The Tick is neither the hero we need nor the one we deserve. But isn’t it fun to have him around?
Amazon’s The Tick (streaming Friday, *** out of four) is the latest adaptation of Ben Edlund’s satirical ’80s comic-book series, which sends up common superhero tropes. The new series, created by Edlund, follows Arthur (Griffin Newman), a neurotic accountant thrust into the world of villains and heroes by his troubled past and the sudden appearance of The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz). The pair set out to fight The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley).
The series — which is only debuting the first six of 12 episodes, the second half will arrive sometime next year — is both a smart parody of our current superhero obsession and a worthy entry into the genre. Its action sequences are better directed than some of its more serious peers, and its CGI effects are polished and judiciously deployed. It’s a genuinely funny series, with sharp dialogue, especially coming from the blue bug himself. And while devoted comics fans may find more humor in the in-jokes, overall, it’s accessible and funny enough for a viewer only casually acquainted with the genre.
Serafinowicz is an absolute delight in the title role. The British actor has a long comedic résumé, but you can see the seeds of his annoying-but-endearing Tick character in his performances in films such as 2015’s Spy, where he relentlessly pursued Melissa McCarthy. He deftly balances the work of making The Tick absurd without coming off unhinged. His energy is infectious, even if it causes trouble for his compatriots onscreen.
But the true hero grounding the series is Newman’s Arthur. The actor adds a bit more dimension to the “lovable loser” archetype, and the series uses handy flashbacks to flesh out poor Arthur’s sad story. On the villainous side, Haley is almost unrecognizable behind the makeup that turns him into the comically evil Terror, but you can see how much he enjoys chewing scenery in the get-up, while Yara Martinez (Jane the Virgin) adds verve and icy glares as his henchwoman, Ms. Lint.
The series’ biggest flaw lies in its structure. It’s half-hour episodes merely pause the story at their conclusion, not unlike many other streaming series that present as more a long movie than a series. It’s an unfortunate trend that does little to support the comedic potential of The Tick. While the long arc of Arthur and The Tick pursuing The Terror still mostly works, a version of the series with a more episodic focus might have helped sharpen its focus. The story sometimes drags, and some elements feel a bit like they’ve been added to pad the run-time.
But though it’s not perfect, The Tick is a giddy and enjoyable romp. It’s at its best moments when it focuses on the interplay between Arthur and The Tick.
You can almost believe those two could save the world.