Sweet Tooth, a Netflix original, is a gorgeous and complex depiction of a world where life’s rules have altered and humankind has lost its game.
The story of Sweet Tooth starts with narration explaining what happened: An incurable and untreatable viral pandemic killed off the majority of humanity, and all human pregnancies resulted in the birth of human-animal hybrid infants at the same time.
One of the show’s central questions is whether the virus or the hybrids arrived first, but whatever the answer is, humankind got it wrong. They despised hybrids and slaughtered their own animal offspring, dooming the survivors to live as humanity’s last generation.
Not everyone, though, got it wrong. Gus (Christian Convery), also known as “Sweet Tooth,” is a deer-boy hybrid whose father abandoned him to live alone in a fenced-in wooded area, safe from the approaching apocalypse.
Gus grows up only knowing what his father Pubba can teach him, and the show’s story begins when he is ten years old and is ready to question the rules that govern his own life – hiding if he sees a human and never, ever crossing the fence.
Gus’ upbringing gives him the ideal protagonist for a fairy tale. His isolation makes him brilliant and resourceful, but painfully stupid and ignorant of humanity, as it does so many other secret princes and captive princesses.
When faced with the grief of his father’s death, Gus acts appropriately and follows the rules until they are broken, causing him to embark on a journey across the former United States in order to rebuild some stability with his other parent, the mother he never knew.
Tommy “Big Man” Jepperd (Nonso Anozie), a former NFL player turned wandering hybrid hunter who saved Gus’ life and now can’t shake the little guy no matter how hard he tries, joins Gus on his journey.
Sweet Tooth’s greatest strength is Jeppard and Gus, an endearing entry into the resurgent “violent freelancers accidentally becoming dads” cliche, and their blossoming connection through the first season’s eight episodes. Anozie and Convery have incredible chemistry, which is aided by Convery’s adorable portrayal of Gus’ naivete and Anozie’s highly expressive facial expressions.
When someone becomes ill, the bizarre ritual of cling-wrapping them to a chair and torching their home is accepted as normal community behavior. Some people retained their humanity, but the stigma against hybrids is nearly universal, and it is often fatal for the animal children who survive.
Netflix’s Sweet Tooth is a dark show with all of that and more. Gus’ childish perspective makes the overgrown and wild environment appear lovely and interesting, but most of what he sees is incredibly violent.
Big Man (and the audience) are torn between being thrilled for him as he sees and learns what his father couldn’t show him and afraid for his safety at all times – kind of like being Gus’ parent, if deer kids were a real thing.
Along with Gus’ story, Sweet Tooth follows the lives of a few other post-apocalyptic characters for reasons that become clear only when the story reaches its cliffhanger climax in the Season 1 finale.
Dr. Aditya Singh (Adeel Akhtar), whose desire to treat and cure the virus stems from his wife Rani’s (Aliza Vellani) long-term infection, and Aimee (Dania Ramirez), an ex-therapist who lives in an abandoned zoo with her own adopted hybrid child.
Because Gus and Big Man’s perspective is limited to their road trip, their stories cleverly serve the dual purposes of plot and world-building.
Netflix’s Sweet Tooth is exciting, adorable, and perfectly captures a sense of innocent delight. It’s also a criticism of humanity’s worst tendencies, which only slightly exaggerates how we would behave to a real-life viral hybrid apocalypse.
It’s very basic in terms of parables, but so are the survival principles — and Sweet Tooth demonstrates that even those are more difficult to follow than we may believe. Watch it on Netflix now!