Saturday, August 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Tick' - Tick Reveals a Secret While Arthur Tries to Return to Work in 'Secret/Identity'

Amazon's The Tick - Episode 1.03 "Secret/Identity"

Arthur takes a break from hunting the Terror and tries to get back to his safe, normal and unheroic life as an accountant unaware he's being stalked by the menacing vigilante Overkill. Tick confesses to an existential crisis.

Issues of identity have been at the forefront of The Tick in its opening three episodes. Arthur has struggled with his identity in this world. He's famous because of an iconic picture taken of him as a child. That's how the outside world sees him and treats him differently. His family sees him as a man who was broken on the day his father was tragically killed. That broke something within him that sent him on a path of psychotic breaks and mental illness. But Arthur is struggling with how he sees himself. He has become obsessed with this theory of The Terror still being out there somewhere pulling the strings of some nefarious operation. But in the present, his ambitions to expose the truth have only thrown him into a world of heroes and villains. It's not the notable heroes either. Superian is off doing his own thing not really fighting the forces of evil at all. Meanwhile, the villains have come to run this town. Arthur has the brains to do something about it. But he's still lacking the conviction to truly follow through on it. He is still reluctant to see himself as a hero. He sees it as a mask he could possibly wear to hide who he truly is. He doesn't see being a hero as being his authentic self. He is still Arthur. That's still the name he gives to the rest of the world. But being Arthur means having a family to put up with and going to a crappy job as an accountant. It's not exciting but it's the life he has mapped out for himself in order to be normal. Being a hero isn't normal. But he still feels the passion to pursue it. That's important and allows him to continue to define his own identity.

All of these issues seemed like they were coming to a head in an unexpected way at the end of the previous episode. When being arrested by the police, he put his hands in the arm and declared himself a superhero as is the law under the 28th amendment. It's a procedure that the show then has to explain to the audience. It delves into the reality of secret identities. Behind every hero is a person. A person with quiet, personal moments. Moments that he or she doesn't share with the rest of the world. They have lives outside of the heroics that are precious to them. They want to protect them at all costs. That's why this law was created. It keeps law enforcement from getting in the way of exposing a hero's secret identity. Not every hero tries to live the double life. In fact, it creates quite the conversation with Tick. But there is humanity behind every hero. There is a story behind the mask or the persona. They all came from somewhere. They are all defined by something that has made them a hero. They've lived lives and those choices inform their actions when they are trying to save lives. It's an incredibly intimate and personal story. One that Arthur gets pulled into now that he is a hero. That's what he claims to be even though he's still incredibly reluctant to fully embrace it.

That's a little frustrating. Arthur made this huge decision. But he made it out of fear for his life. He didn't know what to do after watching a bunch of evil henchmen get killed right in front of him by an even more trained assassin. Now, he's realizing just how close he came to death because the assassin is famously known as Overkill. That's an apt describer for what he did in that alley. Plus, he is quickly given a backstory that makes his present motivations murky to the rest of the world. No one truly knows if he had a psychotic break while working for a government agency and grew mad on power. They just know he's a lethal presence who you should never run into in a dark alley. But that's exactly where Arthur met him and he lived to tell the tale about it. That wasn't because of anything he did. He's still completely baffled by the world of heroes and villains operating around him. He still wants to go to his job and have Tick out of his life for good. He is given that opportunity because the suit is taken from him. The suit teased his potential as a hero. And now, he is back to being Arthur. The every day guy working his boring 9 to 5 job. But even outside the suit, Arthur is feeling the pull to be a part of something greater. He feels the need to help Tick move about in this world. His presence gives Tick purpose.

Tick has been such a fascinating character so far. He's completely oblivious to the modern pleasantries of the world. He's loud and always says what's on his mind. He always has a winning quip to deliver when in the heat of battle. But he's not too bright. He can't remember important details like names. He's not the brains of this operation. He needs to be pointed in the right direction to do good as a hero. Of course, the people who receive his help aren't exactly grateful for it. They believe his foolishness as a hero will ultimately get them killed because they have no control over his actions. They didn't ask for his protection. But he's giving it anyway. He believes he's making a difference in this world by protecting this one city block from the organized crime that currently controls it. When Arthur isn't around, that's what Tick finds himself doing. He appreciates the kindness that one woman gave him in a convenience store. And now, he feels it's his duty to protect this business from the criminals who wish to exploit it. It's a familiar comic book story. But it has a new twist on it because it's Tick doing what he believes is heroic even though he fundamentally doesn't have a good understanding of the situation.

That reveals the heartbreak of the title character. Peter Serafinowicz's interpretation of the character hasn't been all that different from the ones that came before him. But now, Tick is given more backstory that adds to the tragedy of his current actions. He has no memories of what his life was like before meeting Arthur. He sees himself in this suit and immediately recognizes that he's a hero. He knows how to fight and protect the people he is closely watching. But he has no memory of his identity outside of being The Tick. Being a hero is all he knows. The season has proven that he's very fluent in the conventions of this particular genre. He knows all about the hero's journey. He knows that there is a distinction between a villain and an antihero - with Overkill seeming more like the latter given the little tease he drops when he sees Arthur again. He knows enough to make the right kind of witty banter when the situation calls for it. But his mind is completely blank about the rest of his life. He knows that he doesn't like secret identities. He sees no point in Arthur trying to have a day job as an accountant. He doesn't think it will be beneficial to the investigation at all and will just ultimately get in the way. That is absolutely true in the end. Overkill strikes when Arthur is at work and doesn't have his suit. That leads to an epic brawl between Tick and Overkill. One that makes it seem like they are evenly matched. One that ends on a big cliffhanger of Tick being thrown out a window and crashing on the street below. It's a tense way to close the episode. But it's much more interesting to dig beneath the character. Arthur is desperate for information about Tick because Tick is asking so much of him. Arthur needs that level of familiarity and trust in order to give fully to this mission. And now, he sees that there is nothing else to Tick. How he presents himself right now is all that he is. He has no other identity. It's simple but also tragic. Without Arthur, there is no hope to ever learn what actually happened to Tick and what led him to this particular moment in time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Secret/Identity" was written by David Fury and directed by Romeo Tirone.
  • There just happens to be security camera footage of the alleyway that perfectly shows Overkill attacking the various henchmen and leaving Arthur all alone when the police arrived. That's very convenient. It allows Arthur to get out of the situation he is in because he has done nothing to legalize his claim as a hero and getting all of those protections under the law.
  • It serves Arthur that he loses the supersuit because he is foolish enough to return to his apartment after it was the site of the Tick's battle with Miss Lint. She is still alive, knows where Arthur lives and wants the suit. So, it's not surprising that she's there the moment Arthur returns. Without Tick, Arthur is pretty powerless to stop her as well.
  • Of course, there's still the mystery of what everyone is planning to do with the suit. Everyone is after it. Arthur wanted to give it away but it actually fits him. Miss Lint has it but isn't letting anyone else know that she already has it. And Overkill wants it as well for some reason that somehow connects back to the investigation into The Terror still being alive.
  • Arthur's conspiracy board is up on his wall for everyone to see. It may have been destroyed in the battle somewhat. But the scope of the investigation is still pretty obvious. And yet, Miss Lint needs him to spell it out to her. That sends her spiraling on her own identity crisis because she truly believes if The Terror were still alive he would have contacted her at some point.
  • Arthur is suffering from nightmares again. He keeps seeing Overkill and The Terror in his dreams. They are corrupting his life once more. This is the path he is choosing to be on at the moment. He is searching for answers. But that pursuit of the truth will only traumatize his mind more.
  • Dot doesn't like Tick at all because he's not good for Arthur's stability. She needs Arthur to stick to his schedule. But she's also realizing just how dangerous Tick can be because she's the one literally treating the people who get hit by the bullets who bounce off Tick. She knows that he has powers. It's good that that isn't being kept from her for a long time. Now, she seems more aware of what's really going on in the show.

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.