Creators: Jim Mickey, Beth Schwartz
Writers: Jim Mickey, Beth Schwartz, Christina Hamm
Directors: Jim Mickey, Toa Fraser, Robin Grace
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozi, Stephanie LaVie Owen, Denmark Ramirez, Adele Akhtar, Aliza Velani, Will Forte
Streaming on: Netflix
Movies and television are particularly fascinated by apocalypse and pandemics, something I never fully understood. As a child, I was confused by Steven Spielberg War of the Worlds. What was in the apocalyptic settings that created good film feed? Surely you don’t have to have an alien who is pushing civilization into ruin to create good action thrillers? Last year I watched the torturous show on Amazon Prime Video Utopiawhere civilization went out of control when a fictional incarnation of the COVID pandemic hit it. The show did not answer my question. Instead, it piqued my curiosity about how pointless his plot was – the pandemic portrayal was disgustingly greedy. Sweet tooth also does not provide satisfactory answers. But his experience is sincere, which is more than I could ask for at the moment.
The Netflix series, developed with Warner Bros. and DC, is the television equivalent of a theme park – it’s lively and alive. Here the world is surrounded by the deadly H5G9 virus. People do not know where this strain came from. A pandemic – called the Sick – has taken over everyone’s lives. A new breed of species is also evolving, turning each subsequent baby into an animal-human hybrid. Everyone invents their own conspiracies – some believe that the virus caused these species, others believe that the species caused the virus. This is an existential reversal of the “chicken or egg” dilemma.
The story unfolds a decade after the pandemic for the first time. There are armies of survivors with their own missions – one wants to eradicate all hybrid children, and another wants to protect them. The show is tingling with this moral binary. He never rises beyond, but he never sinks from the simplicity of it all. In the middle of this is 10-year-old Gus (cute Christian Convery), a hybrid man-deer with horns and protruding, hairy ears. He is a soft-hearted kid who drinks chocolates and candies, goods so rare that a terrorizing group of men transports him on charter trains to make money. His rainbow is the most affectionate of them all – in his determined search for his mother there is an overwhelming, often sentimental sense of hope.
His adult defender, former football star Jepperd (towering Nonso Anozie), often gets into trouble when entertaining a child’s huts. When Gus loses his only toy, Jepperd must take it, fighting a few bad men. The hope in this universe is fatal. But that’s what makes Gus and Jepperd resilient in the face of adversity around them. He also forces Japard to cast his tortured, lone wolf persona.
The series often risks becoming a stigmatizing saccharin saga for adventure. But it’s smarter than that. The complex construction of the world, its smooth transition from one plot to another, all allow a stretched television display. He does not carry too much weight – he does not deal with the horrifying realities of the devastated world, nor does he try empty philosophy. It remains simple enough to captivate viewers, while reflecting some aspects of the ongoing pandemic. We see tribes of people with dogmatic and unfounded beliefs, scarce resources, and even a clear sense of loneliness that would otherwise deter Japperd and Gus from embarking on their quest.
Returning to the question I asked, there are still no easy answers. But in the case of Sweet tooth – a randomly appropriate title, given that the comic in which this show is presented, released years ago – it makes our reality a little tastier. It provides a form of emotional hospice, allowing viewers to enjoy the show’s dream aura.