That The Tick has returned (with a pilot that debuted last year and five more episodes premiering on Amazon today) shouldn’t come as any kind of great surprise in this era of rampant reboots, even if the previous live action version only existed for a couple of months in late 2001 and early 2002 after years as a Saturday morning cartoon and a comic book. A pre-existing fan base must feel warm and comforting to development executives when surveying which shows to put on the air in an uncertain media climate. And reboots are good for getting that kind of attention. But unlike most other reboots and long-awaited continuations, this new incarnation of The Tick isn’t filled with familiar faces and its tone won’t cause nostalgia tingles for the old show. But that only makes it better.
The world of The Tick is more gritty and real than what fans of the Patrick Warburton-starring live action series will remember. Wally Pfister — who worked with Christopher Nolan for many years, including on Nolan’s Batman movies — directs the first two episodes and helps establish the realistic tone. This helps create a contrast between normal people and the series’ superheroes and villains. Still, despite looking and feeling like a standard superhero show or movie (many of which have been influenced by Pfister and Nolan’s work) — complete with the occasional bit of bloody violence and chaos — series and character creator Ben Edlund remains committed to wringing comedy out of superheroics.
Peter Serafinowicz is now the man in the blue suit playing the dim-but-brave Tick. But in a departure from convention, the hero isn’t tasked with carrying the narrative load. That falls to his sidekick, Arthur (Griffin Newman). The Tick is the muscle, dispensing his unique brand of uncomplicated heroic wisdom in bursts that make it seem like he’s some kind of catchphrase generator. The bulk of this is delivered with a tone of satisfaction and righteousness that almost seems to mockingly call back to the George Reeves/Superman hunky dory heroes that were long ago banished to the far reaches of the comic book world.
In the first episode we learn that, as a child, Arthur watched as a supervillain named The Terror (Jackie Earl Haley) decimated his favorite superheroes (a Fantastic Four stand-in known as The Flag Five) after their ship crash-landed on top of Arthur’s father. It’s his tormented backstory and his obsessive efforts to chase down a conspiracy theory about The Terror (and not the Tick’s barely explored origins, which are teased as a possible catalyst for his ceaseless determination) that serves as a road map for the show as Arthur and the Tick’s paths cross.