.
Once you've read those we can move alone at a brisk, but not rushed pace through the crumbing ruins of one-time adventure boy Rusty Venture's pathetic life. Season 3, like Season 2 before it, picks up exactly where the previous season ended. If you remember, The Monarch's flying cocoon was wrecked, the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend escaped in his escape pod, and Henchmen had vanquished Phantom Limb. We rejoin The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend in the headquarters of The Guild of Calamitous Intent where they are both debriefed on the battle with Phantom Limb. In the midst of this though, we learn a hell of a lot about the Monarch's and Dr. Girlfiend's (AKA Lady Au Pair, AKA Queen Etheria) early years.
This origin-story heaviness carries on through most of this season, and it gives the writers ample time to flesh out some of the more endearing peripheral characters. While Numbers 21 and 24 were sort of the origin story stars of Season 2 here we learn more about the early years of Brock Samson, Billy Quizboy, Dr. White, The Monarch (as mentioned), Dr. Girlfriend (also as mentioned). We also gets some new characters like Dr. Venture's new arch Sergeant Hatred, a convicted pedophile who can't get within 500 feet of a "sexy minor", Dr. Henry Killinger (The Mary Poppins of Evil), Dr. Tara Quymn and her bodyguard/lover Virginia, and creepy twin daughters, Johnny Quest (coming down from a bad heroin addiction) and Hadji (running a phone bank in Bangalore), and Dr. Girlfriend's murderous moppets Tim-Tom and Kevin.
Finally we get some welcome old friends, everyone in The Order of the Triad (Dr. Opheus, Jefferson Twilight, and The Alchemist), Triana, Dr. Johnas Venture Jr. and his entourage on Spiderskull Island. Finally we even get to spend an episode with The Old Team Venture.
The sharpness and wit of the first two seasons hasn't run out in season 3, if anything, the depth and focus that this season overshadows how well the season arc and semi-stand alone episodes compliment each other. Briefly:
Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny where we learn the ultimate fate of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend as delivered by The Council of 13. Tim-Tim and Kevin take over and force the Monarch's henchmen to rebuild the cocoon.
The Doctor is Sin: Where Dr. Henry Killinger offers to assist Dr. Venture refocus his operations, not to mention force him to confront his inadequacies, on a pro-bono basis.
Home is Where the Hate Is: Where Dr. Venture and The Monarch (and Mrs. Dr. The Monarch) attend a mixer thrown by Dr. Venture's new arch, Sergeant Hatred.
The Invisible Hand of Fate: Billy Quizboy's/Dr. White's combined origin story.
The Buddy System: In which Dr. Venture trades on his nostalgia and opens the compound as a day camp.
Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman: In which Doc and the gang help an old flame solve the mystery of the wereodile deep in the Amazon.
What Goes Down Must Come Up: Dr. Venture accidentally frees a long-long lost society from beneath the Venture Compound with a little help from Dr. Jonas Venture Sr.
Tears of a Sea Cow: In which The Monarch, after a fight with Mrs. Dr. The Monarch. invades The Venture Compound lab on a night when only Dean and Hank (and Dean's idiot new friend Dermot) are home.
Now Museum – Now You Don’t!: Dr. Jonas Venture Jr. opens up Spiderskull Island as a museum to the greatness of his late father. We also learn how Dr. Venture came to possess this particular piece of land.
The Lepidopterists: When The Monarch is assigned to arch Dr. Jonas Venture Jr. It's up to Brock Samson and the mysterious Lepidopterists to team him how to respond.
Orb: This one sets up the finale. Billy Quizboy stumbles onto a long lost clue and drags all of the Ventures on a mad quest to find the Orb. We get a nice fun flashback to Colonel Venture and the original Guild, a sort of steam punk Team Venture.
The Family that Slays Together Stays Together (Parts 1 and 2): Brock, on the run from OSI assassins, needs to ditch Dr. Venture and the boys so he can clear his name but getting rid of them is harder than he planned. Meanwhile, The Monarch, not free to arch Dr. Venture, plans a massive assault on The Venture Compound where Sergeant Hatred, heartbroken, has come to beg Dr. Venture to end his misery and his life.
Like the preceding seasons, season 3 ends with a big action sequence, and considering this is an animated show, the action work is some of the best on TV. Look for the standout bits, especially in the season finale. But then, The Venture Brothers has always been action oriented so it shouldn't be a surprise. Like most modern TV, each episode has an A story and a B story, and sometimes a C story. The best episodes, in my opinion, are the ones where the stories derail from the arc and explore the weird little sides of the series and characters. My favorite on this set is Tears of a Sea Cow, which straddles the line between A story and B story really well. Also, 21 gets the best lines.
The DVD is in lovely unedited widescreen, so we get fill on swears, animated penises, and all manner of stuff that Cartoon Network blocks and bleeps that serves to make the episodes even funnier. Every ep also has a relatively interesting commentary with Hammer and Publick, and this offering contains deleted scenes.
These deleted scenes are keyframes and dialogue.
I am not, and never really have been, a fan of commentary tracks because usually I want to know specific things, but there's no guarantee whoever is talking is going to talk about what I'm seeing on the screen. Case in point, Hammer and Publick spend waaaaay more time discussing the overall creative process for the series than they do for any specific episode, which is great when you aren't trying to write a review I guess. It's not that I didn't enjoy the commentaries, I did and do, but I'll have to watch them at some point again when I don't want specific information.
And with only that as a caveat, you should immediately go and buy this DVD now.
Go Team Venture!