An old evil awakens.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
It’s a shame that the best shows on Adult Swim also seem to be the ones with the longest breaks between seasons. It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since The Venture Bros. Season 6 wrapped, which his basically par for the course at this point. Fortunately, the series never seems to lose its momentum or energy despite those long stretches of down time. “The Venture Bros. & The Curse of the Haunted Problem” offers a zany and deceptively ambitious gateway back into this always entertaining universe.
Where Season 6 delivered a major status quo shift for the series, Season 7 picked up more or less right where things left off in March 2016. That’s to be expected given that Season 6 didn’t wrap up so much as it abruptly stopped when creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer ran out of episodes. For the most part, the characters are all right where we left them, with the Venture family enjoying its new Manhattan headquarters and the supervillain community cowering in fear of the threat of Blue Morpho. But rather than dive into a plot-heavy continuation of Season 6, Publick and Hammer started slow with an amusing, horror-flavored episode that parodied bits of The Exorcist, Poltergeist, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather.
The haunted house premise worked well in terms of easing viewers back into the thick of things. In some ways, it played like the sort of conflict we might have gotten back in the Season 1 or 2 days. It didn’t hurt that both the Order of the Triad and OG Team Venture played major guest roles. Any chance to include Col. Gentleman is one worth taking, as far as I’m concerned. The banter between Doctor Orpheus and Dr. venture was easily one of the highlights of this episode. As always, The Venture Bros. is a series preoccupied with failure and losers battling against a cold, uncaring world. It’s only fitting that even as team Venture’s fortunes are on the rise, the Triad’s would fall.
Another thing I truly appreciated here is that “The Venture Bros. & The Curse of the Haunted Problem” never felt particularly beholden to any of its spoof material. You have a Pazuzu statue here and a “The Godfather, Part II” reference there, but Publick and Hammer never lost sight of the weird story they’re telling here. This episode really embodies the show’s shifting storytelling sensibilities. It rarely went for the obvious, big laughs. If anything, there was a real earnestness to the conflict, with the drama being offset by quietly absurd elements like Brock’s irrational fear of ghosts or Billy and Pete bickering about Hollywood hacker movies.
It was fun to see Hank’s subplot serve as a counterpoint to the gloomy haunted house. As ever, Hank is off in his own little world as he chases the girl and gets in over his head with Wide Wale. If Season 6 faltered anywhere, it was in failing to make much use of Wale or flesh out the romance between Hank and Sirena. This episode made up for some of that lost time while also pushing Hank in a dangerous new direction. I can’t wait to see how the ill-advised return of Enrico Matassa plays out.
I was concerned about whether this episode could truly pay off on the Problem mystery, especially given how long it took for the payoff to arrive. As such, it was a relief to learn that we’re in for a multi-part storyline. The reveal that Dr. Jonas Venture isn’t quite as dead as everyone was led to believe is a great way to kick off the new season and also blaze a new trail for the series in 2018. What seemed at first like a simple, goofy ghost story is quickly evolving into something bigger and more epic. It seems clear we’re getting the big game-changer we were hoping to see from the Season 6 finale. Better late than never.