Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Tick is the Campy, Anti-Grimdark Hero You May Be Looking For

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Think the first season of Supergirl‘s level of camp, but instead of an exiled alien from Krypton with a red S on her chest, we get a tall, white guy, whose face we never really see, in a humongous blue outfit which has its own set of six-pack abs, and arthropod antennae that move around: that’s The Tick for you.

A lot can be said about how media has gone dark, emo, edgy, and gritty these days; in fact, a lot has been said because we’re in the era of the gritty “realism” which gets all the awards and the fans. I’m not saying these types of media aren’t enjoyable, but I think I can say that, in order for them to be enjoyable, they have to be done right, which isn’t always the case: there is too much nonsense that gets a pass just because it’s shocking out there.

Was I initially excited for Amazon’s The Tick? Nah. Not really. I had been hearing about the show for quite some time. I had watched the trailer. I was not actively excited or not excited: as a 20-year old who was not around for the original show, I simply wasn’t engaged. And yet, I tried the show thinking, “I will just sample it as I usually do with new shows and see if it sticks,” especially given how I have a very, very weak spot for superheroes. That was probably the best decision I made last weekend in terms of my watch-list.

Very early on, the show establishes itself: there’s voiceover, the CGI is not that great, the world is not too-grounded in our reality, but from the very first dialogue, it actually made me laugh without having to use one-liners and unnecessary quipping.

Arthur alongside The Tick.

We see Superian, an alien, crashing on Earth, and his following achievements which kickstarted the age of superheroes. He had finished his archenemy, The Terror, years back, and everyone is convinced he is dead because only his teeth were found.

From that, our other main character is introduced to us: we have Arthur, a geeky and traumatized accountant with a conspiracy theory about The Terror still being alive. His investigation leads him to a warehouse where he meets The Tick and witnesses some shady stuff going on. Some explosions ensue and The Tick clings (tick pun!) to Arthur as he believes the two should be partners as destiny joined them together.

As the story goes by, some other key players are introduced. There’s the villain Miss Lint (Yara Martinez), whose electric powers end up magnetizing her, which is why there is always lint floating in the air. Ramses, a mob boss, who is appropriating Egyptian culture for the aesthetics—you’ll never guess what’s inside his decorative golden sarcophagus! Finally, there’s Dot, Arthur’s no-nonsense sister/designated medical-person, providing some ground and both physical and mental support for our good guys as she starts to get involved with the plot.

The taller-than-life Peter Serafinowicz plays The Tick. Frankly, there’s not a lot we know about who The Tick is as a person. We can see that he is kindhearted, polite, and observes the world with a semi-childlike wonder. His vibe is mostly “lawful good” and goes against the grimdark discourse, aligning himself with the “Murder Is Bad!” mood, which is, you know, an actual good decision, clashing very heavily with characters who don’t share his views. One example of such is Overkill, a vigilante that looks like a mix from Captain America’s Crossbones and Arrow‘s Deathstroke. Overkill is also on the hunt for the Terror as he seeks revenge for something.

However, as much as Tick is the main character, the show is also very much about Arthur’s hero journey, or at least part of it; he is allowed agency as his conspiracy theory and attentive eye to detail gets the plot going at the warehouse. He gets the “sidekick” role as a super suit gets handed to him and he has to figure it out if he wants a normal life or if he wants to get to the bottom of the mystery which involves villains, heroes, and a lot of shenanigans.

The Terror, who took a page from the Teen Titans books and got himself a T-shaped airplane.

Miss Lint’s story is particularly entertaining as the show throws and subverts tropes in your face for comedic effects that, shockingly, works really well. It is, after all, a very smart and clever show which benefits a low from a sharp script and thought-out writing. Besides the obvious “there’s lint on the air” moments, the villain also has some great scenes at her aesthetically pleasing lair, which she shares with her “The Future Is Female” T-shirt-wearing ex-husband.

Speaking of “politics”, the show has one specific moment making a jab at the “most hated guy in the office”‘s rhetoric:

“[about the Very Large Man] Personally, I don’t even think he exists.  Probably some hoax started by the liberal elite. Just a bunch of snowflakes, putting out their fake news to scare patriotic, uneducated Americans.”

The Terror himself, played by Jackie Earl Haley with a creepy voice, is somehow actually terrorizing. His introduction comes when we revisit Arthur’s childhood trauma and we see him through flashbacks all season long as Miss Lint is also on her own journey to see if he is alive. His presence is not overly felt or overshown, so his time onscreen is rewarding. Plus, he gets some really great lines in that “comically evil” kind of way.

The writers really did a great job in establishing rules are kept strict in the way that a lot of nonsense is allowed: it goes from published dogs to gigantic men. It’s poetic-licensed choices make The Tick magical without adhering to a “realistic” setting that may hurt the show in the end. Plus, it has such a charm in keeping the mood positive and optimistic that left me flabbergasted.

Overall, the show has an amazing flow and levity to it that can certainly enhance any free three-hours you may have on a lazy afternoon. These first six episodes do end in a lampshaded cliffhanger that will make you want the last half of the season right now. However, The Tick will manage to get your head off the grimdark reality will live in even if for a while. A warning though: as much as The Tick is an upbeat/glass half full kind of guy, the show does deal with the brutality of the world and it does not necessarily shy away from violence, blood, and a degree of gore.

Images courtesy of Amazon


  • Matthew

    Matthew is a 20-year-old sucker for the superhero/fantasy, crime, and queer genres. He is doing his best to become a forensic scientist, but, alas, he gets easily distracted with how much great TV is being produced right now.

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