The worst thing about The Tick pilot: you cannot immediately watch the next episode.
Creator Ben Edlund and executive producers Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld have reconvened to offer the world another chance to love The Tick. This time, though, our mundane world and the world The Tick narrates are no longer so far apart.
Somewhere in The City, Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman) is convinced a supervillain known as The Terror still lurks, running a criminal empire under the nose of his arch-nemesis, Superian. While investing a possible lead, Arthur encounters The Tick, a nigh-invulnerable superhero who is ready to pounce on an illegal arms trade. Though Arthur initially cautions him against it, The Tick strikes after Arthur is arrested. The resulting explosion leaves The Tick with exactly one clue: a bulletproof "bunny suit."
While Arthur tries to convince his sister Dot (Valorie Curry) that he's okay, The Tick tracks him down to discuss their next move. And though Arthur is initially resistant to join the fight, The Tick delivers a rousing — if confusing — speech about Destiny beckoning them onward.
Thanks to the explosion of superhero movies and the popularity of the Netflix Marvel series, The Tick pilot enjoys a new box of cliches and trappings to play with. Edlund's script makes great use of the "grounded" superhero origin while Wally Pfister's direction gives The City a vibe not dissimilar from Hell's Kitchen on Daredevil.
But for all those modern trappings, The Tick is still seriously funny.
In this telling of The Tick, Arthur has a deep origin tied to a previous superhero community in The City and a life-defining encounter with The Terror (Jackie Earl Haley). It is revealed in a way that is both surprisingly affecting and genuinely hilarious when the punchline is delivered. Newman anchors the pilot quite well as a man dealing with a severe trauma and facing the possibility that his most insane thought may not actually be insane.
But for all that grounding, Peter Serafinowicz knocks it out of the park as The Tick. Not constrained by the modern superhero persona, he's all smiles, corny catchphrases and absurd monologues. Every so often, he hits a note exactly like animated Tick voice actor Townsend Coleman and offers a few shades of previous live action Tick performer Patrick Warburton. And even as his costume adheres to the modern look of textures and clearly-visible eyes, it is still an incongruous splash of color in an otherwise darker world. The overall effect keeps The Tick a step closer to madness, which plays well with the pilot's early inclination to suggest he might be a figment of Arthur's imagination.
That push-pull between The Tick's old-fashioned form of superheroics and Arthur's more modern reality creates an interesting tension. Backed by solid Edlund punchlines and a great lead duo, I hope to see that conflict explored when (not if) The Tick goes to series.
Meanwhile, The Tick pilot is available now on Amazon.