Along with all the fun silliness, The Tick‘s second (and final) season on Amazon has good dramatic moments and a powerful theme throughout the series’ main plot.
A fair warning: to discuss the themes, I’ll have to get into some spoilers.
Superheroes under our AEGIS
Season two of Amazon Prime’s The Tick opens with Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman) deciding to continue on as a superhero part-time while returning to his day job as an accountant.
Unfortunately, the accounting firm Arthur works for has figured out his secret identity. This was easy, given that his superhero name is Arthur. However, his dismissal comes at an opportune time because AEGIS—a S.H.I.E.L.D. stand-in—has reopened its office in The City. Its leader is Agent Commander Tyrannosaurus “Ty” Rathbone (Mark Kudisch.) He recruits Arthur and The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) to join the organization.
The Tick gets in with his superpowers and Arthur is allowed to join to keep an eye on The Tick. The two focus on an effort to track down Lobstercules, a giant Lobster who breaks open bank vaults. Arthur hopes they make it to the Flag Five, the superhero team he idolized as a child and always dreamed of joining.
At the same time, Overkill (Scott Speiser) is bummed about not being allowed to kill after The Tick saved his life. Overkill is ready to flee The City, because he’s viewed as a rogue by AEGIS. However, Arthur’s sister Dot (Valerie Curry) persuades Overkill to talk to Rathbone, who reveals there’s a suspected mole in AEGIS. Dot, meanwhile, is beginning to develop powers and finds herself drawn into a world of action and adventure. She agrees to accompany Overkill, despite Arthur’s vigorous objections.
Meanwhile, Season 1 villain Miss Lent (Yara Martinez) sets herself up as a superhero named Joan of Arc to take out her competition and join the new Flag Five. Throughout the season I wondered whether Lent would really embrace being a hero. At the same time, Superian (Brendan Hines) becomes unhinged by the social media reaction to him being fooled into thinking The Terror was dead.
Less violence, more fun and tomfoolery
The second season of The Tick works on many levels. The scenes of gory violence, the language, and the partial nudity of season one are toned down to the level of a Marvel movie. While Season One was a parody of the gritty Netflix superhero shows, season two parodies Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
So many comedic ideas work in this series. AEGIS is a federal agency, so it runs on hilarious amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy. Arthur’s ability to navigate this becomes vital to the plot several times, including when he’s able to help The Tick through his application by pointing him to the checkbox for “Mysterious Loss of Memory.” AEGIS superheroes get access to a lounge stocked with croissants that are so good, retired heroes put on their uniforms just to get them. Superian’s fall is both tragic and silly as Earth’s first superhero becomes driven by his desire to improve his social media profile. He wanders around unshaven in a flannel shirt and jeans, decides Arthur is his therapist, and acts out a deranged remake of the 1978 classic Superman: The Movie.
We meet a couple new heroes. Past versions of The Tick have featured unheroic walking jokes like Die Fledermaus, Batmanuel, and The Human Bullet. Here, we get a couple that are fun but effective. Flexon (Steven Ogg) is a middle-aged former hero who works as an attorney. Sage, the Supernumerary (Clé Bennett) is a hilarious Doctor Strange parody with a magic tattoo.
When heroes get lost
Dot’s desire to take on a life of adventure and make a difference is a key plot point. To convince Overkill to let her join him, she points out she saved Overkill’s life, too, and uses her wish to cancel out The Tick’s wish from season 1. The second season’s fourth episode, Blood and Cake, features an extended sequence where the four main characters are trapped together. Unlike Author, The Tick affirms Dot’s heroic ambitions, but he warns her about the dangers of the morally gray areas in which Overkill operates.
Dot falls into a web of lies, but so do The Tick and Arthur. They learn Lobstercules is not a villain but rather a female Atlantean warrior who saved Maine fishermen from a storm only to have them kidnap her babies and force her to perform robberies. The Tick exclaims, “She’s not a monster, she’s a momster!” Lobstercules is captured, The Tick and Arthur recover her babies, but find themselves having to lie and deceive AEGIS, who they have reason to fear will harm the babies.
Further, Arthur’s stepfather Walter, their friend Tinfoil Kevin, and Agent Commander Rathbone are all hiding something. This leads to The Tick having a reflective moment with Walter, when our hero takes stock of how they’ve all ended up in the woods. The Tick wonders what Destiny wants to do to them. Walter suggests that the point may be that the truth is precious.
Finally in the final episode of the series, Choose Love, The Tick has an epiphany as they debate whether to rescue Overkill, despite an obvious trap set by the villain. The Tick explains, “Overkill’s been in the woods, but so have we. All these secrets and lies have gotten us lost. The truth about the truth is it’s a choice. You choose love or you choose fear.”
This theme applies to every character in the series in one way or another. Even the series’s villain isn’t an evil megalomaniac like The Terror in season one, but a man who fears “the Categories” (that is, metahumans.) Only by finding the courage to tell the truth can the heroes find their way out of the woods. One character reveals some secrets but still holds on to a big one. Sage knows this and warns there will be consequences (which we sadly won’t learn thanks to the series cancellation.)
In our current world, a lot of us have become lost in the woods, either telling lies or tolerating them for fear of what the truth will bring. The Tick’s realization calls to mind 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” It illustrates how a work of fiction can bring home a biblical truth without quoting scripture.
With some great comedic moments, a solid story, and a great theme, there’s only a couple minor issues for which I can fault The Tick‘s season two.
In addition to Flexon and Sage, The Tick introduces Bronze Star, who goes on a team up with The Tick, Arthur, and Sage, and later becomes one of the Flag Five. We know nothing about this character from watching the series. He’s just a guy with bronze skin who wears bronze clothes and a bowler hat. We don’t know what his powers are, or if he has powers beyond his skin color. Apparently, according to what one of the co-executive producers said on Reddit, he’s a joke, but it falls flat for me.
The other thing is, season one established that Arthur possessed an advanced flying battle suit. For all the good it does him in season one, he could be fighting crime in a polo shirt and khakis. I understand why the suit was de-emphasized. The season focuses on what makes Arthur a hero, which is his heart, not his suit. And the series is effective in giving Arthur moments to show that heart, which makes you care about him. In addition, without Arthur’s paperwork skills, The Tick would have been lost in the AEGIS bureaucracy. However, if you’re doing a superhero series and you have a hero with an advanced battle suit, you should use it a little.
These are minor issues in a season well-worth watching. It’s an odd season of television that can feature vigilante dance parties before big missions, and still have a theme that challenges you to examine your own life. But The Tick season two is odd in the best way possible.