Review: The Tick

Amazon’s The Tick is a superhero spoof based on the comic book series of the same name created by Ben Edlund, who helms the streaming the show as well.

I vaguely remember watching the cartoon and the Patric Warburton series as a kid, so I thought I’d give this version a shot. I’m glad I did.

The focus of the series is not, interestingly enough, on the titular character, but on his sidekick, Arthur (Griffin Newman). Arthur is our way into the story, it’s his decisions that move the plot, and even though he is not the hero, he is the one on the hero’s journey.

Arthur’s city is ruled by the Pyramid Gang and their leader, Ramses IV (Michael Cerveris), but Arthur is determined to prove that the real puppet master is The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), the long believed to be dead villain who killed Arthur’s childhood heroes and his father in front of him when he was a kid. Unfortunately, Arthur has struggled with his sanity since that event, which makes it hard  to get anyone to believe his theory. While spying on the Pyramid Gang he meets the Tick (Peter Serafinowicz), who eagerly tries to take Arthur under his wing, believing destiny has brought them together to dispense justice. Arthur is understandably reluctant, and is even suspicious that Tick might be a creation of his illness.

The plot is what you might expect from any superhero show or movie, but what sets The Tick apart is the tone. In the current age of The Dark Knight and Captain America: Civil War, superheroes tend to take themselves pretty seriously (some might argue too seriously), almost like they’re trying apologize for the fact that they’re asking adults to watch men in brightly colored spandex fly and punch monsters. The Tick takes its story seriously, like those other shows, but it’s also willing to acknowledge the weirdness of its world and explore it, rather than gloss over or try to make sense of it. The Tick accepts that a lot of the tropes about superheroes are nonsensical, and it plays with that.

Peter Serafinowicz is perfectly cast to convey that tone. The Tick is an absurd character, with his grand pronouncements and odd turns of phrase, but Serafinowicz manages to imbue him with a charming earnestness that keeps the character from going over the top.

For example, when questioned about whether he’s wearing a super-suit, Tick responds with shock: “Am I never naked? Or am I never not naked?” Had this been delivered with any irony it would have been ruined, but Serafinowicz’s Tick is genuinely unsure and intrigued by the question.

His sidekick, Arthur, is the typical reluctant hero, though perhaps slightly more out of his depth than usual. At first, you might feel sympathy for the emotionally unstable office drone, but like the Tick, the audience can see Arthur’s potential (after all, he’s the only one who’s figured out The Terror is still alive) and how much he needs a win, and you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for him to answer destiny’s call.

Another character worth noting is the henchman Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez), a leftover from The Terror’s glory days now begrudgingly working for Ramses IV. Adrift without her old boss and struggling with the downside to her electrical powers (static cling), the show manages to create in her what may prove to be a compelling origin story as well as a poignant demonstration of how exhaustingly frustrating being the bad guy can be.

The one downside to this new iteration of The Tick is that it is less family friendly than the previous Fox cartoon and live-action series. The violence is slightly more graphic in a few scenes than I was expecting, and the language is stronger. Otherwise, I think the humor would have made this a fun one for parents to watch with their older kids, but as it stands, I’d recommend it for teens and adults.

That minor note aside, I say that if you’re a fan of superheroes, The Tick is worth a watch. I’m looking forward to the release of the next episodes, which I believe are due out in early 2018.

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