Amazon’s “The Tick” is the third adaptation of the comic book of the same name and in many respects, can be considered a reboot of the live-action television series from a decade before.
While it is questionable if “The Tick” really needed another series based on this character, Amazon’s new take brings a dark edge that makes it worthy of a stream for both cult followers of the series and those who don’t know a Tick from a Spider-Man.
The story centers around an accountant by the name of Arthur Everest, played by Griffin Newman, whose mental instability leaves him questioning what is real and what is not. Arthur has stopped taking his medication that keep his delusions in check right around the same time he witnesses a group of villains smuggling weapons.
The audience is left unsure of whether the events which Arthur discusses with his sister actually happened or not, as she practically pleads him to keep his medical dosage even. The only person who paid witness to the event was a superhero wearing a tight-blue suit who won’t leave Arthur alone and has a mysterious connection to his past.
There are two conflicting tones throughout the pilot that don’t quite blend together, but it seems to be a conscious point that is made by the creative team. The world and tone of the show is dark and gritty, yet the superheroes and villains that inhabit it are so ridiculous that they wouldn’t feel out of place in an Adam West “Batman” episode. While this would be a major problem in a more traditional superhero story, the questionable psyche of the main character brings to question how much of what is happening on screen is exactly as it seems.
Arthur is a sympathetic protagonist and without him, “The Tick” would be a confusing mess tonally. If everything that is going on around him is true, then his reactions reveal a man way in over his head. If what he has observed is a delusion, then he is truly a tragic figure. There is a lot here that can develop into something new and unique as long as Arthur is kept the center of attention.
That isn’t to say that the Tick himself, played by Peter Serafinowicz, isn’t amusing. But if this version of “The Tick” didn’t have Arthur, he would just be another smug pseudo do-gooder in an entertainment industry that has about a billion of them. The performance is equal parts genuine and insane but isn’t quite as memorable as Patrick Warburton’s take on the character in 2001. The problem is that Serafinowicz’s take on the Tick has been done better, whereas Arthur feels unique unto himself.
There is a risk that after a few episodes, “The Tick” could devolve into just another superhero show, or worse, a clone of what has already been done with the characters. One thing that helped the previous live-action adaptation is that its tongue was so firmly placed in cheek that it could explore all kinds of goofy scenarios without it feeling awkward.
The Amazon version won’t have that liberty. It runs the risk of being too serious to be fun, but too goofy to be dramatically satisfying if the balance goes just slightly off from episode to episode.
As it stands now, “The Tick” is an interesting but unremarkable start to what could be a truly unique series for Amazon’s streaming service. It is so far removed from anything Netflix is currently doing with “Jessica Jones” or “Daredevil” that even if nothing comes of it, it is an interesting footnote in the ongoing history of the superhero genre.