Folks who went the Tick panel at Comic-Con 2017 got to hear creator Ben Edlund and the show’s cast and producers talk about the upcoming series. Attendees also got a big surprise: a screening of the second episode of the Big Blue Superguy’s Amazon series. Fellow citizens, it was freaking great.
(Caveat: I’m writing this up to the best of my memory, hours after the screening.)
Episode two opens almost exactly where last year’s pilot left off: a mysterious woman storms Arthur’s apartment to get a super-tech suit that the Tick brought back . A bullet shown in slow-mo is halfway across the room, and we see it flatten against the chest area of the suit, knocking Arthur to the ground. When he recovers, he yells “You can’t just shoot a person!” at the woman.
The woman starts jawing at Arthur about the suit and he says that he didn’t bring it back to his place. When asked who did, he gestures over his shoulder and says “He did” but there’s nobody there. As the thugs move toward Arthur, the Tick re-enters through the window, bellowing “Unhand that precious balloon of hope!” Bad Lady (not her actual real name or codename) asks Tick who he is, and he tells her “I am the Wild Blue Yonder.” She then zaps the Tick with successive electricity energy attacks, hollering “Why won’t you die?!” Tick yells back, “I don’t wannaaaa!”
As the battle rages, Tick says, “Let’s get you somewhere safe, chum!” and picks up Arthur and chucks him out of the window. Arthur lands on the roof painfully then frantically starts running from the scene of the fight. Then the opening credits—done up in a retro-cool style reminiscent of Saul Bass—roll.
Later, Arthur’s sister Dot is playing a roller derby practice scrimmage. She tells a friend that she’s worried that Arthur isn’t returning her texts. What Arthur is doing is catching his breath in an alley, until Tick suddenly and silently appears right next to him. Arthur notices that the Tick’s costume has changed from its nubbly look in the pilot to the new outfit seen in the latest trailer, saying “You look different!” “Thanks!” is the only thing Tick says. Tick congratulates Arthur on his first superhero fight and then asks the grey-suited accountant what his plan is. Arthur doesn’t have a plan, or even much of a grip on what’s happening. Tick confesses that he doesn’t have one either, saying that “Thought is not my area of expertise.”
Arthur then sneaks into a convenience store where a PSA is playing. The spot shows two kids poking a stick at luminescent green ooze and then cuts to the hero Superian explaining “not everything that glows gives you superpowers.” After listing what the ooze could be, Superian disaffectedly says, “You’re probably getting cancer right now.” Meanwhile, Arthur’s trying to steal a cheap plastic poncho from the store and Tick is aghast. The store owner spies Arthur trying to abscond with his goods and confronts him. Arthur tells the store owner he shouldn’t have a problem with what he’s doing because he pays protection money to organized crime. The store owner retorts that “at least organized crime is organized.” Tick’s nowhere to be seen while this is happening.
A group of Bad Lady-associated thugs follows Arthur in a SUV and he attempts to give them the suit so that they’ll just leave him alone. “Give it back to crime?! Are you insane?” Tick grumbles. He then lifts the SUV onto its side and shoves it down the street where it rights itself and drives away.
Tick tries to convince Arthur to keep the suit, arguing that recent events are proof that Arthur is meant to be a hero. Arthur pushes back by asking what problems do heroes solve. Tick’s response: “Heroes solve villains!” Arthur explains that all he wants to do is prove that the Terror is alive.
The scene shifts back to Dot again, as she talks to the owner of the rink where she and her EMS co-workers play roller derby. When she mentions that she’ll have their rent soon, he asks her into the back room for a favor. Inside are the Terror-men that Tick bashed up the night before. The owner asks Dot to stitch them up and says he’ll let the rent go if she does. The delirious thugs mutter about the guy who was like a big, blue tank that messed things up last night.
Back on the street, Tick and Arthur’s conversation continues, with the larger bluer man making noises about how this is Arthur’s saga, his life, his origin story. Tick intuits that the Terror took something from Arthur and the smaller guy explains that Terror killed his parents and the Flag Five superhero team when he was a child. Tick insists on hugging Arthur and an awkward clinch ensues, as Tick adds, “I’m the you you always wanted to be.” Arthur then freaks out and a quick montage of scenes from the past day’s mayhem skitters by. Fueled by the notion that no one else can see the Tick, Arthur’s convinced that he’s snapped and has been doing all this crazy would-be crimefighting himself.
He runs back to his apartment where he finds Dot waiting. She scolds him about not getting in touch with her and questions where he’s been and what he’s wearing. His erratic behavior prompts her to rattle off The Drill: “Normal is as normal does.” Arthur rambles that he’s really the big blue guy while Tick stands just behind him. But Dot indicates there’s a weirdo in their presence and Arthur yelps, “You can see him?!” Dot replies in the affirmative and asks our blue title his name. “I’m the Tick!” More yelping from Arthur: “You’re real?!” “Of course, I’m real,” Tick says. Dot talks to Tick who explains that he’s a superhero, defender of the defenseless, etc., etc.
Elsewhere, Bad Lady has a post-battle meeting with crimelord Ramses IV, whom she was supposed to be retrieving the suit for. They snipe at each other testily and Bad Lady goes back to her apartment, where a flashback ensues. The scene from the past has the Terror talking to a younger version of Bad Lady, who he compliments for being really great at doing bad things like a cake murder party. “Those nuns had it coming,” she replies. But Terror then chides her for killing two of his flamethrower henchmen. She says that they weren’t his best people and he admits that, “We don’t put our best people on flamethrowers.” The two baddies talk more and Bad Lady complains that she knows that the henchfolk call her Miss Lint behind her back, because her electrical powers makes lint hover around her and stick to her body.
Terror tells her “You don’t kill people because they call you names; you kill them because it’s fun.” He then tells her to take the derisive nickname and turn it into her new sense of self, gifting her with bracelets that will help her control her electrostatic charge.
Back in the present, Tick tells Arthur that he can’t let Dot talk in into “this normal thing.” A mysterious silhouette has been keeping tabs on Arthur from a rooftop. When the thugs from earlier show up again and start parleying with Arthur, they get killed in extreme fashion by a gun-toting vigilante who’d been briefly shown earlier. The faux-Deathstroke demands that Arthur gives him the suit, only to grapple-hook away when cops show up. Arthur stammers at the cops as they call in the incident. And the episode ends as one of the officers muttering, “We’ve got a superhero here.”
If the second episode of The Tick is any indication, this show’s going to be a goldmine of absurd, self-aware superhero one-liners. As I watched, I saw my future self texting the snappy, goofy dialogue to friends and co-workers I know will be watching. But it already seems like The Tick’s going to do more than just be funny. Episode two continues my favorite aspect of the pilot, which is the wry self-awareness that subverts genre convention and audience expectation. After setting up the possibility that Arthur has been hallucinating the Tick—and the expectation that such a plot thread would be a slow reveal over multiple chapters—Edlund and company snakily provide an instant reversal when Dot sees and talks to the Tick. It’s the kind of thing that you do when you know that the audience is readily versed in the kinds of beats that superhero fiction uses regularly.
During the panel discussion and Q&A that followed after the screening, Edlund hit on that point by saying now is the time when the highest number of people are ready to get the series’ jokes. “We’re all bathing in a giant cereal bowl of superhero stuff, so let’s all listen to some rice krispies,” said the writer/producer.
Peter Serafincowicz, who plays the title character, said that upon first reading the script, he was touched by the idea of the Tick being a super-powerful toddler whose loneliness was his vulnerability and how the show was sentimental without being mawkish or syrupy. Later on, he cited Adam West as an inspiration for his portrayal of the wacky superhero and observed that the Tick is the embodiment of a pure essence of being a superhero. “He has simple values,” Serafinowicz said. “He wants to save people and eradicate evil. Anything beyond that confuses him.”
When discussing the Terror, Jackie Earl Haley said that character he’s playing is Tick’s total opposite, obsessed with hurting everything that he can. Brendan Hines plays Superian, and described his character—who’s been saving the Earth from threats for 100 years—as hopelessly square and completely detached from humanity. He’s lonely there’s nobody like him on Earth but he’s so far removed from the peoples’ lives he saves that he hardly even talks to regular folk.
Edlund said that loneliness is a big quotient in the show, and Yara Martinez said that her character Miss Lint has probably always been lonely. “I can see her as a little kid with a picture of the Terror over her bed,” she mused. When a question about yet this new incarnation of The Tick came up, producer Barry Josephson said that Amazon understood what Edlund is trying to do with the series. Compared to previous network iterations, Josephson said, “This is Ben’s version of the Tick, for better or for worse.”
Right now, it looks like this iteration is definitely for the better. The first six episodes of The Tick will be available to watch on Amazon Prime Video on August 25.