This review of The Tick contains no spoilers.
When The Tick first debuted on Amazon Prime two and a half years ago (yes, it really has been that long), it could reasonably lay claim to being the strangest superhero show on television….even if it wasn’t that weird.
Based on the comic book character by Ben Edlund (who also created and produces the show), The Tick Season 1 starred the invulnerable amnesiac super as he made grand speeches about destiny while wearing his trademark goofy blue costume. The show followed The Tick, Arthur, and a colorful array of superheroes in an equally colorful world accustomed to dealing with superheroes. Alan Tudyk even voiced a talking boat who was seemingly in love with one of the central characters. The Tick was Watchmen with a (non blood stained) smile.
Now, just two years later, The Tick can no longer claim to be TV’s most inventive or off the wall superhero show.Properties like Legends of Tomorrow, Doom Patrol, and Marvel’s Runaways have convincingly lapped it in terms of sheer superhero zaniness. Hell, The Tick is not even the superhero show featuring the strangest character played by Alan Tudyk airing right now.That honor goes to Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody on DC Universe’s Doom Patrol.
Still despite losing the hallowed crown of high strangeness, The Tick Season 2 is an entirely enjoyable watching experience for the same reason The Tick Season 1 was: this thing can tell a story.
For all of its inventive goofiness (and there is still quite a bit of it this year, including an anthropomorphic lobster villain known as “Lobstercules”), The Tick has a surprisingly strong handle on the fundamentals of superhero storytelling. Just as The Tick Season 1 told a pitch-perfect superhero origin story within all the madcap madness, The Tick Season 2 superbly handles the next next chapter in the story of Arthur Everest: Superhero.
Fittingly, The Tick Season 2 begins with Arthur telling his muscle-bound crimefighting partner that he’s ready to accept his role as hero. He doesn’t do so atop a mountain as lightning strikes or in a rainy alley, hovering over the body of a murdered loved one. He literally does so as he’s getting dressed in the morning and The Tick is searching for a pot of coffee.
The marrying of the mundane and the magical is the kind of worldbuilding that The Tick excels at. The world of The Tick is one where superheroes are simply apart of the daily fabric of life thanks to the 28th Amendment. Therefore my wouldn’t Arthur decide to continue on the archetypical heroes journey with the same thought process in which he would decide to accept a job.
That hero’s journey continues on this season with the introduction of The Tick and Arthur’s most deadly stumbling block yet: bureaucracy. Following The Terror-induced destruction at the end of last season, SHIELD-like federal agency AEGIS (it’s an acronym but unclear for what) has decided that the city could probably use some federal oversight. At one point, an AEGIS agent even tells Arthur and The Tick to think of AEGIS as a “government-funded ‘shield.’” Copyright avoidance attempt, duly noted. AEGIS reopens its local bureau with the venerable Tyrannosaurus “Ty” Rathbone (Marc Kudisch) at the helm. AEGIS invites Arthur and The Tick in for some superhero testing and hopefully for Arthur, a chance to audition for the reboot of The Flag Five.
The addition of AEGIS to the new season is another logical step in building out Edlund’s world of very public superheroes. The Tick Season 2 examines superherodom from a public relations angle with one hero in particular keeping a close eye on his Instagram likes. AEGIS also introduces a certain level of political intrigue that fits pretty well for the show. Kudisch as Rathbone is the perfect Nick Fury-type and John Hodgman has a blast Hodgmanning up the role of AEGIS scientist Agent Doctor Hobbes. The political and bureaucratic stuff is all pretty benign, of course.The Tick Season 2 is by no means The Tick: The Winter Soldier, but merely addressing the questions of governmental oversight and public relations works really well for the story. It also gives Arthur a chance to indulge in his true superpower: filing paperwork.
Of the show’s cast, the two stars remain the most indelible fits. Peter Serafinowicz continues to shine as the gleefully simple Tick. It’s a role that doesn’t require much introspection on an actor’s part and Serafinowicz has an excellent handle on just how shallow to make the big lovable lug. It’s still Newman, however, that makes the whole thing run. Newman’s Arthur is the cornerstone of the show as seemingly the only person in the city without superpowers (which are given an X-Men-like category system this year) but still is somehow best suited to be a hero.
Arthur’s ascending superhero journey is crucial to grounding the show in something real amid the madness and Newman is exactly the guy to do it. In fact, Arthur and Tick’s shared story is so effective that, like in Season 1, they tend to overshadow their other super and non-super contemporaries. Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry) is still hanging out Overkill (Scott Speiser) who is in turn really struggling with his promise to Tick not to kill people anymore. Superian (Brendan Hines) is off doing his best Doctor Manhattan impression but only with more regrettable flannel. Of the non-Tick and non-Arthur ensemble Ms Lint (Yara Martinez) is the strongest, though that is probably because her storyline dovetails so nicely with the season’s public relations angle. She also gains a dour teenage quartermaster named “Edge Lord” who is just the absolute best.
Just as in its first season, The Tick constantly threatens to collapse in on its own silly self. The level of off-the-wall superhero concepts combined with a day-glow tone could easily come off as cringey…and sometimes it does. But the show’s heart is pure and more importantly its sense of storytelling is strong. It’s hard to view The Tick Season 2 as anything other than a success.
And that’s kind of the baffling part. It feels like there has to be a superhero bubble coming, right? There just has to be. A second season of The Tick, a show seemingly rendered redundant by the new superhero TV landscape, should have been the beginning of that burst bubble. But here The Tick is – plugging away, maintaining its niche, and presenting another fine 10-episode arc. Perhaps the superhero bubble still has room to grow as long as we keep getting heroes as pure, fun, and good as The Tick and Arthur.