Review: The Paranoid New World Of “The Tick”

This review for the new Tick pilot contains spoilers for both it and Mr. Robot. 

So basically, in this version Arthur is an aimless twenty-something conspiracy theorist on and off a whole bunch of psych meds who is obsessed with the idea that a super-villain called The Terror is still alive. While on one of his clandestine missions to prove his theory, he runs into a manic tall blue superhero who calls himself The Tick.

But because Arthur is already set up as an unreliable narrator a la Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson, who is The Tick, really?


Not having an entire season to build this out—The Tick is part of Amazon’s “Pilot Season” thing where you vote on what show you’d like to see go on to series—it’s sort of spelled out for you. Sort of.


“I’m the you you always wanted to be,” says Tick to Arthur in their second encounter. While not exactly a Fight Club situation, there seems to be a reality/unreality to Tick that is directly connected to Arthur’s mental state. This is driven home by the fact that Arthur’s most prominent mannerism is a (wait for it…) facial tic.



This seems to be not so much of a “split personality” deal as that of a tulpa, or solid(ish) thoughtform. My guess is that Arthur both “created” this thoughtform (stemming from childhood trauma in which The Terror was indirectly responsible for killing his dad), and channeled some type of extra-dimensional entity that could ostensibly also be called “alien.”

As Tick tells Arthur: “You make a better door than a window.” To me, this is confirmation of the “channeling” aspect of their relationship. Further, Tick only has his big showstopping battle with the bad guys when Arthur falls asleep; before then, while Arthur is at the police station, he merely walks back and forth as if caught in some sort of of “stasis.”


That said, I feel the influence of Mr. Robot all over The Tick, not the least in the unreliable neurotic nebbishy protagonist in his later 20s who has a heavy dose of (justified?) paranoia.


Both Arthur Everest and Elliot Alderson somehow “manifest” invincible alter-egos to relieve them of the chronic powerlessness they feel in the face of a world that seems caught in the machinations of a shadowy underworld.

One thing important to note here is that in a way, Arthur & Elliot represent the generation who experienced 9/11 as children, which I believe consciously/unconsciously had an enormous impact on their outlook on life. The 9/11 connection is made extremely clear in The Tick, with Arthur’s pilot father have a plane fall on top of him as the result of a terrorist attack by “The Terror” (played with a heavy dose of crazy eyes and teeth clench by Jackie Earle Haley).


It is no coincidence that the star of The Watchmen—to me, the “signature” movie for this generation of post-9/11 traumatized youth—plays The Terror here. Just as it is no surprise that his nemesis is a tall blue muscular sort-of-naked otherworldly entity. (Bonus: one of the members of the doomed Flag Five is styled like The Comedian).


To be clear, I don’t think The Tick “ripped off” Mr. Robot, any more than I think Mr. Robot “ripped off” Fight Club. Everything is, in the end, “channeling” things from the same well of the Collective Unconscious. Tick’s speech at the end of the episode name-drops “Hero’s Journey”-type phraseology that underlines the “monomyth” aspect of this show and so much of our other entertainment.

3d39af0fe257688aea6ab4fee6e94d5d.jpgThis post has been a very long-winded way of saying: if you were expecting something along the lines of the 2001 The Tick show, you might be really really disappointed. I saw one review for the Amazon pilot that referred it as a “superhero parody”—not only do I think that this new Tick is not a superhero parody, but that superhero parodies have all pretty much “been done” and “done that.”

We are, largely, a post-parody society. We need heroes—even dumb-looking ones. Any heroes will do, thanks.

If anything, the timing of the comedic 2001 Tick so close to 9/11 probably doomed it as a viable television series. This new series at least seems to have its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

That said, if anyone else but the original creator of The Tick, Ben Edlund, produced and wrote this new show, the level of “rebootyness” would have made my eyebrows raise right up to my hairline. Edlund went on from the Tick comic to produce Angel and Supernatural, so I have to assume that he knows what he is doing here.

As for actor Peter Serafinowicz as The Tick—well, I kind of find him as bizarre and unsettling as hell. Which I guess is the point.


More to read about on Butterfly Language:
The Joker As Political Icon
Proto-Troll: “The Max Headroom Incident”
My Mr. Robot Story