Monday, February 26, 2018

REVIEW: Amazon's 'The Tick' - Season 1B

The second half of the first season of The Tick dropped on Amazon on Friday, February 23. This post will feature brief reviews of each specific episode of the season.

The action comedy stars Peter Serafinowicz, Griffin Newman, Valorie Curry, Brendan Hines, Yara Martinez, Scott Speiser and Jackie Earle Haley.

107. "Tale From the Crypt"
Written by David Fury and directed by Thor Freudenthal

It's remarkable to see just how light on its feet The Tick remains here despite a lot needing to happen to resolve the cliffhanger from the previous episode. This is just such a delightful episode that manages to cover a lot of ground. It gives The Terror a distinct personality that is fun to watch while always making it clear that he is the ultimate villain for the season. The parody of Whiplash is so unexpected but fits in perfectly with the overall manipulations The Terror is up to at the moment. The show continues to play well with familiar superhero conventions. Arthur still feels the pull to rescue Dr. Karamazov as soon as he makes his escape from the underground lair. Freeing the doctor will probably be a huge complication later on. Arthur believes he's doing the heroic thing. But the audience has no idea which side the doctor is actually on. It's just clear that he doesn't want to be working with either Arthur or The Terror. He's a free agent now who could explain everything currently going on with Superian. But it's too early in the season still to get those answers. So, away he goes after an unfortunate punch to Arthur's genitals. But Arthur does make his escape from this lair. He's not confined for very long. Plus, he keeps the suit. Why The Terror allows that is still a mystery. But the show still ends on an ominous note of Tick and Overkill going down into the tunnels just as they explode. That's an effective close for the episode. It was also just a lot of fun seeing those characters pair off with each other. Dot tries to understand Overkill who must take everything super seriously and breaks the rules for his own agenda. But it's also just as insightful to get that moment between Tick and Dangerboat as the ship reveals new sides of his personality and his attraction. B+

108. "After Midnight"
Written by Ben Edlund and directed by Kate Dennis

At times, this feels like a piece-moving episode. A come-down after the thrilling and exciting first episode back from hiatus. It's the episode where Dot goes off on her own again to a shooting range where she's not a very good shot, Miss Lint exerts her new control over the Pyramid Gang by zapping the tattoo off one of them, and Arthur slowly realizes just how naive and insensitive he has been in many aspects of his life. Of course, Arthur's apology to Walter doesn't actually mean anything or dig deep into Arthur's refusal to call him "dad." It's also an episode without The Terror at all - which is disappointing after how much fun he was in the previous episode. There's also an update on what's going on with the Very Large Man. An explanation is given as to why he is suddenly growing and how that ties back into the plot to kill Superian. But it's just a brief update that proves that this story is moving at a glacial pace compared to everything else - especially since Arthur, Tick and Overkill aren't even aware of it. And yet, the main story finds some truly inspired new depths with Overkill and forms a new bond between him and Arthur. It's here that it's learned Overkill is actually Straight Shooter - another member of the Flag Five who survived The Terror's attack. It's a reveal that proves he lost just as much if not more than Arthur did on that fateful day. It makes his hunt for vengeance against The Terror have real emotional weight to it. He's fueled in the same way that Arthur is. His entire motivation comes from that event. And here, Arthur only realizes it because he needs Overkill to tell Midnight, the talking dog and member of the Flag Five who is writing memoirs, that Superian is in danger. It all eventually ends up in a fight that is truly ridiculous but so enjoyable to watch between a man and a dog. It's weird but so specific to this show in an enjoyable way. B

109. "My Dinner with Android"
Directed by Kate Dennis with story by Christopher McCulloch & Jose Molina and teleplay by Ben Edlund & Susan Hurwitz Arneson

Tick's origin is a mystery that the season has largely sidelined. Whenever it does pop up, it's clear that Tick is the most tragic and lonely character on the entire show. He's desperate for any kind of information about his past. He has formed this strong bond with Arthur and their fellow allies. But he's also so curious. That's enough for him to latch onto this idea that he's actually a robot. The main story of the Urmanian government coming after Dr. Karamazov isn't that great. It just further proves that Arthur is blindly protecting the doctor because he will apparently reveal all of the secrets of The Terror's plans. That information still hasn't produced much because Arthur and Tick have to be flailing around constantly protecting this guy who is treated as nothing more than a punchline. But it's still meaningful to see Tick form this connection with this robot and then immediately have to knock its head off as soon as it turns murderous. That's compelling. And yet, this still feels like an episode that is biding its time until The Terror can reveal the full scope of his plan. Progress is made in that regard. Superian remembers that Clifford Richter is actually the man who discovered The Terror's teeth all those years ago. It's another cliffhanger ending with Superian passing out in Arthur's apartment. Of course, it's unclear how he got there in the first place. It's just suppose to be an ending designed to get the audience to watch the next episode right away. And then, there's the story about Dangerboat's attraction to Arthur. It's played as comic relief. It's not the same kind of awkward flirtation story that is going on with Dot and Overkill. But it also has the potential to become nothing more than a "gay panic" trope. Dangerboat seems aware that he pushed things too quickly too soon. But it's unclear if the show itself is aware of the delicate line it is walking or just enjoys the joke of a boat with an artificial intelligence falling in love with a man. B-

110. "Risky Bismuth"
Written by Susan Hurwitz Arnseon and directed by Rosemary Rodriguez

This is the episode where a lot of the dangling threads of the season start to come together with an explanation for how it all ties into The Terror's overall plan. Of course, The Terror only appears briefly and it's one of the funniest scenes of the episode. He's just with an ad agency trying to figure out the best campaign for his re-introduction to the world. That's just hilarious while critiquing the various tropes of this genre. The rest of the episode features a little too much exposition. The need for Dr. Karamazov to explain everything does rob the show of some of its comedic edge here. It tries making up for that through visual jokes - like Superian overheating or Karamazov being placed in a robotic body. But it does provide crucial details for understanding the end game of the season. It's intense that Superian is unconscious in Arthur's apartment seemingly on the verge of death. Karamazov can finally explain why Big Bismuth is toxic to Superian and why The Terror has used the Very Large Man to infect Superian. It's all very rational. The Terror needs the Very Large Man as an incubator for this resource. It just becomes a more ominous and serious threat as soon as Lint's plan gets the Very Large Man to start moving quickly towards the city. That's a very enticing note to end on. It means that this ragtag group of heroes will need to find a way to save the day despite their various identity crises. Meanwhile, the Overkill-Dot romance continues to heat up. But there's still that potentially destructive moment where he aggressively grabs her once she presents him with intelligence she's gathered on Lint's plan. That moment could have been the end of this coupling. Of course, they aren't together. That's just the perception they have from the world at large now. Lint comments on it and Overkill doesn't refute it. But it's still mostly a complication to keep things intense moving forward. B-

111. "The Beginning of the End"
Written by Jose Molina and directed by Romeo Tirone

On one hand, this episode largely just sets the stage for the final confrontation with Arthur and Tick trying to stop The Terror's plan before he destroys the city and Superian. The stakes just keep getting raised throughout this episode - which Tick amusingly notes as more complications keep being introduced. And yet, this episode is surprisingly moving to watch as well. Yes, there's still the subplot with Dot, Overkill and Miss Lint off in a separate corner of the show where it seems unlikely they'll have large roles in the end game of the season. They exist in order to provide more complications or offer amusing new partnerships moving forward. The true heart and soul of the show comes from Arthur and Tick's relationship. Here, it starts in a very funny place with Tick needing to get all of the Big Bismuth removed from his body so he can stop unknowingly killing Superian. But it builds to such a strong moment between them as they accept their fates as the superheroes who can save the day. For the entire season, Tick has been talking about fate. Destiny has called for Arthur to rise as the hero he was meant to be. It comes on the anniversary of his father's death that Arthur is seemingly answering that call. Of course, there's tragedy in that statement as well. The Terror orchestrated all of this because he has a sense of irony and loves a good story. The deaths of Flag Five set into motion the events that shaped Arthur and Overkill. And now, The Terror is using them to cause more destruction. Except Arthur has found a way to potentially reverse all of that and foil The Terror's plans. But he also has to resign himself to the fate that this could be a suicide mission. He could be flying off to his death. That's what makes that phone call with Walter so sweet. It's Arthur realizing that this connection is real and genuine but he has never given it a chance. It's a missed connection that he doesn't understand until he's ready to sacrifice it all for the sake of the city. That's great storytelling that sets up the finale well. A-

112: "The End of the Beginning (Of the Start of the Dawn of the Age of Superheroes)"
Written by Ben Edlund & David Fury and directed by Thor Freudenthal

The finale doesn't waste too much time getting to the big resolution of the story that's been building over the last few episodes. It was also improbable that Arthur would die during his encounter with the Very Large Man. The show established the serious stakes of this mission. But it was unlikely it would kill off its lead character in the season finale. This season was mostly about Arthur's journey. He started off as a neurotic person troubled by potential mental health problems. He ends as a hero who runs into danger in order to save lives. Sure, he's still neurotic and overly protective of his sister despite how many times she has proven herself. But it was an engaging story to watch. All it took was the fateful push from The Tick. The season ultimately didn't provide any clarity on Tick's backstory. But that wasn't all that necessary either. In fact, it would be perfectly fine as an ongoing mystery. He doesn't know anything about his past. But that doesn't stop him from being a hero who encourages Arthur to be the best version of himself. It's because of Tick that Arthur is confident enough to confront The Terror. As Superian pointed out, The Terror's plans often don't make a whole lot of sense. His overall plan is ruined early in the finale and he's then making things up for the remainder of the episode. It's enough for Lint to realize that she shouldn't be following him anymore. She definitely makes the right move in using the escape pod to leave this battle. It presents an open-ended future for her in the future where she could return in any number of ways. But it's also thrilling to see Arthur be willing to sacrifice himself to stop The Terror once and for all. He became a hero because of The Terror. And now, his hero's journey is complete by stopping the villain. Of course, Superian swoops in to deliver the final blow. But Arthur still stands up as the hero he was destined to be. He gets the respect from his family who are proud of what he has accomplished. But he's also noted as a hero by the government. Of course, that's an ominous threat that Midnight teases at the conclusion of the finale. A cliffhanger-driven show needed to end its season on a note like that. It does that first by whatever is going on with Walter and his fighting prowess. And then, there's the tease that AEGIS is possibly abusing its surveillance program. But it's all just a tease that Arthur and Tick will be operating on the public stage in the future. They may not get the recognition they deserve right now. But they are the heroes who saved the city this season. A-