tek's rating: ½

The Tick, on Amazon
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Caution: potential spoilers.

A little history lesson, in case you're unfamiliar with the title character of this series: The Tick began as a series of comic books starting in 1986, but I never read them. My first experience with the character was probably in the fall of 1995, when I went to college, and got the chance to start watching the cartoon based on the comics. (It had started a year earlier, but until going to college, I didn't have access to FOX, on which the show aired.) Anyway, I quickly fell in love with the show's somewhat surreal, very absurd, and I'd say vaguely philosophic form of humor and heroics. Then in 2001, there was a short-lived, live-action sitcom about the Tick (also on FOX), which wasn't really as good as the cartoon, but it was okay. And then came this live-action Amazon webseries, the third show to be based on the comics. The pilot was released (for free) in August 2016, but I didn't watch it until January 2017. Five more episodes were released in August 2017 (not for free, unless you have Amazon Prime or Prime Video). Together, those six episodes were just half of the first season; the other six episodes were released in February 2018. A 10-episode second season was released in April 2019.

Season One
Fifteen years before the series begins, a team of superheroes called the Flag Five were killed by a supervillain called The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) and his henchmen. This was witnessed by a young boy named Arthur Everest, and what made it particularly traumatic was that his father, an innocent bystander, was killed as collateral damage in the incident. Since then, Arthur has had occasional psychological difficulties, and has become obsessed with finding the Terror . Most of the world believes the villain was killed by an alien superhero called Superian sometime after the Terror had killed the Flag Five. The series begins with Arthur as an adult (now an accountant), who believes the Terror has been in hiding all these years. One night, while secretly spying on some members of the Pyramid Gang, Arthur meets a big, blue superhero called the Tick. Tick is kind of... weird. He believes very strongly in destiny, not just for himself, but for Arthur. He steals an experimental, moth-like flying suit from the gangsters, and later gives it to Arthur. But as much as Arthur wants to find the Terror, he has no interest in becoming a superhero, himself. So he finds the Tick's attention very frustrating. Meanwhile, he can at least rely on the support of his sister, Dot, a medical student and EMT... though unbeknownst to Arthur, Dot is secretly doing some side work as a mob doctor for the Pyramid Gang (though it's not something she really wants to do). She also becomes very concerned about Arthur's association with the Tick, who is constantly putting Arthur in danger.

Anyway... the Pyramid Gang is run by a guy who calls himself Ramses IV. His main enforcer is a woman called Miss Lint, who has electrical powers (which come with the unfortunate side-effect of statically attracting lint to her, hence the nickname; her real name is Janet). She was once the Terror's second in command, and loathes having to work for Ramses, now. But she has been tasked with retrieving the moth suit from Arthur. (Which, I must say, is much more technologically advanced than any previous incarnation of Arthur's flying suit from the comics or other shows. So it's really hard for Arthur to figure out how to use.) Oh, I should also mention that Miss Lint's roommate is her ex-husband, Derek, who's kind of annoying. And... things get more complicated for Arthur and the Tick when they meet a vigilante called Overkill, whose name suits him quite well; unlike true superheroes, he's not above killing the bad guys. (The Tick very much disapproves of the extreme violence Overkill uses in fighting crime.) But Overkill also wants to find the Terror. And he has a base of operations, a high tech boat called Dangerboat (which has an AI voiced by Alan Tudyk). Even Dangerboat doesn't get along well with Overkill. (But it does develop unrequited romantic feelings for Arthur, for some reason.)

At the end of the first half of the season, we finally see that the Terror is alive, and he resumes control of his old gang from Ramses. He also kidnaps Arthur. In the second half of the season, the Tick, Overkill, and Dot rescue him, along with a scientist named Dr. Karamazov, who had created Arthur's moth suit. And... I guess I don't want to reveal too many details about the rest of the season. But the Tick and Arthur have to learn what the Terror's plan is, and how to stop him. Which of course they eventually do. But there are some intriguing twists, which hopefully will be explained in season two.

Anyway, the show is both really funny and considerably more serious than any previous incarnation of the "Tick" franchise. I really like the way all of the characters are portrayed, and the Tick in particular reminds me very much of the 1990s cartoon version, in the way he thinks, speaks, and acts. (It's also worth noting that toward the start of the series, it seems as if we're supposed to wonder if the Tick is just a hallucination Arthur is having, though I never really found that likely, and it didn't take long for it to be clearly demonstrated that the Tick is quite real. However, he has no memory of his past before meeting Arthur, and is very hopeful of learning about his own origins.) Also, there's a talking dog named Midnight, who is voiced by Townsend Coleman, who previously voiced the Tick on the cartoon series, so that's neat. I also really like Miss Lint, and Dot, and the Terror is a fun villain.

Season Two
Tick begins training Arthur to be a superhero. Arthur quits his job when he finds out his employer doesn't want any superheroes working there. Dot realizes she wants to do something more fulfilling, herself. And Overkill is upset about having promised Tick not to kill people anymore. (In the first episode, Tick is molting, and I thought that would become important, but it was never mentioned again.) Anyway... since the takedown of the Terror in season one, a government agency called A.E.G.I.S. (basically an expy for Marvel's "S.H.I.E.L.D.") reopens its long-abandoned branch in the City, led by Commander-Agent Tyrannosaurus 'Ty" Rathbone. The second in command is a scientist named Doctor-Agent Hobbes (John Hodgman). They begin recruiting superheroes (called "categories") and have tryouts for a new Flag Five, which Arthur hopes to join. Other heroes we meet include Flexon, Sage, and Bronze Star. Meanwhile, Superian has a sort of existential crisis, as people lose their faith in him, and he looks to Arthur for advice. Dot spends time training with Overkill to become a vigilante. And Miss Lint takes over the remnants of the Terror's gang, though mostly we just see her talking with a henchman named Frank. Eventually she hires a weapons designer who calls himself Edgelord to make her a superhero suit, and she starts fighting crime under the alias "Joan of Arc." ("Arc" is a pun, because electricity.) At first that's just to eliminate rival gangs, but before long it starts to seem as if she might actually become one of the good guys... or not. It's really never clear what her true goals may be, but it's certainly interesting to see her try to figure it out, herself, while always being as sarcastic as ever.

Anyway, Tick and Arthur hunt down a new villain called Lobstercules, a humanoid lobster who has been working with a gang. Eventually, Arthur learns that she's actually a victim, as the gang had kidnapped her babies (which essentially look like normal lobsters) and forcing her to work with them. (She's voiced by Liz Vassey, which I thought was cool, since she had a more prominent role in FOX's earlier "Tick" series.) So... Tick and Arthur rescue her babies from the gang, though for much of the season, Lobstercules herself is held prisoner by AEGIS, while Flexon acts as her attorney, trying to arrange her release. Meanwhile, Overkill and Dot search for a mysterious villain called the Duke, and that subplot will eventually tie in to the season's main plot, which involves a mole within AEGIS. Also, we learn something surprising about Dot, which I don't want to spoil. Also, I guess I didn't mention Arthur and Dot's parents in season one, but they were there. And they have a larger presence in season two. I mean, their mother, Joan (Patricia Kalember), and their stepfather, Walter (François Chau). At the end of season one, we learned that Walter had a major secret, though its exact nature was unclear. We learn all about it this season, but I won't spoil it. Another character from season one who has a larger role this season is Tinfoil Kevin, who has a secret of his own. But again, I don't want to spoil that. And... eventually the new Flag Five are chosen. They include Tick, Arthur, Sage, Bronze Star, and... Joan of Arc. Of course, Arthur and Tick remain suspicious of Joan, since they know she's really Miss Lint.

Other than that, I guess I don't want to reveal any more of what happens, specifically. But of course the good guys ultimately defeat the main villain, whose identity I don't want to reveal. And there are a few hints of some very intriguing potential future storylines. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled, so I guess we probably won't get to see those stories play out. (Unless some other network picks up the series, or it gets adapted into a comic book, or something. But I'm not holding my breath.)

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The Tick
shows: 1994 animated TV series * 2001 live-action TV series * 2017 live-action webseries
comics: a bunch of stuff I never read * The Tick New Series