You don’t have to look hard to find superheroes on television or at the movie theater. Spandex is very much in style at the moment, and the glut of superheroes means that there’s no shortage of overly serious or absolutely absurd heroes and villains. For over 30 years, Ben Edlund’s The Tick has been lampooning the tropes of the superhero genre in a variety of mediums – in the pages of comic books, in an animated series, in a short-lived live-action series, and now the latest incarnation, a live-action series on Amazon Prime. The Tick returns to Amazon Prime for its second season and once again the big blue hero proves to be endlessly endearing as Edlund’s enduring creation continues to adapt to perfectly lampoon the ever-evolving nature of superheroes.
At the conclusion of the first season, The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) and Arthur (Griffin Newman) were victorious over the reclusive villain The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). But the defeat of The Terror opens a void for more supervillains to rise, and that prompts the reemergence of the agency A.E.G.I.S. led by General Ty Rathbone (Marc Kudisch). A.E.G.I.S. is called a shield but isn’t S.H.I.E.L.D., you see? A.E.G.I.S. is going to usher in a new age of heroes with the help of Dr. Agent Hobbes (John Hodgman) and The Tick and Arthur are prime candidates to become part of the new Flag Five, a team of heroes that were originally killed by The Terror. Becoming a member of the Flag Five is a lifelong dream for Arthur, though he has to deal with inadequacies rooted in the fact that he has no superpowers beyond his super-suit.
Elsewhere in The City, various characters from the first season are dealing with the fallout from The Terror’s defeat. The Superman-like Superian (Brendan Hines) is in the midst of a crisis of conscience, dealing with the media scrutiny after failing to defeat The Terror and left to contemplate his role as a hero. Also in the midst of a personal crisis is Overkill (Scott Speiser), the ultra-violent vigilante, who has sworn to The Tick that he will no long be a killer. As Overkill’s sentient vessel Dangerboat (voiced by Alan Tudyk) attempts to forge a bond with Arthur, Overkill creates an unlikely bond with Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry). Lurking in the shadows of The City is the nefarious Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez), who is retooling in secret with the help of her new tech-savvy sidekick Edgelord (Julian Cihi). While Ms. Lint schemes The City faces a new threat in a string of heists led by the powerful Lobstercules.
This second season of The Tick sees the cast and crew brimming with more confidence as it’s apparent that everyone working on the show has a firm grasp of its unusual world and the offbeat tone it’s striking. That collective confidence goes a long way in establishing the show’s sense of humor, one that is at once celebrating the absurdity of comic books while gleefully lambasting its tropes. The comedy of The Tick works because it comes from a place of love for its genre and never does the show act as if it’s better than the material it’s lampooning. It also illustrates just how The Tick is able to endure as a character, as Edlund has a keen awareness of how the zeitgeist around comic books and superheroes have shifted and is able to capture the essence of what we love about the thick-skulled character while transporting him into a world of superheroes that more closely resemble those that currently grace the silver screen.
A retooled costume for The Tick frees star Peter Serafinowicz to be more physical with his pitch perfect performance as the big blue hero. He captures the dopey optimism of the character as he delivers wordy monologues about destiny and the nature of heroism. Serafinowicz was great in the first season of The Tick but somehow finds a way to up his game in the sophomore season of the show. Opposite Serafinowicz is Griffin Newman as the sidekick Arthur, and Newman effectively conveys the nervous energy of the rather normal person thrust into the role of superhero sidekick. What’s most fascinating about the dynamic between these two characters is the way in which The Tick is impervious to everything, including major plot revelations. This hoists Arthur into the role of the show’s protagonist, an unusual example where the sidekick is truly the lead. Season two of The Tick, much like the first season, is driven by Arthur’s desire to find where he fits in the ever-expanding world of superheroes.
Another part of The Tick that is just an absolute joy is the robust cast of unusual supporting players. There’s aforementioned superheroes Overkill and Dangerboat as well as the villains Lobstercules and Ms. Lint. This season introduces some other new heroes, including potential members of the Flag Five such as Flexon (Steven Ogg), a Mr. Fantastic-like man of elastic; Bronze Star (Adam Henry Garcia), a gold-covered hero who looks more like a street performer; and my personal favorite Sage (Clé Bennett), a Dr. Strange-like mystic with an incredibly powerful third nipple. There’s always something odd around the corner in each episode of The Tick that you just have to sit back and wait for whatever insanity emerges next, and there are plenty of other astonishing surprises that have been withheld from this review as they may constitute spoilers.
The superhero craze that has engulfed pop culture has shown no signs of abating, and it’s only going to get crazier in the coming months with Avengers: Endgame around the corner. Superheroes have become the modern mythology, a beacon of hope and optimism as real life seemingly grows darker by the day. The fact that superheroes have become so deeply ingrained within the psyche of pop culture is why we need a show like The Tick. Because of all the speculation about unseen movies and the anger that arises in meaningless debates over fictional characters means people lose sight of what costumed heroes really are – pretty damn silly. The Tick embraces every aspect of superheroes and finds a way to mold it into a fresh comedic package, mocking and honoring the complicated legacy of comic book heroes. As superheroes continue dominate every aspect of pop culture, The Tick is there to answer destiny’s call. Spoon!
A comedic spoof and homage to superhero tropes, The Tick returns for a triumphant second season that expands its world of unusual costumed heroes led by the great duo of Peter Serafinowicz as the eponymous big blue hero and Griffin Newman as the meek sidekick Arthur.