The Venture Bros. and the Curse of the Haunted Problem
Written by Jackson Publick
Directed by Juno Lee
Airing on Adult Swim on August 5, 2018
‘Rama Rating: 8 out 10
It’s been a little over two years since we’ve last seen fan-favorite the Venture Bros in action, with season six concluding with the Monarch adapting the heroic role of the Blue Morpho and his wife, Dr. Mrs the Monarch (Sheila to her friends), ascending to the role of Chairwoman of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. We saw that donning the role of the Morpho, once originally held by his father, took a strain on his relationship with Sheila and his place among the supervillain society of New York.
Spoiler: it doesn’t get better for ole Monarch at the start of the season, but let’s get to that later.
Fans might have gotten used to the fact that there are year-long delays between seasons but they’re also aware of the fact that it’s just Doc and Jackson writing the episodes, being hands-on with everything going on within this universe. Usually, it’s worth the wait. Fans waiting three years between season four and five, and then again with five to six with “specials” sprinkled in so there at least would be some amount of Venture that year has kind of become the norm. It was a long wait going from four to five specially since the season four finale (also one of the greatest episodes of the entire show, "Operation: PROM") had such a cliffhanger and character shift for Dean, which was explored to some extent in both the "Shallow Gravy" and Halloween specials of 2011 and 2012 respectively.
So here we are again, with an eight-episode season that has some huge repercussions at play.
The episode begins with a nice Exorcist: The Beginning homage and Jonas Jr finding the wreckage of the Gargantuan-1 crash from decades ago, and was the center of a season 2 episode. Flashforward, Jonas had implemented the remains and a mysterious, eerie iron box labeled "Problem" as a fixture to the Venture compound. Soon, the Ventures as well as Brock find that the compound is now haunted with strange, ghoulish noises as well as the stereo system playing “Street Life” by the Crusaders. Scared out of his mind, Dean eventually calls Dr. Orpheus and the Triad to analyze the problem while Rusty tries to get Pete White to evaluate it on the back end, and White, as usual, thinks he has the answer and Billy Quizboy leaves him after whatever is hacking into the Venture system proves to be too much.
Returning home, Billy has dinner with his mother and the rest of the original Team Venture when Billy brings up the events of the day. Shocked by what they hear, Colonel Gentleman drugs Billy’s mother and asks slyly how long has Rusty had the "Problem."
All the while, Hank is trying his best to deal with dating Sirena Ong, the daughter of Wide Whale. Sirena and her father were introduced at the beginning of last season and the fact of her and Hank’s relationship is still very much on Whale’s blacklist. Whale, as well as his Sirena bodyguard Rocco, make no bones about disapproving this union, but it’s been pretty excellent watching Hank progress into this hero of sorts that he’s always aspired to be. Long gone are the days of a goofy kid in a Batman mask attempting his best Michael Keaton impression. Well, this version of Hank anyways.
The episode ends with the reveal of what the "Problem" actually contains and it’s not anything fans saw coming. It’s a heavy revelation that will cast a shadow on the rest of the season and probably the series at large. Yeah. It’s that huge.
Like last season, the first episode is spearheaded by Jackson and sets the stage for what’s to come. You can almost tell at this point how differently Jackson and Doc handle episodes. Whereas Doc heavily sprinkles in banter and heavy amount of snark, Jackson’s scripts are more reserved and dives more into the mythos to tell a story. Not to say any of that is missing in this episode, but it always feels scaled back when he’s at the helm. There is a pretty funny Green Lantern jab near the end that was superbly well-timed and even H.E.L.P.eR has a horribly frightening yet somehow hilarious bit that catches you off guard.
As usual there’s no “previously on” opening so a refresher course is always recommended and since season six was such a game changer with Jonas dying, the entire family moving to New York, and the friction between the Monarchs, there’s a lot to going into this season and a lot at stake. “Curse of the Haunted Problem” juggles previous plots and moves them forward by also adding in crazy new implications for this season. There’s actual growth to these characters and it seems like a lifetime ago that .Venture Bros was a love letter to Jonny Quest. It’s become its own entity; its own organism, with moving and growing parts. This episode might not rank up there as one of the best, but what it’s absolutely one of the most memorable in what it delivers and how it’s the perfect start of what looks to be a killer new season.