When I first saw Sweet Tooth showcased among the various Netflix offerings, the mere mention of a worldwide pandemic as the inciting incident in the story was enough to turn me away: like many of us, I’ve had enough of the grim reality of this past year and a half to want to look for a fictional version of it in any medium. But some time later someone wrote a very positive comment about it in the Facebook group of SFF lovers I follow, so I decided to give it a chance, and once again I find myself indebted to a fellow consumer of speculative fiction for a great discovery.
As the story begins we are told that a lethal pandemic swept the world at a time in which strange babies were being born, hybrid children showing animal features in varying degrees: it did not take long for the belief that the two events were connected to take root, so that these strange children were hunted mercilessly while the world as we know it collapsed. Gus, a mix between human and deer, is one such child: taken to live in the wilderness by the man who raised him like a father, he grew up with the conviction that the outside world was a burned wasteland, and that he should never, ever, go beyond the borders of the place where he grew up.
Like in all fairy tales however (because Sweet Tooth feels a little like a fairy tale, mostly thanks to Gus’ innocent outlook) something happens that forces the child to leave his comfort zone and face the outside world as he starts a journey of discovery and growth across a profoundly changed Earth. He’s not alone, not for long, as he later meets first with Jeppard (a.k.a. Big Man), a former football player plagued by the darkness in his recent past, and then with Bear, a teenaged girl who had to grow up fast in the changed world. There are a few other points of view in the story, like that of Aimee, who made a new life for herself and her adopted daughter in a zoo, or Dr. Singh, desperately trying to find a cure for the virus so he can save his wife. And then there is mysterious General Abbot, the leader of the Last Men, a quasi-military organization dedicated to the hunt and extermination of the hybrid children.
Still, it’s Gus who steals the focus here with his candid point of view and the deep curiosity he shows as he discovers the world, even when it presents its ugliest face: much of the success of this character is certainly due to the young actor playing him with a mixture of sweetness and wonder that never falls into sappiness and offers a delightful counterpoint to Big Man’s gruffness and to the world’s dangers and horrors. Gus is such an engaging protagonist that any time the focus shifted to other characters I felt something akin to annoyance – no matter how their POV could be intriguing – because I was invested in his journey so deeply that I did not need, or want, other distractions.
Like most series nowadays, Sweet Tooth is a short one, only eight episodes, and once the viewer is caught up in it, it feels too short and leaves you wanting more – particularly considering the dire cliffhanger ending – so my advice would be to savor it slowly and take your time to appreciate the tale it wants to tell and the beautiful scenery of an Earth where human presence is so diminished as to allow nature to reclaim its dominion over the landscape.
This is a story with a big heart and a great potential to be explored further, beyond the handful of themes already placed on the table: my hope is that the next season(s) will not be too long in the making. If you’re looking for a viewing experience with a good balance between dramatic presentation and “feel good” vibes, you will certainly find it here – enjoy 🙂