Friday, August 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Tick' - Arthur Has to Choose Between Being a Hero or Being Normal in 'Where's My Mind'

Amazon's The Tick - Episode 1.02 "Where's My Mind"

Tick and Arthur have a run-in with local villainess Miss Lint and her gang, who will stop at nothing to get back the mysterious supersuit that Tick took from them and gave to Arthur. Dot, Arthur's paramedic sister, moonlights for an unsavory business.

The Tick is still insisting on maintaining a sense of mystery to itself in the matter of if any of this is real or just happening in Arthur's head. There is a way to tell that story. I can look at a show like Legion for instance where it was handled tremendously well. But The Tick sees itself as more of a light, comic book story. One that pokes holes in the various origin stories and actions taken by both heroes and villains. It's self-aware to the point where it can make fun of itself for following the same structure and tropes. That's the whole purpose of the story. But there really isn't a whole lot to this central mystery. The show has put the effort in to make the audience question alongside Arthur whether Tick is really there or not. He seems to vanish and appear at very convenient times. He disappears right when things start to get awkward for Arthur or when he's faced with his normal life. But then, he suddenly shows back up in his private moments or when he needs to take down a couple of bad guys. The basic plot points of this story are still being hit. But it's also better for the show not to drag this mystery out for a long time. It's much better for Arthur's mental health if he has a definitive answer. He can still spiral because he doesn't know if he can be a hero or not. That's a fascinating journey and one that the show seems to be pursuing in the future.

"Where's My Mind" picks up right where the premiere left off. Miss Lint and her henchman are storming Arthur's apartment to take back the supersuit that was taken from them. Arthur has no idea how to use it or even if he wants it. And yet, he can't figure out how to take it off. That's an amusing story throughout this episode. Arthur is questioning if this truly is his destiny or if it's something that is just being flung at him that he can't escape right now. The technology isn't cooperative for him. He wants to hand it over. He doesn't want to be killed because of this investigation. He just needed to prove that The Terror is still alive. The man who killed his father is still out there and the superheroes saying he's dead are wrong. But that mission is bound to get even more complicated and deadly before he gets the peace he's searching for. This suit protects him from the danger as well. He would seem woefully out of his depth in this fight with super-powered individuals. But the suit is powerful in its own way. It allows him to survive getting shot with a bullet as well as a fall out his apartment window. He still looks like a crazy guy running down the street in an odd costume. It's a life that he doesn't want. He makes to keep his promise to Dot and live a normal life. But that seems pretty impossible now.

Arthur's apartment is destroyed in the fight between The Tick and Miss Lint. It's an amusing action sequence as well. Tick is boastful of bullets not hurting him at all. But he's unprepared for Miss Lint's electric strike. That's more powerful and does more damage. And yet, it ultimately does more harm to the apartment than Tick himself. In the premiere, Arthur was freaking out about Tick just casually breaking things in this apartment. And now, it's all being completely destroyed because the electricity bounces off Tick and onto the walls. That's enough for Miss Lint to realize what Arthur has been up to. He's not as innocent in this fight as he's claiming to be. However, Arthur is still a reluctant hero in this story. He doesn't see himself as a hero fighting crime and making a difference in his city. He just became obsessed with this one case. He put in a lot of good work. Work that is being recognized by other individuals. It's now putting his life in danger. But he still figures he can return to this apartment afterwards to sleep and regroup. That seems completely absurd. And yet, it's the fate that the show wants the audience to accept. Dot just shows up and everything seemingly returns to normal. Arthur is aware of the damage upstairs. But he's still more than comfortable going back up there. He's not afraid that these villains will return again to try and take the suit.

However, that interaction between Arthur and Dot is important because it confirms that Tick is real and everyone can see him. He just has a tendency to jump around and disappear once he gets bored by any given situation. This is clear to the audience long before it's clear to Arthur. We see Dot making eye contact with Tick. She's not saying anything but she notices the big guy wearing a blue suit wanting to insert himself into Arthur's life. He's not a hallucination. So while Dot is preaching that "normal is what normal does," her actions actually confirm to Arthur that he isn't crazy. This isn't like the previous times he has lost his mind. He's not hallucinating a superhero to make himself more heroic. Tick is just a guy who believes in destiny and that he and Arthur were meant to work together. There's no grand reason for that to be happening. Tick has just become obsessed with that idea because they both were in the same place at the same time. And now, he has gifted Arthur with a supersuit that has made him a legitimate hero in this world. He believes the two of them can now go out fighting villains together. Tick is the brawn and Arthur is the brains. That could be a fantastic partnership once the show fully commits to it. But right now, Arthur is still struggling with whether or not this is a life that he actually wants for himself or if it's just too crazy and will ultimately do a lot of harm to his life.

The show and the characters are also aware enough to know that Arthur must make this decision on his own. He can't be forced into a life of heroics by Tick or a life of normalcy by Dot. They are each pushing their own agenda on him. But his actions need to determine what he wants out of his life. He's pushing both of them away right now because he can't handle the choice. Life has gotten very complicated for him very quickly. It's a lot of change that he has no idea how to handle. That's a sympathetic quality to him. Even after getting what he always wanted, he's forced to question if he can handle it and if it's all that good or necessary for him. Does he need to be the superhero solving crimes in this world? Does he need to be working alongside Tick to foil Miss Lint's plans? Or is he perfectly fine as the normal brother of Dot with a carefree existence? The universe may be trying to make this choice for him though. He is constantly being followed around by SUVs with Miss Lint's henchmen in them. He wants to hand over the suit. But now, deadly force seems to be on the table. There is no longer the desire to take the suit peacefully. They are now determined to take the suit by force and kill the person wearing it. It's fascinating that Arthur doesn't make the decision to be a hero during this fight. He doesn't spring into action by using the suit to take down these bad guys. Instead, they are killed by a completely new villain who then disappears once the police show up. That's when Arthur makes his choice to be a hero. It's that moment in the aftermath of the fight. It's him just proclaiming that he's a hero in order to get different treatment by the police. It's a surprising moment. But it's also one that creates an interesting and uncertain future for the character moving forward. He's made his choice. Now, he just has to commit to it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Where's My Mind" was written by Ben Edlund and directed by Wally Pfister.
  • Miss Lint seems like a potentially awkward and condescending name for a villain. She got called that because of the static electricity she created and the lint she was constantly attracting. She's a powerful individual with this one unfortunate side effect. But now, she has really given into the name and uses it as her only identity.
  • It's also amusing to see the villains bicker back and forth about branding. Miss Lint is an individual who sees no point in conforming to what the rest of her villainous allies are doing. Her partner, Ramses, wants everyone to get an eye tattoo. To him, it's a sign of unity. But to Miss Lint, she believes she's covered because she already has a facial disfigurement around the eye.
  • It's hilarious to think that Tick believes one of Miss Lint's superpowers is being able to throw glass eyes out of her eye socket. He sees it as a threat during the fight. But in reality, it's just a side effect of her using too much energy in this moment and it coming out. She then has an entire case of glass eyes to replace it with.
  • Unsurprisingly, it seems like there is some truth to the connection between Miss Lint and The Terror. She seems just in the dark about him possibly being alive as everyone else. Ramses has taken over control of the city. He's the one seemingly running things. But The Terror was Miss Lint's mentor who gave her the technology to ground herself both physically and emotionally.
  • Dot's life doesn't seem all that normal either. She is preaching normalcy constantly with Arthur because she believes that's the mentality he needs in order to survive. In the meantime though, she is caught helping her boss stitching up some of the local gang members after their fight with Tick. She doesn't do it because she's associated with them but because she's a paramedic doing her job.
  • Superian appears to be the only other hero still alive in this universe. He believes the fight against evil is over simply because he stopped The Terror. Now, he's just living a life of TV guest spots and commercial appearances. It's an amusing idea even though he does come across as oblivious if he doesn't know that there are still villains like Miss Lint and Ramses out there.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.