Superhero Antics and Offbeat Absurdity Collide in Amazon’s ‘The Tick’
There have already been two adaptations of the parody superhero in the big blue suit and the animated antennae — first as a cartoon in the 90s and then in the early 00s featuring Patrick Warburton. Now a new edition of “The Tick” is coming to the small screen via Amazon, and it looks to continue the offbeat tone of its predecessors, with an added dash of reality.
Before we meet The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz), we learn a little more about the world we’re living in. Superheroes are real, and the main one in town, Superian, has defeated a threat known as The Terror over a decade ago. But Arthur (Griffin Newman), who as a child witnessed his dad die as a result of The Terror’s actions, is determined to prove the villain is still alive. Arthur is haunted by his father’s death, and suffers from vague mental illness that requires medication. The appearance of The Tick calls his sanity into question, as it appears for quite some time that The Tick might not be a real individual (he is eventually proven to be). The two become a reluctant team when Arthur acquires a stolen super suit, and Tick sees his prowess with research in his quest for The Terror.
The mix of the real and the exaggerated makes the series work, almost like DC and Marvel took their dark and light approaches and threw them in an absurdist blender. Arthur’s hesitation to really get involved in the fight and the question of his mental health ground the comic book elements. The Tick and the villains, from Miss Lint’s (Yara Martinez, a true standout) sinister but dandruffy attitude, to the gang leader Ramses’ focus on branding, offer the over the top and satirical elements that make the humor work. The world building is also done subtly, effectively and hilariously. A PSA for kids to not try to become superheroes by avoiding toxic waste concludes with the line “It’s probably giving you cancer.” It’s a perfect example of the light and dark tone within the show.
Serafinowicz offers a different take on The Tick from Warburton, but it absolutely works in the context of the show. His version of the “Big Blue Bug of Justice” comes off as a person pretending to be a superhero, with the affected announcer voice for every sentence and sometimes awkward upright posture. The Tick doesn’t remember much before the events of the series, but it never seems to really get him down. He’s more hurt when Arthur doesn’t want to be his sidekick. Hearing him say “Unhand that precious balloon of hope!” with authority is a laugh out loud moment, and he has a multitude of weird lines about “lady destiny” that add to his grandiose and silly demeanor.
Newman, as the worried Arthur, is an excellent foil for Serafinowicz’s enthusiastic portrayal. He plays Arthur with the proper reluctance of someone who gets mixed up in the wrong situation. Even with the super suit, he doesn’t suddenly become a super hero right alongside Tick. Arthur is thrown out a window and attempts to deploy the suit’s wings, but ends up crashing on top of a car instead. And, even four episodes in, he still struggles with the idea that he’s become involved with super heroes and villains when he tries to go to his step-dad’s birthday party without incident (but it is of course crashed by The Tick and Miss Lint).
Mixing humor, reality, and some decent action as well, “The Tick” is an excellent addition to the glut of super hero material out there.
“The Tick” premieres on Amazon Aug. 25.