And so Amazon’s new The Tick dropped on 8/24/17. Since I don’t get paid for timeliness (or much of anything), and there were other shows to watch… well, other shows got watched. Now I got through watching the five new episodes of The Tick, and here we are.

The first question is: is The Tick a comedy? Sort of. It’s kind of a drama, too. I suppose that makes it… a dramedy!

The primary comedy is that the Tick is an overearnest superhero prone to mildly incoherent speechifying. He lives in a world where superheroes exist. Sort of. But they don’t exist in the City, for some reason that is never made clear. The City used to have a team of heroes, the Flag Five. But they were wiped out by the Terror ten years ago. And then the resident pseudo-Superman, Superian, wiped out the Terror. Now Superian watches the world, apparently. Why no superheroes have moved in to the City isn’t clear.


Crime is rampant, but it’s street-level crime and currently run by Ramses IV (Michael Cerveris). He leads the Pyramid Gang, but other than a left-eye tattoo of the Eye of Horus (“Branding!”, as Ramses says), and one of the henchman having an Egyptian name (Khufu), they don’t do or look at all Egyptian. Working for him is Ms. Lint, who can project electricity but has trouble with static cling. “Ms. Lint” is actually a nickname, but the Terror told her to embrace it.


Also prowling the streets is Overkill, a Punisher-like skull-masked vigilante who cheerfully kills any and all bad guys. He works out of Dangerboat, a weapons-equipped battle boat with an AI (voice of Alan Tudyk). He used to work for AEGIS, the obligatory government organization. But they went their separate ways, and now Overkill is trying to find the Terror. Like Arthur Everest, Overkill believes that the Terror is still alive.

That brings us to Arthur. His father was killed by the Terror ten years ago. So now Arthur has mental issues and is a conspiracy buff. This is the “drama” part. His sister and EMT Dot looks after him when she can. However, she also secretly works as a medic for crooks to finance her way through med school.


In the pilot episode in 2016, the Tick shows up without explanation and urges Arthur to embrace his destiny. He also takes an experimental wing suit that the Pyramid Gang has and gives it to Arthur. The pilot episode ends with Ms. Lint and the Gang finding Arthur in his apartment just after putting on the suit for the first time, and opening fire on him.

That brings us to the first full season. Which is actually a half-season and ends on a cliffhanger.

Where’s My Mind: The suit protects Arthur, and Ms. Lint blasts Tick out a window. Arthur doesn’t want the suit, and Dot doesn’t want him to want the suit. Run, Arthur, run. He tries to give up the suit to the Gang, but Overkill shows up and, um… overkills them. The police arrive, Overkill leaves, and Arthur gets arrested for the murders.


Secret/Identity: Arthur pleads the 28th, which means that the police can’t unmask him. They soon find video showing that Overkill overkilled, and cut Arthur loose. Ms. Lint shows up at Arthur’s apartment, electroshocks him unconscious, and takes the suit. The next morning, Arthur tries to go back to his job as an accountant, but Tick follows him to work. Overkill shows up there, fights Tick, and knocks him out a window.

Party Crashers: Tick survives the fall, and Overkill is impressed by Arthur’s research on the Terror. He goes back to Dangerboat and argues with the finicky AI. A lot. Meanwhile, Dot has Arthur help her throw a birthday party for their stepfather Walter (Francois Chau). Ms. Lint argues with her ex Derek, who won’t give up his half of the condo. She discovers that the wing suit has imprinted on the first person to wear it--Arthur--gets the party’s address, and goes there to force Arthur to put on the suit and unimprint it. Tick ends up there as well and befriends Walter. Arthur uses a vacuum cleaner bag against Ms. Lint and jumps off the balcony, and the suit flies him off.


Fear of Flying: Dot finds out that Arthur is now a superhero because Tick is horrible at keeping secrets. Tick and Dot follow Arthur, who manages to land safely. Overkill shows up, and Ramses and his gang show up. A fight ensues, Ramses is captured, and they head back to Dangerboat to interrogate him. Meanwhile, Ms. Lint goes back to her condo and finds the Terror--alive and well!--waiting for her.

Rising: The Terror tells Ms. Lint that he faked his death to do a few things: learn the drums, kill bees, and work out his magnum opus of villainy. He also says that he’s been waiting for her to kill Ramses, take over, and live up to her full potential. Meanwhile, Arthur and Tick try to take Ramses to AEGIS, only to discover that it’s closed since all the heroes left the city. Wouldn't Arthur know this? The Pyramid Gang stages a rescue of Ramses by shooting a bus with a rocket launcher. Tick and Arthur save the passengers and are hailed as heroes. Ms. Lint kills Ramses and abducts Arthur. She takes him to the catacombs where the Terror is lairing, and the Terror reveals himself to Arthur and yells “Cliffhanger!”


Scattered throughout this is Clifford Richter, who is exposed to radioactive material and becomes giant-sized, becoming… Very Large Man! (V-L-M). In “Rising”, Superian refuses to let the military open fire on V-L-M, gets a headache even though he’s invulnerable, and uses his pumpkin spice heat vision.

The first couple of new episodes are not very thrilling. They mostly consist of Arthur refusing to embrace his destiny. So Arthur runs. Dot tells him not to be a superhero. Tick tells him to be a superhero. Repeat and rinse, with a lot of Tickisms thrown in. The most interesting thing is that they do confirm that Tick is real and not just a figment of Arthur’s imagination. Which is a question they kind of raised in the pilot. I get the impression the creative team realizes that they were too vague, since a) they make it clear, and b) they lampshade that they weren’t very clear.

The series perks up a bit with “Party Crashers”. For one thing we get to see more of supporting characters Ms. Lint and Overkill. Ms. Lint has an ex and they share a condo because neither one will sell off their half. Overkill has Dangerboat, and turns out to be just as full of himself as everyone else. He argues with his AI, he eats Fo-Ham, he monologues a bit when he’s alone.


We also get Walter, and I’m not sure what his deal is. He seems to be kind of senile with an obsession with feet and cheese (although not at the same time). Walter is a big fan of superheroes in general and embraces the Tick. Walter is played by long-time actor Francois Chau, (everything from G.I. Joe in 1985 to The Expanse in 2017) and it’s nice to see a character who actually likes superheroes. Everyone so far seems to be really anti-superhero.

Also in the first two episodes, it doesn’t help that no one is particularly likeable. Arthur is a coward, Dot tries to convince him not to be a superhero. And also kind of a hypocrite, since she’s telling Arthur to avoid criminals while helping stitch them up to finance her university classes. Ms. Lint is a villain, and Overkill is a barely-speaking killer. So “Party Crashers” helps move past this by giving Ms. Lint and Overkill personalities, and giving us Walter as a generally nice guy.


“Fear of Flying” gives us some actual superheroics. Overkill and Tick team up to take on the Pyramid Gang, and Tick stops Overkill (or as he calls him, “Mr. Stabby”), from killing bad guys. Dot seems to loosen up a bit. Overkill starts displaying more of a personality, although you wonder why they just didn’t call him “Big Shot” like the comic book version.

And Jackie Earle Haley finally arrives onscreen. And starts camping it up like crazy as the Terror. He also removes his hood/mask to reveal that the Terror’s face is actually all pitted and wrinkly and kinda Emperor Palpatine-ish.


“Rising” turns on the comedy in the form of Michael Cerveris. Who if you’ve only seen him as the Observer in Fringe, you’ll barely recognize him here. Overkill gives him truth serum, which has unfortunate side effects when mixed with Viagra. Ramses turns into a mellowed-out life counselor for some reason, but does confirm that the Terror is alive. He escapes Arthur and Tick, who end up saving a bus. At the end, our duo are recognized as heroes. Meanwhile, Superian shows up and is just as pretentious as we were led to believe in the pilot. And Jackie really goes to town with the monologuing, having his faceless minions take his jacket and set a dinner table, nailing Derek with platypus-venom darts, and telling Ms. Lint what he expects of her.

Overall, The Tick seems designed as a binging show. Not surprisingly, since it was released as such. If you weren’t so depressed by the first two new episodes, you’d probably drop it before getting to the good stuff in the third, fourth, and fifth episodes. It’s a bit of a slow build, but they drop most of the drama and go more with the comedy. We get to see more of the world that Arthur inhabits, via Ms. Lint and the Terror and Overkill and Dangerboat and Superian. And it’s a pretty goofy world, where giant naked men wander the countryside, Superian has pumpkin spice heat vision, and the pretentious Overkill is regularly undercut by his boat’s AI.


There are still odd timing issues. Like in “Fear of Flying” where the episode stops dead for a few minutes so that Overkill can watch a televised interview with Midnight, a dog and a member of the Flag Five who wasn’t there the day of the slaughter. While the idea of a talking dog helps to build the Tick universe slightly more, it seems intended more to give Townsend Coleman (the Tick in the animated series) an extended voice cameo. Why is Overkill watching this? Who knows?


Also, it’s hard to know what to make of the Tick. We find out that he doesn’t know if he’s wearing a costume, and that he has amnesia so he doesn’t remember anything before meeting Arthur. He has no personality other than “Exaggerated Superhero” and “Clueless”. Unlike the two earlier versions, the show is about Arthur, not the Tick. We don’t get to see the Tick having a battle of wits with a toilet or the American legal system. And there’s no “Spoon!” Maybe in the second half, since Arthur has been abducted. Even if he’s real, he’s still Harvey to Arthur’s Elwood Dowd.

But overall, Amazon’s The Tick remains good watching. I’ll tune into the second half when Amazon gets around to airing it. I wouldn’t watch it if it were any longer, so fortunately they kept it at a half-hour and sliced the season in half. It has a vibe somewhat similar to the late lamented Powerless on NBC. But it seems to have (eventually) learned from that show’s mistakes by focusing on the supertypes rather than the normal people in a superhero world. Which even Powerless was starting to veer away from. Maybe. Given NBC determined the air order by throwing titles in a hat and drawing one, it’s hard to say.

And hey, they both have Alan Tudyk in them.


But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
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