“After Midnight” doesn’t accomplish much from a plot standpoint, which is weird to say about a show that only drops out 6 episodes at a time. Maybe that’s for the best though, as the driving forces behind the story of the show are much less interesting than the time we spend getting to know these characters and watching them bounce off of one another. The main plot conceit for this particular episode is: “we have to tell Superian what we know about The Terror, but we can’t reach him.” They end up deciding they need to go to Midnight the Dog, so he can pass the warning on to Superian. A group of characters passing information to one character so he can pass it on to another isn’t exactly compelling, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s the platter that you need for serving us a scene of Overkill wrestling with a CGI-assisted dog. Nuff said. Let’s get to the five thoughts:
1. A Very Large Ass
The episode kicks off by catching us up with perhaps the biggest dangling (pun intended) plot thread from the prior run of episodes: namely, “Very Large Man” a big naked guy slowly trudging around the outskirts of The City and generally freaking people out. It seems like the writers wanted to let us know that no one had forgotten about him, including Superian and company. Thanks to his huge ass hovering in the background of the opening scene, we won’t forget. They give us a little bit of an origin for VLM, showing him tossed into a van and injected with the drug that presumably caused him to become very large. They also give Superian a couple more opportunities to act kind of aloof and not all that warm and comforting, while still working to save the day. The “aloof” Superman analogue isn’t exactly an original concept, but much like Overkill’s intensely bloodthirsty revenger, The Tick milks laughs from it regardless. In “After Midnight’s” opening scene, Superian forgets the real name of the VLM, can’t remember his job title, and all but disregards the big guy’s wife standing right next to her. Superman is the big blue boy scout, raised to comfort people because he had Jon and Martha to guide him. Superian is what you get when you have god-like powers, but never learned how to empathize.
2. Superhero Normcore
One thing Ben Edlund’s Tick has always been good at, whether in comic book, live action, or cartoon form, has been mixing the utterly mundane with the absurd. Amazon’s version is probably the most grounded and slowest moving version yet, but it achieves a similar tone while working with less of the wackier resources. One of the best ways the show achieves this is through the character of “Walter”, Arthur’s stepfather. Walter is an aggressively normal man with one simple twist: he’s a major fan of superheroes and their lore. Other than that, he’s just and extremely pleasant dad-sweater-wearing normie. We catch up with him again first through an overly long answering machine message he had left for Arthur while Arthur was trapped in The Terror’s lair. Later, he’s at book signing for the talking superhero dog “Midnight” (formerly “Onward” of the Flag Five), just thrilled as heck to get a chance to get his book signed (it was a birthday present, dontcha know?). François Chau brings a surreal quality to his scenes by being the most normal thing about them. Perhaps that’s part of the magic of The Tick, in general? The City is always so well-realized that the normal and the abnormal can coexist, and they can switch roles in an instant.
3. Miss Lint’s Magnetic
“After Midnight” cements Yara Martinez’s performance as Miss Lint as the strongest, most complex one on the show. A lot of work has been done to ensure that we kind of see Lint as a sympathetic character on some level, even as she’s doing bad guy stuff. She’s gotten to play the heartstrings (the flashback from episode 2), do some comedy (the vacuum cleaner mishap from Walter’s birthday party episode), and gets to be an absolute bad ass (see: her whipping Ramses around, or this episode, where she intimidates his former goons).Continued below
I feel like we’re never quite sure of Miss Lint’s true intentions. If The Terror is pure idiosyncratic evil, Lint is much more complicated. It’s not a confusion of character, no, Martinez is playing all these different notes with purpose. Here, she’s brazenly taken over Ramses former crime operation. Is it to prove herself to The Terror yet again? Or is she fully embracing her inner villain and making a true power play? Whatever the case, Martinez gets to playfully chew the scenery a bit (and even fry the tattoo off a guy’s face). It’s a delight to watch.
4. Overkill’s Underplayed (in a good way!)
Overkill’s potential sensitivities were played with a little in the previous episode, while Dot carefully tried to get past his emotional walls. In “After Midnight”, those walls crumble a little more, but that’s got little to do with Dot. After overhearing Walter say that there was a 6th member of the Flag Five, Arthur comes to the realization that Overkill was once “Straight Shooter”, a member of the Flag Five that survived the fatal attack from The Terror. Arthur realizes that when Overkill talks about the “family” The Terror took from him, he’s talking about the rest of the Flag Five. Overkill is cornered by Arthur and reluctantly admits his “weakness” (his words, not mine). Arthur and Overkill form a bond here that by the end of the episode actually causes Overkill to regard him as a brother in arms (again, his words). And likewise, because The Tick saved his life in the graveyard outside of the Terror’s lair, Overkill owes him his. It’s like a Wookie Life Debt. Just go with it. “After Midnight” doesn’t move the plot forward a whole lot, but it does a lot of heavy lifting in trying to soften Overkill a bit.
5. “Spoon!” watch
Midnight: “Hey, I’m just a simple, plain-talking German Shepherd who can start fires with his mind.”
The Tick: “Robot hands. Robot eyes. Overkill, I reluctantly dig your style.”
Miss Lint: “I can feel the metal guns in your coats, boys. They can’t wait to trade protons with me.”