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Series / The Tick (2016)

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The Big Blue Bug of Justice is back.
"Hello world, this is The Tick! Don't worry—I'm not in outer space. I'm not even in this yet! But I know what's coming—an epic tale, rife with destiny, adventure and blood loss. The ultimate struggle of light against darkness. Of good against evil. Of... meat."
—The Tick

The Tick is a 2016 Amazon Studios original series based on the comic book by Ben Edlund.

In a World... where superheroes have been a thing since a huge space object made a big impression in the Tunguska River Basin back in 1908 during what many call "the Dawn of the Age of Superheroes", mild-mannered (if mentally troubled) accountant Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman) is following what he believes is the secret trail of The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), a supervillain many believe was already killed years ago by Superian (Brendan Hines), the first superhero.

Arthur comes to the conclusion that the Terror is running The City from underground. However, as he tries to blow the cover off the conspiracy, things take a turn for the bizarre when he inadvertently sparks the interest of a big, blue, nigh-invulnerable, shamelessly hammy and rather enigmatic superhero who calls himself The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz). But can Arthur and The Tick really save The City from its own seedy underbelly? Or are the two of them (especially Arthur) truly in over their heads?

This take on The Tick appeared as a part of Amazon Prime's Fall Pilot Season of 2016 in August 19, 2016 and was picked up for a full series on September 27, 2016. The series premiered on 25 August, 2017 and was renewed for a second season on 17 January, 2018.

Obviously this series is not in continuity with the 2001 series of the same name, though Patrick Warburton does return in the role of producer.

This show contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The Tick possibly being all in Arthur's head lasts for two episodes before he's confirmed to be very real, and starts being openly acknowledged by other characters. Which should have come as no surprise to audiences since the Tick physically beats the hell out of the Pyramid gang in the first episode.
  • Achilles' Heel: The Tick is helpless if his opponent grabs his antennae.
    • Arthur's suit is a component of Project Achilles, a weapons system specifically designed to assassinate Superian.
    • Dr. Karamazov uses this exact phrase to describe Superian's vulnerability to Big Bismuth. Hence, "Project Achilles".
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Much like the previous live action series, Arthur is much slimmer than he is in the comics and cartoon.
    • His suit also looks a lot more slick and technological, rather than the embarrassing bunny suit it usually is.
    • Similarly Dot is far more attractive than the cartoon version.
  • Adaptational Badass: The Terror in most versions is a walking old people joke with his best days behind him. In the show he is shown to be a frighteningly effective criminal mastermind even as a wrinkled corpse of a man, and is even quick on the draw with a poisoned knife.
    • Arthur's suit is a far more impressive piece of hardware. Not only is it bulletproof with a slew of other features, it was designed to help kill Superion. Keep in mind that in the cartoon, he could be put out of action if his wings got wet.
    • Arthur's sister Dot, as well. She's a paramedic and a medical student who looks after her troubled brother and stitches up wounded baddies on the side.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: Arthur has always Jumped at the Call before but in this universe is deathly afraid of and opposed to superheroism. Probably the result of having his favorite superhero team murdered in front of his eyes after they accidentally kill his father.
  • Aerith and Bob: Among the Pyramid Gang's members are Frank, Dennis, Imhotep and Khufu.
  • Affectionate Parody: The series is one big love letter to every superhero trope imaginable, but in particular targets the recent trend of live action series that take a more grounded approach.
  • Answer Cut: Played with. Overkill, who has hinted at a past relationship with Lint, tells Dot that he has issues with physical contact. Dot wonders aloud who could have caused that. Cut to Lint.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Miss Lint adopted the alias after she and the Terror had a conversation were they discussed her killing of two henchmen that were making fun of her electric powers turning her into a dust magnet, and he convinced her to turn it into a name people would fear.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What are you going to do about it?" Arthur is asked this twice. Once by his sister, and a second time by a dream version of the Tick.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Terror creates a virus that blinds a group of heroes, has his goons murder said heroes in front of a very young Arthur, then slurps down the rest of Arthur's ice cream.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Urmanian language, seen in Arthur's moth suit, and in the Urmanian deli, and elsewhere, includes Latin and Cyrillic characters, some randomly reversed Latin characters, and even a few Thai characters for good measure.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Played for Laughs with the subplot involving the Very Large Man, a gardener exposed to radioactive chemicals. While being a threat to the surrounding environment enough to warrant military intervention, he appears stark naked and mostly confused, even as Superian tries to talk him down.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Dangerboat's first attempt at translating the instructional video contained in Arthur's suit is confusing and inaccurate; he explains that it was the best Urmanian translation module he could find.
    Dangerboat: [translating] "Now you are proud to sacrifice with haircuts, skeleton Urmania..."
    Overkill: Dangerboat, what the Hell?
    Dangerboat: It's the best Urmanian-to-English program I could find on the Net!
  • Brick Joke: The Very Large Man mentioned in the third episode makes his startling on-screen debut in the fourth. Naked.
    • A news report mentions that honeybees are dying off. Later, The Terror mentions offhand that killing the bees is a side project of his.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: When shooting Tick with a grenade launcher only manages to annoy him, Ramses then takes takes aim at an oncoming city bus. While Tick and Arthur rescue the passengers from the bus as it teeters on the edge of an overpass, Ramses and his men use this time to escape.
  • The Cameo: Whoopi Goldberg appears as herself talking to Superian in her (fictional) talk show.
  • Cerebus Callback: Of the Mythology Gag variety. Arthur meekly murmurs 'not in the face' as the Terror pressed a gun to his forehead.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Arthur's stepfather, Walter, who fluctuates between moments of lucidity and being oddly fixated on the condition of people's feet.
  • Cliffhanger: Episode six ends with Arthur being kidnapped by the Terror, who yells "Cliffhanger!" as the screen goes dark.
  • Crapsack World: The City is an awful, awful place, especially compared to prior adaptations.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Arthur's stepdad Walter cannot say a word without building sentences upon sentences of non-sequiturs and anecdotes, mentioning even the most trivial of circumstances and makes his entire sentence structure tedious to listen to. He is also very concerned with people's feet note  that every time he meets Arthur his first conversation with him leads back to that subject. When they are about to be kidnapped, and Walter and his wife's heads are bagged, about to be taken by the Terror's goons, a scream of "Walter!" has him unleash some serious hand to hand combat, swiftly defeating four of them essentially blindfolded in the time it takes Arthur to taser two.
  • Dare to Be Badass: A major theme of the series is The Tick encouraging Arthur to surpass his limits and become a hero.
    • Ms. Lint also gets this from her former boss, The Terror. He's disappointed that instead of taking charge like he expected she would after his supposed death, she basically shut down and settled for being The Dragon to a chump like Ramses. At the end of their conversation, he tells her, "You're evil incarnate! Act like it!"
  • Darker and Edgier: Even compared to the early comics. The City might as well be Gotham. Averted with the Tick himself, who's campier than ever.
  • Death by Origin Story: Arthur's dad, who died the same exact day as the Flag Five did when Arthur was a boy. Counts as a First-Episode Spoiler.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Pretty much every character, due to the death of OG supervillain The Terror. Arthur, Ms. Lint, and Overkill all felt empty until they came to the realization he was alive.
  • Destination Defenestration: At the end of the third episode, The Tick is thrown out a window by Overkill. Despite the height of the fall, he's completely okay after hitting the ground.
    • In the second episode, the Tick throws Arthur out of his apartment window so he can escape with the wing suit. Arthur fails to activate the wings in time and winds up falling on top of a car.
  • Dirty Communists: The Urmanian government plots to get rid of Superian because his perennial observation of their science program prevents them from doing any really bad stuff.
  • Dissimile: The Tick tells Arthur at one point "You're alive as a daisy!" While daisies are indeed alive in the biological sense, it's not the analogy most would go for.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot is far bleaker than the rest of the season, emphasising just how crime-ridden The City is, and how hopelessly damaged Arthur is after losing his father. The Tick not only has a different (less polished) costume, but is repeatedly implied not to be real at all. Interestingly, all of these elements are at least addressed: the villains are still vicious, Arthur lampshades the costume change, and Tick being real is treated a minor plot twist.
  • Evil Feels Good: The Terror. With great huge slabs of ham.
    The Terror: Ya don't kill people because they call ya names! Ya kill people because it's fun!
  • Evil Is Petty: The Terror takes time out of superhero-slaughtering to mock Arthur's hate and fear, and eat Arthur's ice cream.
    • Derek (the Terror's former IT expert) seems to engage solely in being a petty dick.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: Midnightnote , after losing his superhero companions — including the aptly-named Christian Soldier — at the hands of the Terror, had a Crisis of Faith and decided that There Is No God... "only dog."
  • Faceless Mooks: The Terror's goons wear skintight black and red costumes, complete with masks and goggles.
  • Foreshadowing: During the scene where Arthur spies on shifty crooks loading suspicious gear, one of the bigger goons mocks a bulletproof suit, thinking it "looks like a goddamn bunny suit". Longtime Tick fans would know this becomes Arthur's signature moth suit.
  • Foreign Queasine: Face meat, an Urmanian delicacy. Beef face, pork face, even owl face.
  • For the Evulz: The Terror. Oh so much. Killing innocents, torturing scientists, peeing in cola, devising a plan to get rid of superheroes, stealing ice cream, the Terror does it all and all because it amuses him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The VLM.
    • Subverted with Superian, who chides a general for using the term instead of the VLM's real name.
  • Hands-On Approach: Subverted when Dot and Overkill are practicing firing guns. Overkill is standing behind her and lists the different ways to improve her accuracy. Dot gives consent to Overkill to physically correct her form. Overkill doesn't understand the directive and confesses he has issues.
  • The Hero's Journey: Deliberately invoked in regards to Arthur's journey to superheroism. The Tick even name-drops it while trying to convince Arthur to be a hero.
  • High Concept: What if The Dark Knight Trilogy starred the Adam West Batman?
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Arthur has trouble utilizing his suit's features due to it being set to Urmanian. In the penultimate episode of Season One, Dr. Kamarazov sets it to English, which lets Arthur properly control it.
  • Incoming Ham: When the Tick attacks the bad guys at the docks.
    Tick: Wicked men! Wicked men! Look at you beetling away at your dung hill of contraband! I am the Tick, and I say to you: Stop your evil ways!
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Given how dark the rest of the show is, the Tick is probably the nicest and most polite version he's ever been.
  • Ironic Echo: Once Arthur and the Tick have finally defeated the Terror's plans and have him cornered, Arthur tells him he's "got nothing", just as the Terror said the same to him on the day he killed Arthur's father.
  • Kick the Dog: You have to expect The Terror would be a Jerk Ass, but just to really show off how unbelievably evil he is, after he killed the Flag Five, and after their ship crushed Arthur's father after the Terror crashed it, the Terror calmly walked towards young Arthur and stole his ice cream, then laughed in his face about the whole thing.
  • Knight, Knave and Squire: Once they finally team-up The Tick, Overkill, and Arthur respectively take up this dynamic. The Tick believes that destiny is telling Arthur they need to go bring the Terror to justice, Overkill wants Arthur to go with him on a suicide mission to kill him. Arthur himself wants to just take the information to AEGIS.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Superian and Big Bismuth.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • The Tick's costume inexplicably and dramatically gets redesigned from the first episode to the second even though there's only a few seconds' time skip between the two. Arthur makes a note of it.
    • While Jergen is ranting about how he thinks the Very Large Man is a hoax, he mentions that the lungs of a 200-foot-tall adult male shouldn't be able to take in enough oxygen to keep him alive.
  • Large Ham: The Tick. And he's loving it, mind you.
    • The Terror revels in stealing ice cream.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Lint adopted the alias after overhearing some of the Terror's henchmen making fun of how her electric powers make her attract dust and other debris, and the Terror encouraged her to make it a name people would fear, instead of taking it as an insult. Overkill, a government assassin who went rogue, and uses his skills to take down criminals in a most violent manner
  • Malaproper: The Nigerian bodega owner's grandmother Ouma likes to feed The Tick tuwo shinkafa, which he is unable to remember how to pronounce. In episode 6, he calls it "Tupac Latifah".
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One of the mooks dismisses a bulletproof suit after claiming it "looks like a goddamn bunny suit." A running gag throughout the various Tick stories is that Arthur's moth suit is mistaken for a bunny suit.
    • The scene where The Tick tries moving (and breaking) objects around Arthur's apartment in an attempt to find a trigger that reveals a secret lair hearkens back to the cartoon's first episode where Tick does the exact same thing in the exact same place.
    • Shortly before the above scene, the Tick also quotes the cartoon version of himself saying "You're not going crazy, Arthur. You're going sane in a crazy world!"
    • The possibility that the Tick may be a figment of Arthur's imagination can be a nod to the origin story of the comic book version of The Tick, which had him escaping from a mental institute.
      • At one point Arthur even asks the Tick if he's an escaped mental patient.
    • Arthur's bulletproof super-suit does not cover his face. Hardly seems like a coincidence that his catchphrase in the 90's animated series was, "Not in the face!".
      • Said word for word by the Tick (regarding Arthur) in the season 1 finale.
    • At one point The Tick describes answering destiny as "like the inside of bread." This is also a reference to the animated series.
    • After having met a "killer" robot is contemplating whether or not he might be one as well, staring at a shiny polished spoon going "Spoon", again, this is in reference to the Animated Series.
    • While not seen, Superian and the Terror's final battle involved his Spider-Tank, which served as the character's base and primary weapon in the comics and animated series.
  • Never Found the Body: Everyone except Arthur is convinced that The Terror died at the hands of Superian after all that was found of The Terror was his teeth. Guess who's returned and replaced his teeth?
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The Tick is highly resistant, if not outright immune, to nearly everything that's been thrown at him so far, and he name-checks this repeatedly.
  • No-Sell:
    • The Terror's goons shooting the Tick to absolutely no effect other than Tick mildly rebuking that the ricochets are their fault.
    • In episode 6, The Tick gets hit with a grenade launcher blast. It fails to even knock him off his feet, causing him to refer to the attacker as "Impolite!"
    • When Tick and Overkill first fight, Overkill slides a small bomb under Tick, it launches him up towards the ceiling of Arthur's office, with Tick giddily proclaiming it delivers "quite a kick." Punching and kicking has no effect whatsoever, and Overkill is only able to defeat Tick by grabbing his sensitive antennae.
  • Pet the Dog: When Miss Lint returns to her lair, covered with the dust contained in the vacuum from Arthur's parents' house, Derrick starts cracking jokes about how she's making a mess, and should put some newspapers like he was housebreaking a puppy. When she threatens him to stop joking her voice cracks in anger, to which he politely replies if she needs a towel to clean herself, she responds, "yes," she would like a towel.
  • Phrase-Catcher: "They found his teeth," or something to that effect whenever someone brings up the possibility that the Terror is still alive. It's no surprise then that when The Terror returns, he sports a bunch of gold fillings.
  • Precision F-Strike: The word "fuck" is used no more than two times per episode.
  • Product Placement: Bottles of vitaminwater recur throughout the show, being the Trademark Favourite Food of one character. An Amazon Echo Dot voice-controlled speaker appears in episode 6.
    The Terror: Alexa! Play ominous music!
    Alexa: Shuffling a playlist for ominous music.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Griffin Newman has stated in interviews that he has been a huge fan of 'The Tick', mostly of the 2001 series.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • As a child, Arthur witnesses the murder of his father and childhood heroes at the hands of The Terror before the killer eats young Arthur's ice cream. Arthur has crippling neuroses as an adult, a long history with medications and trouble holding down jobs, and his sister is legally his caretaker.
    • Overkill is the only superhero who kills criminals. This warrants a rather cautious reception from other heroes who don't follow his code while the general public considers him an unstable individual.
    • While Arthur assists The Tick and Overkill in taking down Ramses, the series never fails to point out that, despite the suit, he's still a regular person with no superhero or fighting experience and spends the bulk of the series trying to figure out how the suit works. So it will take some time before he really takes a level in badass.
    • The series shows what happens when a superhero universe doesn't bend to the Status Quo that your regular superhero universe does. Even though the attack on The Flag Five was decades ago, the city is still reeling from the events of that attack, and The Tick, Overkill, and Arthur's heroic actions have consequences.
    • When a hero's secret identity is revealed to the public, a super villain would not hesitate in going after their friends and family the moment the hero is in no position to protect them.
  • Retool: The pilot was much darker and bleaker when compared to the rest of the episodes that followed.
  • Robotic Reveal: Played for Laughs. Superficial similarities to another robot briefly convince Tick that he is a more advanced model, and he's delighted at the idea.
  • Ruritania: Urmania, which is repeatedly portrayed as a Fake Russian Commie Land (although clarified to not be Russia, but bordering it, which still suggests a former Soviet bloc country). The "Urmanian neighborhood" and deli has a distinct Eastern European feel.
  • Secret Ingredient: The Terror secretly owns a cola company, which he has been adding a "secret ingredient" to. Seeing as the plot towards the end involves the powerful chemical Big Bismuth which is poisonous to his arch-nemesis Superian, it's set up that the cola is laced with it. It's not. He reveals his secret ingredient is that he's been peeing in it.
  • Secret Police: The Urmanian one is sicced on Karamazov.
  • Sequel Hook: In the first season's finale, although The Terror is beaten, Dot points out that he's likely to break out of detention at some point. He also claims that his goal isn't to Take Over the World, but to take the world back before Superian freezes him. Lastly, Midnight cautions Arthur that his heroic actions mean that "Big Brother is watching" now, and ends with him being observed by an AEGIS drone.
  • Shout-Out: When Arthur begins to worry that the Tick is actually his Split Personality, he walks down the street to an instrumental version of The Pixies song 'Where Is My Mind?'. It's also the name of the episode. The original song plays prominently in the finale of Fight Club, a film which famously has the twist that the two main protagonists are one person. It could also be a reference to Mr. Robot, which similarly featured an instrumental version of the song shortly after a Split Personality revelation of its own.
    • To Whiplash. The Terror is seen practicing his drumming and his mentor comes out and yells that he's "dragging". Oddly, however, The Terror wants his mentor to be more abusive to him.
    • To The Twilight Zone. When The Tick is ripping his way into the T-ship, The Terror exclaims that there's a gremlin on the wing.
    • To My Dinner with Andre. The episode title "My Dinner With Android."
    • When The Tick thinks he may be a robot, he says he's "more than meets the eye".
  • Shown Their Work: Celecoxib and amisulpride, the drugs Arthur's on, really are used to treat schizophrenia.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Danger Boat considers himself a male, and is infatuated with Arthur, and he actually wonders if this means if he is homosexual because it is derived from the word "same" in Greek and he and Arthur are not the same at all.
  • Soviet Superscience:
    • The Urmanian BʞR-6000 police robot.
    • Most of Dr. Karamozov's experiments.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Tick does this from time to time. Oddly, they are often from 30 years ago, even though he doesn't claim to have any memories prior to meeting Arthur.
    Choosy choosers choose destiny. [referencing old Jif peanut butter ads]
  • Special Effect Failure: Subverted and Justified: Superian's spaceship is just an enlarged hunk (albeit a very pretty one) of bismuth. This becomes Justified later when the connection between Superian and "big bismuth" is explained.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Both The Tick and The Terror.
  • Super Registration Act: Superheroes are typically registered with the government agency AEGIS, and there's a 28th Amendment that superheroes can invoke to prevent law enforcement from unmasking them.
    • Subverted in that registration is voluntary, not mandatory, but required if you want the protection the 28th provides. Arthur doesn't legally have standing to invoke his "28th amendment rights" because he's not a registered superhero. Fortunately, he gets away with it because the cops involved decide he isn't worth the hassle of checking with AEGIS.
  • Take That!:
    • Arthur's deskmate Jergen, who believes that the Very Large Man is a government hoax and uses terms like "liberal elite", "snowflakes" and "fake news", is one towards nerdy, condescending right-wing conspiracy theorists.
    • Derek, with his man-bun and Kombucha t-shirt appears to be one to urban hipsters.
  • Talking Animal: Onward, aka Midnight, a canine superhero who is shown being interviewed on TV about his new book.
  • Talking with Signs: Superian tries this to communicate with the VLM.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: The Tick is a more benevolent example, as his insistence on inserting himself into Arthur's life saves it on more than one occasion. He even follows Arthur to his stepfather's birthday party against his wishes, where he is a perfectly polite and well behaved guest. He even becomes fast friends with Arthur's stepdad, and other than Arthur and Dot, the rest of the party seems charmed by him.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Key emphasis on "thou" as the Tick is fine with his opponents accidentally killing each other while he's fighting them.
  • Touch of Death: Averted with Overkill after he promises Tick not to kill again.
    You get the 48 hour coma punch.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: People have a tendency to take the Tick for granted, thinking him to be a regular superhero because of his geniality and lack of overt menace.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The AEGIS agency set up to register and keep track of superheroes is constantly derided as an ineffectual nightmare of red tape by anyone who's had any dealings with them.
  • Wham Line: In the end of "Fear of Flying", after Miss Lint finds The Terror alive and well in her apartment.
    The Terror: Hello, Janet. Miss me?
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In the first episode, the Tick plows through dozens of henchmen during a fight which indirectly causes a massive explosion. The following episode reveals that some of the thugs he fought are severely cut up, bruised, and burnt with some of them suffering from PTSD from almost dying in the blast. As they are criminals, they can't go to a regular hospital and the Back-Alley Doctor (assisted by Arthur's sister, Dot) is portrayed somewhat sympathetically for treating them.
    • On the other hand, in a flashback, The Terror was pretty indifferent when Miss Lint fried a couple of their own "flamethrower guys" during a mission.
    The Terror: I don't put the best guys on the flamethrowers.
  • Where It All Began: The Season One finale ends with Arthur confronting The Terror in the very place that they first met. Not only does Arthur face him without fear, but he is able to save a father from being crushed by The Terror's ship.
  • You Watch Too Much X: Dot tells the manager of the roller derby rink he watches too much TV, when he tried to take the bullet out of a Mook who got shot when his partner shot Tick, and the bullet ricocheted off him. She then mentions that in reality, a bullet is not extracted, but the wound is patched up, and the bullet left inside.