Amazon‘s reboot of The Tick is a timely entry into the world of superhero screen takeover, but a bag of mixed emotions for those of us old enough to remember the short-lived, 2001 version starring Patrick Warburton, who was so perfect as the titular hero that it made you imagine he never had any other career goal.
Peter Serafinowicz manages a strong turn in the role, and it’s one that seems nearly impossible to pull off, but it’s hard to avoid a sense of nostalgic longing.
The Tick is a purposely goofball endeavor that reminds of live-actioning Scooby Doo (but, you know, if there were a good version of that). The pilot may seem rough to some audiences, but there is a lot to establish and it manages to get things out while delivering some laughs. The show really doesn’t start until the second episode, when we can commit to the wacky adventure and dive into the inexplicable curiosities that are both The Tick and Arthur.
We are first introduced to mild-mannered Arthur (Griffin Newman) as he is investigating some criminals he believes are connected to The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). The rub there is that not only is The Terror believed to be dead, but Arthur is himself bizarrely connected to him. This is a world where superheroes exist, but when Arthur was a young boy The Terror took most of them out, and Arthur’s father was part of the collateral damage. Arthur has had some mental/emotional problems ever since, and his obsession with The Terror isn’t helping things.
As if Arthur didn’t have enough superhero-related difficulties, The Tick suddenly appears to help him fight the evil in the world and/or prove that The Terror is still alive. That seems like it would be a positive, but The Tick, while nigh indestructible, is as clueless a companion as you can imagine. He’s got the superhero credo down as though he ate the guidebook, but he doesn’t seem to know much else. He soon plops down a supersuit in front of Arthur, whose life is about to become a multi-layered personal nightmare.
Though it has certain moments of sanity and some level of seriousness in the mix, there’s little about the show that isn’t zany. It also isn’t the sort of thing that viewers should expect many laughs from. It isn’t that kind of funny. You probably won’t laugh out loud, whatever predicament Arthur finds himself drowning in, but you’ll think about it for days and wish there were more shows that understood comedy this well.
Possibly the show’s most interesting feature is the extent to which it explores the villains. Our closest connection to the villainy, especially at the beginning, is Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez), the former right-hand of The Terror who suddenly becomes fascinated with Arthur’s belief that he may still be around. We get into her head and circumstances in a way that just isn’t part of the superhero/comic genre, and it twists things around just enough to keep you off balance… even more than a superhero who seemingly knows almost nothing about anything other than moral platitudes.
It’s ultimately a strange mix of efforts, but one that is put together well, and as much as it makes for a screwball ride, pulling you along largely because absolutely anything might happen, there’s also a fascinating “Regarding Henry” majesty in exploring the moral purity of stripping away one’s personality.
When you have a ton of fun, not least by having a deranged villain who can’t keep the fuzz off her clothes, mixed with surprisingly clever dialog and a bit of depth, that’s a win.