The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart satisfies as a finale to a great show.
The Venture Bros. is one of the most intricate and creative narratives ever told on television. When it first debuted on Adult Swim in 2003, Chris McCullough (alias Jackson Publick) and Doc Hammer’s show wowed audiences with its meta-humor and intriguing storyline, going above and beyond what was expected of an adult cartoon. With its dynamic characters and convoluted plot, The Venture Bros. never wore itself thin, and kept finding new ways to keep viewers returning. The show was able to tell a story it could not with a singular movie, and it rode this story all the way to becoming Adult Swim’s longest running show. It seemed like the story would never end. Then, in 2020, the show was canceled unexpectedly during production of its eighth season.
However, all hope was not lost. As part of the launch of the Max streaming service, several Adult Swim properties were given the chance for one-off specials to promote the service, including The Venture Bros. The unused scripts for the eighth season were cobbled together and became Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart, a ninety-minute grandiose epic which ties up loose ends and gives shocking reveals to turn the world of The Venture Bros. on its head.
The film picks up where the series left off. Hank Venture (Chris McCullough) leaves his family after catching his girlfriend Sirena (Cristin Milioti) cheating on him with his brother Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas). This prompts a massive search led by bodyguard Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton). The show’s antagonist, The Monarch (McCullough), also discovers he is somehow related to the boys’ father Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak). Meanwhile, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (Doc Hammer) suspects activity from Monarch’s old flame Mantilla (Nina Ariada), and sets out to investigate. This movie expects viewers to have remembered all those plotlines and how the characters interact. This is no easy feat for any movie, but it serves to move the plot along as it reaches a climax.
Animation wise, the movie still looks like something for Adult Swim. It keeps the pulpy, comic book style of the show and sticks true to the form. However, the upscaling of the movie comes from its writing. The movie assembles plots of what could have been as many as eight or nine episodes and is able to pick and choose where each subplot goes. It will often cut from The Monarch to Hank’s adventure, to Dean’s search for his brother. Even if one has seen every episode of the series, it can be so easy to get lost in the plot. The showrunners still manage to throw in jokes and one-liners to make scenes funny even when things get out of hand. So perhaps it is a bit overstuffed, but as The Venture Bros. has shown, that is what the show is all about.
Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart is loaded with cameos and references to past episodes. Certain villains get mentioned long after their prime on the show, and various hidden jokes hint at what came before. The crown jewel of this is reintroducing the character of Ben (J.K. Simmons), a one-off character introduced all the way back in Season Five, playing a pivotal role in the story by resolving the Monarch-Rusty connection. These combined with esoteric pop culture references from across the twentieth century make for a watch stimulating the memory in more ways than one.
The movie has a massive cast and converging plotlines on the level of Avengers: Endgame, with only about half the runtime of that film. This, the writers do not waste a second and have every scene feel impactful in some way. The stories do converge at the climax, leading to some fulfilling payoffs with jokes set up earlier, in much the same way The Venture Bros. was known for doing.
Despite being billed as a finale, the ending is not as conclusive as one would expect from a show like this one. Questions are answered and plotlines resolved, but conflicts still grow. The Monarch and his wife still have to figure each other out, the titular brothers have much to reconcile about their identities, and Rusty is still outgrowing his greatest failures. All of this seems like buildup in case there is an extra season. However, if this is the last we ever see of The Venture Bros., it would not be considered a disappointment. Questions are answered and ideas we had about certain characters are affirmed, leading to a fair jumping off point for this wild and sprawling narrative.
As a series finale, this movie is not for newcomers. For the fans who have been watching from the start, twenty years of animation history lead to a mostly satisfying payoff. It may not have given everything the fans wanted, but given the circumstances, it is a miracle anything came from this at all. McCullough and Hammer somehow manage to keep their mythology and character arcs straight and juggle them all in a way that puts most live-action dramas to shame, and are able to conclude their own story in a satisfying way. Go Team Venture, indeed.
The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart is now available to own on Digital starting and will be released on Blu-ray on July 25, 2023.