Hybrids ‘R’ Us
Dystopian TV series Sweet Tooth portrays a ravaged world, but hope shines through the darkness
In recent years we’ve been inundated with dystopian entertainment. Netflix’s new post-apocalyptic series Sweet Tooth feels a little different because it lets hope shine brightly through the destruction and darkness. The story is set in America after “The Great Crumble”: a deadly pandemic killed billions and children are being born as animal-human hybrids. The world is in a state of lawlessness, and no one knows whether the hybrids caused the virus or the virus created the hybrids.
Sweet Tooth is based on a comic book series launched in 2009, but some of the pandemic imagery—masks, distancing, temperature checks—feels all too familiar. The comic series was dark and violent, but this Netflix adaptation lightens the mood, offering viewers who’ve weathered the COVID-19 pandemic some joy amid the sorrow.
The story begins 10 years after the first wave of the H5G9 virus hit America. Gus (Christian Convery) is a deer-human hybrid: He’s a lot like a normal boy except for the antlers, the ears, and the tendency to swig maple syrup. He’s been hiding in Yellowstone National Park since the beginning of “The Great Crumble.” When Gus meets Jepp (Nonso Anozie), a dangerous ex-military man, things change, and Gus convinces the big man to help him find his family in Colorado. But the world outside is wilder than Gus’ home in the forest, and Jepp must protect Gus from poachers who hunt down and exterminate hybrid children.
Sweet Tooth features two other stories running parallel to Gus and Jepp’s. Dr. Singh (Adeel Akhtar) lives in what’s left of the suburbs, and he’s desperately looking for a cure to the virus before the next wave. Aimee (Dania Ramirez) is a lonely woman who finds a purpose for her life when she begins to shelter hybrid children. By the end of the season these three stories converge.
The themes of this series aren’t anything new: Humans risk extinction by disrespecting nature, people fear that which is different, and mercenaries with hearts of gold protect youngsters. Even so, the show works, thanks primarily to strong performances from Convery and Anozie. Gus’ wide-eyed innocence and optimism are the heart of the show, and Convery manages to blend perfectly the scamperings of a 10-year-old boy with the scamperings of a young deer.
The show, rated TV-14, contains many suspenseful moments as well as some violence, but the scary elements aren’t too heavy. Each episode contains the equivalent of PG-13 language, which is a shame, because without the profanity some families would feel comfortable letting children Gus’ age watch the show. Still, it’s worth noting Netflix moved in the right direction with the series by toning down the more explicit content of the original comic books.
Be warned: Don’t expect the pandemic or the fate of the hybrid children to be resolved. The eight-episode season ends on a cliffhanger, and whether Netflix orders a second season will depend on this one’s popularity.
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