The newest available show to binge comes in the form of Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth.” The show, based off of the comic book series from DC Vertigo, pulls viewers into a post apocalyptic world where a virus has wiped out much of the population and babies are now born as a type of human-animal hybrid.
Right off the bat, whether by design or unfortunate timing, the setting can either be seen as quite deterring from enjoyment of the experience or given extra relevance due to the recent state of the world. The show often includes characters masking up for fear of catching the virus. At one point a sign can even be seen advocating for social distancing and to remain at least 6 feet away from others. While on the one hand, the setting can remind us of how lucky we are that the pandemic of the last year plus had not been worse, but also can suffer from a “too soon” detriment.
The story follows one of those new hybrids as our main protagonist. Meet Gus, AKA Sweet Toot, the deer-human hybrid with hope coming out of every pore. Gus’ “Pubba” (father) brought him out into the deep woods during the fall of the modern world when Gus was still a baby. There he raised Gus to survive off their small bit of fenced in land for roughly 10 years. While his “Pubba” tries his best to shelter Gus from the outside world by setting rules and telling tall tales of life beyond the fence, the outside world still manages to find him. The life Gus had become accustomed to gets upended and his “Pubba” can no longer take care of him. Gus must then venture out into the big bad world his “Pubba” warned him about in order to find the mother he has never met.
While the general plot is, for the most part, a sound one, some of the motivations and character choices leave a bit to be desired. On several occasions, Gus makes some rather frustrating choices. Understanding full well he’s just a kid, some of his actions still left me asking “what were you thinking?” And while Gus’ motivation is quite clear, the series lacks a gripping antagonist. General Abbot, the ridiculously cartoonish looking bad guy, gets very little screen time and, as far as season one goes, lacks any meaningful exploration into his character. The result being a very lackluster and uncompelling villain.
With that being said, a strong villain isn’t exactly necessary as the story is ultimately about Gus’ journey and the friends he makes along the way. This is where we come to what “Sweet Tooth” does well — and what it does well, it does very well. The world is intriguing and different, the characters are just complex enough to feel for with rewarding development and there is something extremely pleasant about watching Guz find joy in some of the ordinary things in our world we can often take for granted. The story balances several different simultaneous plotlines well with excellent pacing that all end up converging in a rather satisfying way. But the heart of the story truly is the relationship between Sweeth Tooth and Big Man. The relationship between the two characters evolves throughout the entirety of the eight episode arc and is well worth investing in.
But there are a few things throughout that don’t quite make sense or are just left unanswered. Like the fact that Gus has a sort of vision of General Abbot without ever having met the man or having any information about him, or that Gus is somehow able to calm down a raging tiger just by… asking it to. And what was with the giant buck showing up outside the cabin? The world almost feels like there is a supernatural element at play but offers no reasonable explanation of why.
And the tone ultimately takes quite a while to figure out. Is this a happy and inspirational story of hope? Or is this a grounded commentary of the morally questionable choices people have to make to survive the apocalypse? And the answer is that it’s sort of a hybrid (no pun intended) of the two that don’t really gel well together. It begs the question of just who is the intended audience of the show? There are definitely some mature themes taking place here but are also often presented in the whimsical style like that of a child’s imagination.
Overall, the show seems to cast a wide net that anyone should be able to find something enjoyable in it. But there is a chance of feeling a bit disappointing should you feel it should have leaned heavier on one end or the other. “Sweet Tooth” is an enjoyable watch but is far from perfect. The first season lays intriguing groundwork for what could be a rather exciting second season. The show has a lot of potential to really excel but must first solidify its identity.
3.5 out 5 stars