‘The Tick’ Episodes 7-12 Review: The Big Blue Superhero is Coming Back, Chum!
The Tick, one of Amazon’s strongest, funniest and freshest shows, is coming back with six new episodes, following a mid-season hiatus. We here at Screen Mayhem were fortunate enough to be given a sneaky peak at episodes 7-12, ahead of their 23rd February release date.
The Tick stars Peter Serafinowicz as the eponymous superhero. A well-meaning, ultra-strong being wearing a blue suit with very expressive antenna (unless of course he’s not wearing a suit at all and is entirely naked all the time). He also has no memory of who, what, or why he is. His best friend is Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman), an inoffensive nobody, who, with a lot of prodding from The Tick, answers the call of destiny and dons a super-powered suit, which gives him the ability to fly. The first half of the season saw them join forces to discover the whereabouts of The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), an evil super-villain, long believed dead.
The new episodes spring into action exactly where we left off, with Arthur held by The Terror in his underground lair. The series then goes completely madcap, in the best possible sense, as The Terror plans to re-emerge into the world with aplomb, even taking pitches, Mad Men style, as to how best to do this. Of course, as a super-villain he has a big, totally insane plan to destroy his nemesis and bring the world to its knees, which surprisingly enough involves the VLM (or very large man, to the uninitiated), an unfortunate middle-aged schlub who has somehow grown to immense size.
As one can tell from the synopsis, The Tick is not a show that takes itself seriously at all. If anything, the tone of the show is closer to 60s era Batman than either the intricately developed Marvel series, or the grim, heavy handed DC movies. That may sound like a bank-handed compliment, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s refreshing to watch a comic series that’s overall aim is to be as much fun as possible. It’s as if series creator Ben Edlund has taken a comic-book adaptation style that has gone out of fashion, and focused it through a modern lens, making something both gloriously silly, and entirely self-aware.
It could also be said that there’s more than a hint of Adam West in Peter Serafinowicz’s delivery, where every line is announced, rather than spoken, with a good-natured self-importance.
It would probably to point out that overall the plot barely holds up to scrutiny, but then as one character advises late on in the series, don’t look for sanity in The Terror’s plans. And anyway, the outlandishness of it all is incredibly appealing. It’s so nice to have a super-villain with an evil plan that’s as fiendishly potty as he is. It’s also rather satisfying to watch the various elements set up in the first six episodes come together so cleverly in the home stretch.
The Tick’s greatest strength, however, is its colourful array of characters, and the most effective aspect of episodes 7-12 is the way in which those characters are more fully developed. This is especially true of the ones which were given little screen-time in the first half of the series.
The Terror, who delivered little more than a recurring cameo in the earlier episodes, is now presented to us front and centre. And what a truly weird creation he is. He is clearly a bad dude, but he’s also laid back in fairly groovy way. It’s as if evil is a philosophy for him, a way of viewing and interacting with the world. In one unexpected, yet extremely funny scene, he thumps away on a drum kit, while his teacher berates him in what is a clear spoof of Whiplash. When the teacher’s finally dragged away for not being mean enough, The Terror then slowly builds up a drum solo, explaining as he does so that all the parts of an evil plan must work in perfect harmony, just like music. In effect, he’s a new-age villain. Jackie Earle Haley (who has played evil of various different shades over the years) plays The Terror with a sympathetically croaky, rather than a frightening voice, and a casual, what-the-hell attitude, which makes his acts of evil amusing rather than terrifying (at least for us), and this only adds to the fun.
Perhaps the standout character, however, is Overkill, who gets many of the funniest moments and who has the most dynamic connections to the other characters. Played by Scott Speiser, Overkill is an anti-hero with fake robo-eyes and fake robo-hands, and who hangs out in a sentient vehicle called Dangerboat. He likes to wear black, and as his name suggests, he likes to kill people… overly. However, in true superhero style he has an origin story, and without giving much away, he wasn’t always so bad. As such, his journey is towards the light, a move which is enforced by The Tick who coerces him to change his ways, and lay off murdering people.
Overkill’s relationship with Miss Lint (The Terror’s right hand evil-doer) is also fleshed out. She was the bad girl that helped him become the twisted mess that he is… and he loved every minute of it. Their relationship is best illustrated by one of the funniest new scenes in which Lint has him chained up and tortures him with bolts of electricity that shoot from her hands. Let’s just say there’s a certain sexual tension in the air when Overkill tells her to just give it to him. Or words to that effect.
Yara Martinez, as Miss Lint, plays the perfect evil second in command and evil ex-girlfriend. There seems to be a real relish for her in being nasty, as if allowing herself to be evil is the most natural and liberating thing in the world. As suggested previously, she’s like a dominatrix who has allowed her devilish proclivities full reign, and is shamelessly enjoying every minute of it. Evil for her appears to be a lifestyle choice. Martinez conveys all of this with a cynical smirk that rarely leaves her face, and some wonderful line readings which suggest an exasperation that the people around her can’t grasp that she’s totally evil.
One of the biggest reliefs of the second half of The Tick season one, is that Arthur’s sister, Dot, played by Valorie Curry – with a dogged grit that belies her blonde haired, good girl appearance – gets a lot more to do. In episodes 1-6, she did little more than worry over Arthur’s safety and discourage him from becoming a hero. But now she’s entirely on board and is using her connections as a backroom medic for criminals, to find out valuable intel to stop The Terror. She even hooks up, in the strategic sense, with Overkill, who offers her weapons training, and lets her borrow his favourite gun, hilariously named after a famous hip-shaking pop star. She also provides Overkill with a perfect romantic alternative to the evil and brunette Miss Lint, which forms a very interesting love-triangle indeed.
We must mention Brendan Hines, who deserves a lot credit for his portrayal of the first and most powerful superhero, Superian. Hines plays Superian with an arrogant swagger, a sort of benign indifference to humans, and an ingratiating smile that stays just the right side of smarmy. At one point, he’s asked why he helps people, and he answers, “Because I want to be a good person.” This idea is perfectly captured in Hines’ performance. It’s as if Superian is aware of his general awesomeness, and in the same way that Lint and The Terror have chosen to be evil, Superian, has chosen to be a goody.
In addition to the characters already mentioned, the show includes a professor with a weird degenerative illness, a clunky, outmoded robot-henchman, and, in a stroke of genius, a retired superhero dog with a lovely speaking voice. As you can see, The Tick is a show bursting with ideas and larger than life characters. The slight drawback from this is that The Tick and Arthur, whose initially awkward pairing formed the dramatic and comedic backbone of the earlier episodes, seem a little faded by comparison. That is, until they get to have their inevitable heroic showdown, which is as satisfying as it is bonkers.
Not all of the character relationships are entirely successful, however. Dangerboat’s infatuation with Arthur, which includes him using his many spray nozzles to give Arthur an unwanted massage in the shower, strikes an unfortunate bum-note. Although Dangerboat’s discussion with The Tick about his preference for males (“Boats?”) is one of the high-points, so what’s the use in quibbling. Overall the comedy is broader in the latter half of the series, but most of it hits you right in the funny bone, even if it’s coming at you from every direction.
The Tick is pure entertainment! If this first series is anything to go by then Ben Edlund and the rest of the creative team have their heads exploding with ideas. It’s going to be a wild rise to see where they take us next.
4.5 / 5