For a while now I’ve been seeing all kinds of ads for The Tick. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TV. I haven’t been able to get away from them. I wasn’t too interested in watching The Tick. I’d seen the old cartoon in the ’90’s. I hadn’t really liked it back then. They had made another live action version of the Tick a while back as well, I didn’t even bother with it. In fact it barely registered on my radar. But the million ads from Amazon and the fact that I barely use Amazon Video that I’m paying for made me decide to give it a go.
Fair warning, spoilers ahead.
Alight, first off, this is not the cartoon. In fact, it is not for kids. As you read this review, that should become very clear. But seriously, don’t watch this around your younger ones, there’s no sexual content, but unless you’re prepared to explain what syphilis is to them, wait till they aren’t around to watch it. (yes, the show manages to throw in syphilis and not have sexual content) I was expecting The Tick to be funny. I remember a lot of stupid jokes in the cartoon, like with the moon with Chair Face’s name partially written. (See above) Which isn’t to say that The Tick is without its moments of humor, but this is not a comedy. If you’ve seen the ads most of the funny moments, is pretty much in the ads. Though watching Dot (Arthur’s Sister) walk between two super powered people in order to chew him out about hanging out with superheroes was pretty funny. Particularly when they decide not to fight because “The moment is gone” or “I’m not feeling it anymore”. Or the supervillan who is constantly plagued by flying bits of lint due to her electric charge. At one point she’s actually defeated by an exploding vacuum when a cloud of dirt and dust comes flying her way clinging to her for the rest of the episode. The Tick of course has his moments when asked “Why won’t you die?” His witty retort “Because I don’t wanna!” And yeah, that was most of the humor right there. So everyone looking for The Tick that makes you laugh out loud, I’d suggest trying to find the old cartoon, cause you aren’t going to find much more than that here.
Second, the show is called “The Tick”. It should really be called “Arthur: Not in the Face!” (Unfortunately The Tick and Arthur never come up with their battle cries). The word Arthur is probably used more than any other word in the entire show. The show truly revolves around Arthur. To the point that there are very few scenes in which Arthur isn’t there and I’m hard pressed to think of any with The Tick in which Arthur isn’t also present.
Arthur’s history and backstory is explored the most in the show as well. We see fairly early on how the superhero team “the fab 5” is defeated by the worst supervillian The Terror. They have syphilis sprayed in their eyes causing them to all go blind and then are shot by The Terrors henchmen mostly execution style. This is all right in front of child Arthur, who has also just witnessed his dad being killed by the Fab 5’s ship falling right on top of him. Also, Arthur has been playing with a toy Fab 5 ship. After all of that, The Terror sees Arthur, goes up to him, pulls a quarter out from behind his ear. There’s also someone hiding in a store behind Arthur taking pictures not doing anything to help out the shocked and terrified child.
I’m not sure if Arthur’s backstory is meant to be funny. I caught the irony of his heroes (something we see via various flashbacks) being the ones to blindly kill his father. I suppose it was meant to be funny that the superhero team was defeated via an STD sprayed into their eyes making them go blind (Get it! keep doing that and you’ll go blind! haha oh they’re funny). Whatever humor might have been there is ultimately crushed by having watched Arthurs father get crushed. The execution of the heroes sucks any sense of humor out of the scene as well.
The Tick was always meant as something of a spoof of the Comic Book Super Hero genre/trope, and that remains within The Tick. A super powered alien who can fly, has super hearing, heat ray/pumpkin spice vision (I am not making that up) super strength etc. But he’s not Superman! No, he’s Superion. There’s a brief subplot with a “very large man” which is a giant naked man who appears to be really really out of it as he meanders towards a populated area. At least they make it a point to blur out the giant dong.
Other colorful characters include The Punisher….er…Overkill, an anti hero who uses all kinds of weapons to “Punish” criminals. He’s aided by his trusty companion Jarvis…er…boat, a sentient AI boat that he has a back and forth with until he tells it to “Shut the fuck up” The aforementioned villain with static cling. Even a talking sidekick/partner dog who in an interview proclaims “There is no God, only Dog”. I’m not really sure why this part was needed, but whatever it’s there. A mob boss obsessed with Egypt calling himself Ramses, because sure why not.
The show is a strange mish mash of wants. It wants to be a serious superhero show, but uses what I’ll refer to as parodies of superheroes. It wants to be a comedy, but never manages to be all that funny, and those moments that are don’t happen very often. I didn’t read any of The Tick comics, nor do I recall the old cartoon all that well, except for SPOOOOOOON! and Not in the face! And of course for Chair-Face (Taser-Face?) managing to write CHA on the moon. But if Amazon was trying to capitalize on whatever nostalgia there might be for that old cartoon, I don’t think this show is going to manage that.
Despite all that, I did enjoy The Tick somewhat. It ends on a cliff hanger, with a villain telling Alexis to “Play Ominous music” (Oh, I forgot about that, that was pretty funny, and good product placement there Amazon! This is probably the most cleverly written part of the entire show. Its also the final bit.) Arthur is completely believable as a mild mannered accountant who’s never quite sure if what he’s seeing is real or not. (he has some mental issues, see backstory above). Its great seeing him go from guy who just wants to live his life to the guy finally making the decision to be a hero. The Tick is believable as a loveable buffoon, the epitome of brawns over brains. He fully acknowledges it and tells Arthur he’s a bit fuzzy on the mental part, and that’s why he needs him. He still speaks in strange metaphors for everything, that somehow makes sense while not making sense. The Tick’s action scenes are mostly of him walking through a hail of bullets from various attackers and swatting or flicking them aside like you would an annoying gnat. The entire cast throws themselves into their parts, bringing both the seriousness and the ridiculous.
The Tick isn’t a bad show. But it’s not quite a good show. It needs to figure out what it wants. Is it a comedy? Is it a superhero show? Is it just out to shock you? Is it going to be more character based or action based? (At the moment, its primarily character, action scenes are few and far between) Marvel has shown that its possible to make good, funny action superheroes. They do it by not taking themselves too serious, even parodying themselves (See new Thor trailer when he suggests a name for his team.) Its entirely possible to do all of these things. The Tick simply hasn’t figured it out. Personally I’d like to see them lay off the shocking backstory and lighten it up a bit. Give it a bit more humor, I think that’s what The Tick really needs, and should excel at. It’s also what the ads and trailers were promising, a send up of the super hero trope, but its ultimately not what The Tick is delivering.
Hopefully they figure it out for the next season. The first season is only 6 episodes long, so you aren’t spending a whole lot of time invested in the show. I’ll give it a good 3/5, and if you’ve got nothing better to do, go ahead, give it a watch. Unless you haven’t watched The Defenders in which case go watch that first. Its ok, I’ll wait.