Are you at work? Is your job important? Because unless you work in an ER or are currently teaching our nation’s children you should probably ditch and skedaddle on home because Amazon just released The Tick a day early! It’s all right there where you can see it! And while I only had time to watch the opening episodes last night, I’m happy to say they were as charming as last season—one episode in particular might even be the series’ best yet.
The opening episodes pick up immediately after last season’s finale. The Tick and Arthur are still finding their footing as a super duo. Arthur’s sister, Dottie is beginning to look for her own heroic arc apart from being “Arthur’s sister, Dottie.” John Hodgman shows up and is delightful as always.
There is a surprising amount of paperwork, which Arthur, a conscientious accountant as always, is quite good at. There are riffs on, well, everything? Already? But I’ll mention two favorites. Episode Four, “Blood and Cake,” contains what I’m assuming is a sideways Knight Rider reference that made me very happy. There are also several mentions of Dottie’s continued love of the fighting style Krav Maga, which I’m going to assume is a nod to The Venture Brothers, which Ben Edlund worked on with his sometime collaborators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer. Speaking of Episode Four, “Blood and Cake” is possibly the best episode of this entire series so far. Again, no spoilers, but it’s a Danger Boat episode, and it goes in some unexpected directions and pulls off a surprising emotional heft.
Which is I think the overall strength of the Tick universe. Where else can you have an episode where a deeply felt, heartwrenching scene is shared between a man in a moth costume and a sentient boat? Or where childhood trauma is processed in conversation with a giant man in a blue Tick outfit? But that’s been the point of The Tick from the beginning—a kid screaming “Cannonball!!!” before leaping into the middle of the superhero pool, who will, long after the pool party’s over, sit on the diving board with you, listening patiently while you tell him your worst anxieties.
I try not to be one of those people who says “There are two types of people in the world”—why be a slave to the binary—but there are two types of people in the world: those who dissolve into helpless laughter when they hear the theme song for The Tick’s animated incarnation, and those who don’t understand that it’s the funniest thing ever put on TV. I say this because I think it helps to understand why I’ve become so obsessed with this show over the last year. That theme song is pure silliness and joy. It must have felt ridiculous to make those noises in a recording studio. It must have seemed absurd to plenty of executives to put that show on television. It must have seemed crazy that respected director Barry Sonnenfeld would slot this weird TV show about a blue superhero and his accountant sidekick in between directing Men In Black, Wild Wild West, and Men in Black II (And no, Wild Wild West is NOT GOOD, but everyone expected it to make buckets of money), the year before Spider-Man solidified the superhero boom. It must have seemed ridiculous to Ben Edlund that he was drawing this character as a career rather than just as a doodle in a math notebook.
And yet here we are.
All of those people embraced the ridiculous, and dedicated themselves to these character who comment on the absurdities of life with love, optimism, and sincerity. The reason I refer to Ben Edlund as one of my personal Writing Gods is that he’s not afraid of change. While Tick himself remains a steadfast pillar of blue justice, Edlund allows the characters around him grow and warp and shift. He allows many different types of humor into his universe, and he’s clearly open to using every pathway available to him to comment on the absurdities of the world. I wrote last season about the ways he explored mental health issues through the character of Arthur. Arthur went from being kind of a punchline, a schlubby accountant who wants to be a hero despite not having any powers in the comic, to an emotionally abused character in the first live action series, to a person with real, identifiable diseases in the latest series. Edlund has reinvented a thirty-year-old joke—look at this accountant who wants to be a superhero—to be a character that real people, with real illnesses, can identify with. He’s made him a different (I think very new) type of hero. And he’s done that because he wasn’t afraid to be ridiculous in public thirty years ago.
What I’m saying is: be ridiculous with me, and watch this show, and tell Amazon that you want a billion more seasons of it, cause we need some silliness and hope in the world right now, even if it’s just on TV.