You all remember The Tick, right? The big blue guy that dropped all the non-sequiturs and just generally made Saturday mornings in the '90s awesome?
Well, I never actually watched the cartoon back then; it was a little before my time. But I loved catching the reruns they used to play on Toon Disney, before that became Disney XD. At first, they would show them at a pretty reasonable time. My parents had no problem letting me stay up past ten o'clock, as much as I loved the show. Then it started coming on later, like at one in the morning, or eventually five. Obviously, I had to stay up and watch the show in secret by that point.
So, you know how strange things have a tendency to happen at night? This was one of those times. It was the last episode I ever remember seeing on Toon Disney, and it was a doozy.
The episode started off like normal, with that great scat tune playing over clips from the show. Never failed to bring a smile to my face, back then. After the usual fade to black, though, the screen stayed black for a really long time. Like, almost a full minute. I couldn't remember for sure if they typically played commercials right after the opening or not, so I assumed that they did and someone had forgotten to actually run a commercial in the allotted time.
It faded back in from black, to a static shot of a hospital's exterior. There was no music, just the sound of a doctor saying something like "thereâEUTMs some good news and some bad news" (forgive me for not having every line memorized, like the rest of the series; again, I only saw this episode the one time). Then, a title flashed on screen, briefly, in the usual font. It read "THE TICK vs. CANCER". I did a double-take. It couldn't have said that, I thought. It just couldn't. But it did.
"Can you remember anything that youâEUTMve done recently that might have caused this?" the doctor asked from off screen, the camera focused on The Tick, lying in a hospital bed. He looked different. Kind of frail. Still bigger than Arthur and the doctor, but not like his usual self. His face, or at least what you could see of it, was a sullen grey.
"No, no, I can't say that I do," The Tick answered. "Can you think of anything, chum?" He still tried to come off as his usual, cheerful self, but I could feel something was amiss. His eyes betrayed the forced smile below them.
Arthur opened his mouth, but couldn't get any words out before he started crying. Not the usual kind of whimpering he would do when he was in a sticky situation, though; you know, the funny kind. Just, absolutely bawling his eyes out. It sounded real, like they had candidly recorded Rob Paulson after receiving some particularly devastating news. I wondered when the jokes were going to start.
The Tick looked like he was about to start crying, too, but he didn't. I guess he felt like he had to stay strong for the both of them. The camera zoomed out, gradually, Arthur still crying by his side. "Don't worry, chum," he said, "IâEUTMll pull through this. After all, I'm nigh-invulnerable."
Another faux-commercial break, with nothing but blackness. I guess nobody wanted to advertise during the episode, but they still had to fill the extra time? Whatever the reason, I took the opportunity to pinch myself and make sure I hadn't just fallen asleep or something.
The episode started back, and The City was in chaos. Crime was running rampant in The Tick's absence, with every recurring villain from the show making an appearance. They weren't using silly, overly-complex schemes, though. Just blowing things up with dynamite and shooting civilians with realistic guns, like the Idea Men carried in the first episode but never used. One man sat on a familiar looking chair in front of some curtains when it rose up and tossed him to the floor. Chairface Chippendale emerged from behind the curtains and jumped on top of the man, stabbing him in the back, repeatedly.
Another man saw it happen and said "you won't get away with this, Chippendale!"
The man with the chair for a face just stood there and replied, "whoâEUTMs going to stop me? The Tick has cancer!" He let out the most diabolical laugh. Like he had every intention of doing something horrible later, like smothering a bunch of puppies, or dropping something heavy on them, or maybe eating a kitten.
The screen faded to a fiery backdrop. The remaining heroes stood in the wreckage of The City, asking questions like "Why did this happen?" and "What are we going to do without him?" Die Fledermaus in particular was having a hard time. "I always pretended like I didn't care about what happened to others because I can't handle grief well, and I never want to get started down that road, but this is too much! It's not fair, damn it!" Die Fledermaus said 'damn'. I couldn't believe it. The screen faded to black once more, again with no commercials.
When the show returned again, The Tick was just sitting in his bed, silently, watching Arthur sleep in the chair next to him. That was when he started crying. The tears welled up in his eyes, cartoonishly, flooding out after a few seconds, but that didn't make it any less sad. He was even frailer than before, with practically no muscle left. His suit had grown a duller shade of blue, and his antennae wilted. His face was completely grey. He sighed and said "IâEUTMm ready to die," pulling a gun seemingly from nowhere, and held it up to the side of his head, with his now-bony finger on the trigger.
American Maid burst through the door and told him to stop, but he had already pulled the trigger, waking Arthur and making her wince. The camera focused back on The Tick, still alive with his head rapidly wobbling from side to side, cartoonishly, like his crying from before. "Damn this nigh-invulnerability! I just want to die!" He buried his face in his hands and said, more quietly "I just want to fucking dieâEU¦"
The normal ending sequence started abruptly while The Tick was still crying, in the middle of a deep inhale. The same upbeat reprise of the opening theme played in the background, with the usual still frames behind the credits, as always.