Based on the comic-book series by Ben Edlund, the first half of Amazon’s hugely entertaining superhero series, The Tick was released last year. For those of you who love big blue, hilariously hyperbolic supermen with nerdy sidekicks, it’s been an agonizing wait, but thankfully the second half is almost here, as episodes 7-12 will be released on 23rd February.
Now I don’t know about you, but this seems as good a time as any to jog our collective memories with a full recap and review of The Tick episodes 1-6. Neat, indeed!
Recap… A giant object hurtles through space and the voice of The Tick announces that this will be an epic tale “Full of destiny, adventure and blood-loss.” Sounds good! The object explodes at the Tunguska River basin in 1908, setting some reindeers on fire and revealing, Superian, the first superhero, thus ushering in the dawn of a new age.
In the present day, Arthur Everest is spying on some evil doers, evilly unpacking some evil super-tech. He’s surprised by a big guy in a blue costume, with expressively wiggly ears, who calls himself The Tick. They form a reluctant partnership, but not before Arthur is taken into custody (for spying?). He’s given no more than a smack on the wrist when it’s discovered that he was the victim of The Terror, a big-bad, who years ago blinded the city’s superhero team, The Flag Five, with weaponised syphilis, causing their space-ship to fall out of the sky and crush Arthur’s Dad. Arthur was enjoying an ice-cream at the time and saw the whole thing. The Terror even paid him some personal attention by sauntering over and gulping down the melted dregs of his ice-cream. This moment was captured in a photograph, which became the front page of Time Magazine.
Arthur’s sister Dot picks him up from jail and admonishes him to avoid future obsessive, psychologically deranged behaviour, but Arthur is convinced that The Terror still exists, and poses a threat to the world. Back at his apartment Arthur is met once again by The Tick, who presents Arthur with the super-tech, which he has taken from the now very dead henchmen upon which Arthur was spying earlier.
Review… The episode was written by the comic-book series’ creator, Ben Edlund and directed by Wally Pfister, whose previous glories include winning the best cinematography Oscar for shooting Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). As such, one can quickly judge the level of quality on show. The episode perfectly sets up the principle characters as well as the central conceit. Peter Serafinowicz as The Tick, delivers Ben Edlund’s overblown dialogue with plenty of fruity aplomb, Griffin Newman is fittingly wimpy, nervous and neurotic as Arthur, while Valorie Curry is a warm presence as his supportive sister, Dot. Making a massive impression in a very short time is Jackie Earle Hayley who adds to his rogues galley of characters as The Terror.
The comedy in this episode is laugh out loud funny and comes largely from The Tick and Arthur’s extraordinarily different backgrounds. In one standout scene The Tick moves his enormous blue physique around Arthur’s apartment pulling random objects towards himself in search of a (non-existent) lever to open a secret (also non-existent) superhero lair. A near faultless start!
Ep. 2 Where’s My Mind
Recap… Alone in his apartment and wearing his freshly unpacked super-suit, Arthur is suddenly attacked by a group of armed henchmen led by a one-eyed woman dressed in black. The suit repels the bullets, but before things go even more seriously awry for the hapless Arthur, The Tick arrives. The one-eyed lady, known as Miss Lint, then reveals herself to be a super-villain by shooting lightning bolts from her hands at The Tick. “Why won’t you die?” “I don’t wanna!” The Tick repels her lightning bolts, deflecting them onto her henchmen, who die frazzley deaths. The Tick throws Arthur to safety – out of the window of his apartment. Thankfully Arthur’s new suit absorbs most of the fall.
A fully recovered Arthur reveals his sad history with superheroes and villains to The Tick, who hugs him. But when Arthur sees a suspicious looking vehicle going by, he runs to it, bangs on the tanned window and begs to be allowed to return the suit. The Tick, who has different ideas, overturns the car and pushes it down the street like a child’s sled. As he paces home in a nervous frenzy, Arthur concludes that The Tick can’t be real. He realises he’s been hearing his voice from childhood, and that’s he’s likely a paranoid delusion, or better yet, he, Arthur, is in fact The Tick! Then he bumps into his sister, who most definitely sees The Tick. Now acknowledging the truth, Arthur tells his big blue acquaintance to leave him alone and retreats to his apartment.
Later that day Arthur is set on once again by some henchmen, who are brutally hacked apart by a masked man wearing body armour, who himself wants the suit, which Arthur has been unable to remove. Then the police turn up and the masked man disappears with a Batman style grappling iron fired from his arm.
Review… This episode sets up further colourful characters within the story. Miss Lint played by Yara Martinez, makes for a surprisingly sympathetic villain. She has no respect for her current boss Rameses, who meets her in a limo, chides her for not having the same face tattoo as his other underlings (“I kind of have my own eye thing going on.”) and defends his silly villain name as branding. We also get to see the essentially sweet relationship she had with The Terror, before his alleged demise. He was her mentor and encouraged her to take ownership of the title Miss Lint, after it had given to her as a cruel nickname due to the fact that her electrifying abilities tend to make lint land on her. He also tells her that she needs to be comfortable in black. In other words, he made her who she is. Not that it’s all sweetness and love, as he then offers her the usefully evil advice, not to kill people because they call you names, but to “kill people because it’s fun!”
Arthur and The Tick’s weird one-way friendship continues to be a source of amusement, as Arthur openly admits to being a unfit for superhero-dom due to his very low self-esteem. The quickly picked up and put down tease that The Tick might not be real, also raises a laugh, and sets aside what would have been a rather lazy twist.
Ep. 3 Secret / Identity
Recap… Following the brutal attack, Arthur finds himself in custody… again. But since he’s dressed as a superhero, with a hat and goggles no less, he’s able to take the 28th amendment, which means he doesn’t have to reveal his true identity. He’s released when the police get hold of CCTV footage of the carnage and realise that Arthur really was just a bystander. The Tick then finds Arthur and reprimands him for the “murdery” nature of his superhero behaviour. Arthur explains that he is not responsible for the deaths of the henchmen, but that he believes the masked figure was none other than Overkill, a super-skilled government super-assassin gone rogue.
Back at his apartment Arthur is ambushed by Miss Lint who demands to know why Arthur has news clippings linking a recent lab explosion with one in the past. He replies that he believes that The Terror was responsible for those and other lab explosions and so must still be alive. Miss Lint electrocutes him, leaving him unconscious and steals his super-suit. Later she visits her boss, Rameses, who wears a gold tracksuit, and gets beer from a fridge shaped like the casket of Tutankhamun. She denies knowing the identity of The Tick’s sidekick (in other words Arthur) and pretends not to know the whereabouts of the super-suit, which she has stolen.
Arthur finds The Tick hanging out at the local convenience store, and, probably to get him to leave the nice convenience store owner alone, tells him that he should hunt down Overkill in order to find out where The Terror is hiding, as he believes that the two are linked. Arthur begs off actually participating as he has no super-powers and just wants a normal life. Later The Tick gives this a try but then says that he really needs Arthur’s brain and voice-box in order to do well as a superhero, mainly because his memories only go back a few days. He has no ideas who or what he is, or indeed where he came from.
Overkill shows up at Arthur’s place of work and demands the super-suit, which Arthur no longer has. The Tick comes to the rescue, but despite his superior strength is defeated by Overkill, who twists The Tick’s sensitive antennae and throws him out of the office window.
Review… There’s a lot going on in this episode, all of it effortless and amusing. Miss Lint’s characters develops extra ambiguity as she refuses to serve Rameses, her master since the death of The Terror. We get the full introduction of a lethal baddie in Overkill, aptly nicknamed Robo-Ninja by the police, who may be more of an anti-hero, we just don’t know. And The Tick himself suddenly becomes a mystery all of his own. Plus, the episode ends with a really entertaining fight sequence, pitting merciless skill, with guileless near invulnerable strength. All kinds of reasons to jump right on to the next episode.
Ep. 4 Party Crashers
Recap… The Tick embraces the notion of falling and then smashes face first into the pavement, causing the pavement plenty of harm. He’s fine. While he’s dusting himself off, Overkill steals Arthur’s files, which contain his research relate to The Terror. He also mentions the name of a mysterious doctor, and something called Project Achilles. Overkill then returns to his cool, stealth ship, which contains a possessive A.I. who has been composing anti-hero theme music to pass the time, and wants to know why Overkill hasn’t been answering his calls.
Meanwhile Miss Lint tries to get Arthur’s stolen super-suit to work. At first she’s distracted by her ex-husband, who complains that she melted his expensive bike, which was on his side of the house. “Well, why don’t you move out?” “Why don’t you move out?” He replies. “Because it’s my lair!” However, he goes from being a distraction to assessing the suit and explaining that it’s imprinted to Arthur, and only he can turn it on.
Arthur attends his step-father’s sixtieth birthday, and The Tick gatecrashes. Makes a great impression on everyone. Miss Lint also shows up pretending to be a work colleague, and takes Arthur upstairs demanding he strip and put the suit on. He does but then refuses to give it back. Instead he climbs onto the balcony and throws himself off. The suit sprouts wings and carries him into the sky in out of control fashion.
Review… This another enjoyable episode, which gives us hilarious further insight into Overkill, whose relationship with his A.I. is is a tad unhealthy. Miss Lint is further humanised by the presence of her sporty, dumb looking husband. Thankfully Valorie Curry, who plays Arthur’s sister Dot, gets a little more to do here, as she does her best to keep Arthur in a balanced frame of mind during their step-father’s party, which turns out to be more of an ordeal than they predicted. The episode also makes brilliant use of Miss Lint’s unfortunate tendency to attract all kinds of airborne dirt, as Arthur threatens her with a vacuum cleaner, which she explodes only to find herself coated head to toe in dust. This episode has a nice symmetry. It started with falling, the greatest act of faith, and ends with Arthur embracing his inner hero and tumbling upwards into the sky with greater adventure on the horizon.
Ep. 5 Fear of Flying
Recap… Arthur manages to enable the suit’s auto-pilot and so manages not to fall to his death. He also manages to use the suit’s built in phone and contacts The Tick (who is still hanging out at Arthur’s step-father’s party) for urgent help. Arthur’s sister Dot wants to know what’s going on but The Tick has sworn not to tell her. That doesn’t mean she can’t drive The Tick to catch up with her terrified flying brother. While Arthur’s trying to figure out the suit, he accidentally triggers a series of messages delivered in a foreign language by a hologram visible through the suit’s goggles.
The pursuing superhero and sister make visual contact with Arthur. Dot freaks out, but The Tick tells her that destiny has called her brother into action and she should let him be awesome, maybe even step in and be awesome herself, as opposed to constantly trying to keep him safe.
Dot and The Tick are not the only people chasing Arthur. The big gang boss Rameses is tracking the suit, as is Overkill. Overkill brings Arthur down with a grappling hook, and The Tick, who arrives shortly after, moves to square off with him once again. But Dot ruins the moment by demanding that Arthur gives up all this superhero nonsense and comes home. Superheroes got their Dad killed and she can’t lose him as well. Rameses then arrives and when Arthur refuses to give up the suit, orders his henchmen to shoot. They do, but are no match for the invulnerable Tick and the extremely stabby, murdery, explodey, Overkill.
After the fight the three agree to work… not exactly together, but near each other, in order to find The Terror. They then drag Rameses, who they believe is working for The Terror, back to Overkill’s cool stealth-ship lair, and his prissy A.I. decodes the suit’s recorded messages. From this they learn that the suit is part of a weapons system called Project Achilles, which they believe The Terror is assembling.
Miss Lint is at home and having showered the dust from herself, is trying to calm her statically charged hair. She steps into her living room and there is The Terror, sitting casually. He says hello and sniggers.
Review… At this point the series really feels as if it’s coming together. Arthur decides to OWN being a superhero, as opposed to living like a frightened little nerd. The Tick and Overkill team up with Arthur to find The Terror, and have a perfect character dynamic: Brains, Brawn and Heart, Stone Cold Killer. Dot also finally starts to gain a little more depth, as her over-protective, smothering behaviour towards her brother now makes perfect sense. The episode also puts the rest of the series on a clear path, as each of the characters’ goals within the story have been revealed. The sudden appearance of The Terror is a nice sting.
Ep. 6 Rising
Recap… Overkill’s cool stealth ship. He injects Rameses with a truth serum, but it interacts with his Viagra and leaves him more woozy than co-operative. However, they finally get him spill the whereabouts of The Terror. Overkill wants Rameses to take them to The Terror for a showdown, but Arthur wants to hand him in to Aegis, the government body used to monitor super-people. Unfortunately the local Aegis office has closed for the foreseeable future due to a lack of said super-people.
Rameses’ henchmen show up and shoot at The Tick with a rocket launcher. The Tick is fine, but a little irritated at their rudeness. Rameses joins his men, and fires the rocket launcher at a bus as a diversion for his escape. The Tick grabs hold of the bus to prevent it from tipping over a bridge. Arthur enters the bus and saves everyone, including a dog, which he grabs just as the bus falls off the bridge. Fortunately, he’s wearing his super-suit and flies to safety. They make the news and everyone seems to love them. Arthur is finally a hero.
This is cross-cut with The Terror and Miss Lint hanging out in her apartment / lair. He says that he had expected her to kill Rameses so that he could use her as the head of his crime organisation instead. In short he’s disappointed in her and wants her to return to being pure evil incarnate. She then visits Rameses and fries him.
While out celebrating with The Tick, Arthur is kidnapped with a bag over his head. The bag is removed and he finds himself strapped to a chair in The Terror’s underground hideout with ominous music, as selected by Alexa, booming. The Terror appears and Arthur screams.
Review… This is a near perfect finale to the end of the first half of season one. Although all the cross-cutting reduces the feeling of propulsive action that the previous episodes have had, it neatly makes the point that Miss Lint and Arthur are going on similar journeys. He is being encouraged to find his inner hero by The Tick, while she is being coached back into her state of full blown evil by The Terror. The characters are all left in interesting positions and that make the next six episodes a must see. It’s also nice to see Dot, played by Valorie Curry, being set up to take a more valuable function within the story. She has accepted the dangerous nature of Arthur’s new life and wants to be a part of it. As a paramedic and medical student she will use her time in backrooms fixing up the wounds of hardened henchmen to gather useful information. At least that’s her plan. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.
Overall… The Tick is a fun, at times hilarious, incredibly easy to watch take on the superhero genre. At its centre it has a relentlessly chirpy, big blue superhero somewhat lacking in the brains department, who wants nothing more than to turn his reluctant sidekick into a hero all of his own. In that respect it’s a classic hero’s journey, only with more jokes. Jackie Earle Hayley makes a great, weirdly likeable villain, who clearly cares about keeping his own sidekick’s soul pure… evil. It’ll be nice to have him out of the shadows for the next round of episodes.