The Tick is as inherently likable as his name is absolutely unappealing. The big blue superhero of inexplicable origins and incredible strength is more like a lovable puppy than the bloodsucking arachnid found on them. He’s instantly endearing, and the more time spent with The Tick, the more love is felt for the pure-of-heart and utterly clueless crusader.
The Tick doesn’t know anything: where he’s from, how old he is, or even if he’s wearing a costume — the costume might be part of him! (In fact, referring to The Tick as a “he” may not be accurate, either.) But none of that matters. All that matters is justice. He just wants to do the right thing, at all times, while making everybody happy. His perpetual joy is infectious (again, like a puppy) and every time The Tick pops up, you know you’re only seconds away from a smile.
“The Tick,” however, is constantly working against its most welcomely infectious aspects. Rather than drape itself in admiration of The Tick’s purity, the new Amazon series resists the gung-ho do-gooder’s spirit. Worse yet, it doesn’t provide a good reason why.
Meet Arthur. Played by Griffin Newman, Arthur is your average office worker drone just trying to get by. But he’s not motivated by the comfort found in life’s mundanity. He wants a normal life because his psyche is still recovering from a scarring childhood experience. His father was killed right in front of him, as were his favorite superheroes, all by the ultimate villain, The Terror.
To this day, Arthur is convinced The Terror still exists, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. (The Terror was defeated by this universe’s equivalent of Superman.) So he gathers information, runs through conspiracy theories on reddit, and stalks suspicious activity in his city. Enter The Tick. Arriving just in time to save Arthur from his latest investigation, The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) is first a savior but soon serves as more of a stimulus.
It’s clear from the onset that Arthur wishes he was more like The Tick, but he’s been told over and over again to resist that desire. His sister, Dot (Valorie Curry), is his unofficial caretaker. She sacrifices her own wants to make sure Arthur is doing OK, reminding him daily that “Normal is what normal does.” It’s like a mantra meant to remind him what reality is, but The Tick wants Arthur to follow his “destiny.” He inspires Arthur to be more than the average person his family expects him to be.
Arthur is so beat down by his family’s low expectations he believes them himself. He tries to distance himself from The Tick again and again, agreeing with his sister that the big blue guy is a bad influence on him. He gets angry, annoyed, and even lashes out at a man (man?) who just wants to be his friend.
The message is clear: Don’t settle for an ordinary life; be extraordinary instead. As The Tick rebuts the status quo at every turn — from his bulletproof body to letting a broke business owner make payouts to the mob — the audience is meant to see the benefits of following your inner superhero. Arthur has been repressing it for so long, it makes sence that he wouldn’t embrace it right away, and Newman’s performance hits the right notes.
There are just too many notes and written in the wrong key. Arthur’s denial becomes tiresome after a few episodes and creates an adversarial relationship with The Tick. The two will likely get along by the end of Season 1, but that’s too much time wasted watching Arthur create his own obstacles to a better life. Worse yet, it bogs down a show that doesn’t listen to its own inspirational narrator.
Continue reading for what goes wrong with the new take on “The Tick” and a final grade.