Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth’ threads it all together in a lovely cliffhanger finale

Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth’ threads it all together in a lovely cliffhanger finale

You may or may not have binged all of Netflix’s Sweet Tooth on opening weekend — and if not, we highly recommend it. Instead of a one-off miniseries based on Jeff Lemire’s DC Comics graphic novel, Sweet Tooth sets us up for a second season with an emotionally gripping, jam-packed finale.

(Spoilers ahead.)

We still don’t know exactly what happened during humanity’s Great Crumble, the world-changing period of time introduced in episode 1. But the Sick and the hybrids arrived, forever altering life as we know it, and the world was no longer sustainable as it was. Lemire’s comic came out in 2013, long before a plague divided our own modern lives into a Before and an After — but there was no better time for the screen adaptation to premiere.

Episode 8, “Big Man,” opens with the title character before the Great Crumble, with his wife about to give birth. Jepperd’s son is a hybrid, and Jepperd is so terrified that he flees the maternity ward. Fear, as it turns out, is a major theme in the finale; most of these characters lived through immense personal and societal tragedy, and those too young to remember life before the Crumble have known only Abbott’s binary mentality about hybrids: Exterminate or experiment.

This leads us to Abbott, who the show sets up as quite the threatening and mysterious villain, perhaps a little too much. There are pockets in the early episodes where he’s completely absent — he isn’t even introduced right away — and each recurring appearance serves to remind us that he’s even part of the show.

By episode 8 he’s active all over, now targeting Aimee and all the kids at the preserve. In an oddly civil and deep conversation, Aimee and Abbott lay out their differing ideologies. She tells him that the hybrids “were Mother Nature’s warning to us,” that humans were not worthy of this planet’s gifts. When she attacks the Last Men with fireworks, the illuminated sky gives us a peek at abandoned high-rises nearby, the last vestiges of a time long gone.

The hybrids from the preserve escape, but not for long. They end up in the same place as Adi and Rani, now hostages until Adi finds a cure for the Sick by experimenting on hybrid children. Throughout Season 1 Adi shows questionable judgment while hiding his wife’s illness, and again in later episodes when he decides that exploiting hybrids for science isn’t disgusting but actually just fine. He’s more concerned that he won’t cure the Sick, because no one has come close in 10 years.

And what of Gus, our beloved hybrid hero? After learning the truth of his parentage in episode 7, Gus runs away from Bear and Big Man. It has less to do with the science than than the fiction supplied by Pubba; as the narrator says, everyone needs family, and all Gus has ever known was his father and stories of his mother. The nuance of the adult world may be beyond his grasp right now, but Pubba was his father, just as Aimee is Wendy’s mother, just as Bear and Big Man have become his family during this journey.

Jepperd finds Gus to talk things out. He tells him that it’s okay, that he’s special. “I don’t want to be special,” cries Gus. “I want to be like everyone else!” It’s the familiar burden of every fantasy hero, burdened with greatness and longing for ordinary life. Gus has never had that, nor will he.

After six episodes of big Shrek-and-Donkey energy on their travels, Jepperd suggests that he and Gus go live together, off in the woods like Gus used to. It’s unusually kind and warm from Big Man, and Gus accepts — then reveals that he called the preserve (now under Abbott’s control) and they’re on their way. Watching Big Man slump over after the big boom of a distant gunshot manages to be the episode’s biggest twist, even if we know from that shoulder hit that he’ll be okay.

The other twist, that Wendy is Bear’s long-lost sister, is smooth but easy to recover from. By that point the finale has shown its hand, that it’s all about bringing these disparate stories together. The same is true of Big Man being rescued by Aimee, and of Dr. Singh meeting Gus (and Jepperd, in the flashback). That encounter is particularly intriguing. After desperately whispering to himself “Don’t let them hear you talk,” Gus mutters a quiet “Thanks” when Dr. Singh gives him a candy bar. It’s completely intentional, meant for the doctor’s ears only, because Gus instinctively trusts this man. Singh decides to operate on a different hybrid (yikes!) and spend more time getting to know Gus...Read more>>