1. “Ah-ha, the inevitable confrontation.”
“Fear of Flying” finally brings us a confrontation that has been building since the first episode. Arthur and the posh villain Ramses finally meet face-to-face, and Arthur’s long-running amateur detective job linking Ramses to the crime ring of still-living, breathing Terror is vindicated. There’s a sense that The Tick can finally get going as the show it has the potential of being, now that the villains are out in the open and our heroes have come together to face them. For the first time since the pilot episode, The Tick is hinting at the promise of this world being populated with more colorful characters, and a sense of adventure that it might start to embrace instead of running away from it. Arthur, in particular, seems to be getting the character development needed to move him away from a man who just wants to live a normal, mundane life for one where he’s accepted his “destiny” as a hero. Arthur’s resistance to that has been a pillar of the show so far, but it also hampers it from being the colorful adventure that we know The Tick can be. If this is the end of Arthur’s indecision, then it hasn’t come too soon, and it’s entirely welcome.
This confrontation also takes the opportunity to tie threads together with Overkill’s mission, seemingly bringing him into the fold as an ally of The Tick and Arthur. Though not without a funny sequence where Overkill and The Tick try to formally engage in the age old tradition of a hero/anti-hero fight before the inevitable team-up. It also deepens Dot’s sisterly relationship with Arthur, and almost gives away her own identity as a medical technician for the bad guys.
2. Grounding the boundless
But if there’s one thing that’s also apparent from the confrontation with Ramses & co, it’s again just how much grounding the show in reality prevents it from fully embracing its comic book roots. Much of this is obviously due to budgetary constraints, but there are several noticeable ways that the show turns a colorful property with boundless possibilities into a mundane affair, even when it comes to explosive action scenes. For example, the confrontation takes place in a big abandoned field of grass – a practical location to film a fight, but not an interesting one to look at. Overkill does much of the work in the fight, dispatching Ramses’ men with his typical brand of ruthless efficiency, which allows the Tick to get in a couple of funny lines about condemning Overkill’s methods, but largely leaves The Tick in the background of the fun. The best moment, however, does belong to The Tick, as he picks up a car tire and effortlessly tosses it unto Ramses head as he runs away maybe 50 to 100 yards away. This is the one time where the show achieves the irreverent, comic book physics inherent to The Tick. More of that feeling in future episodes, please.
3. More puns than you can shake a *cough* stick at
“Fear of Flying” opens up with yet another extended shot of the pixelated privates of the Very Large Man as he terrorizes the city. The Tick uses it as an opportunity to rattle off a half-dozen of the easiest rapid-fire dick jokes you’ll ever hear. This scene highlighted for me a very essential thing about the humor of The Tick as a property. The comic, the cartoon, and (up until now) the Amazon series never really goes for the easy joke. So much of what makes The Tick great is that the humor is derived from parody of the absurd stuff you have to accept when reading comics. The Tick manipulates the English language or re-purposes common sayings to create neologisms or malapropisms. It rarely goes for the cheap joke, and while I’m not saying it bothered me to see them do it here, I was struck by how ordinary that sequence of jokes was. The Tick is usually much funnier than that.
4. Callback City 2: Foreshadowing Boogaloo
The Tick is wading into Arrested Development territory with the way it uses foreshadowing and callbacks to previous jokes and absurd background material. In “Fear of Flying”, we see Overkill uncouthly eating “Fo-Ham” straight from the can, a product that was merely mentioned in passing in a previous episode with little context, leaving the viewer to only imagine what it was. Similarly, Overkill watches an interview with the talking dog who wrote the book that Arthur’s step-dad was given for his birthday just an episode ago. This is “Onward”, the pet dog of one of the members of the Flag Five, Christian Soldier. Both of these jokes accomplish the same kind of “stacking” effect that happened in Arrested Development: hearing the word “Fo-Ham” wasn’t funny on its own, but then an episode later it becomes funny by seeing Overkill eat it in a disgusting manner. And a passing reference to a dog who wrote a book becomes funnier when you see in a Charlie Rose-style interview with said dog in a later episode.Continued below
5. “Spoon!” watch
The Tick: “Don’t be Rhino Dot! Be Happy Camper Dot!”
The Tick: “Arthur, this man is having an argument with his boat!”
The Tick: “Your mouth says one thing – you guns say some other things, you bald bad man.”