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Sweet Tooth adds optimism to apocalyptic science fiction

This article is over 2 years, 8 months old
In a crowded field, the lightness of this new Netflix series helps it to stand out. But themes of scapegoating mean it keeps its dark edge, says Gabby Thorpe
Issue 2759
‘Hybrid’ Gus journeys through a hostile world in Sweet Tooth
‘Hybrid’ Gus journeys through a hostile world in Sweet Tooth

Covid-19 has guaranteed that viewing any kind of virus-themed dystopia is never going to be the same again.

But Netflix’s adaptation of Jeff Lemire’s post-apocalyptic graphic novel Sweet Tooth attempts a new spin on the classic trope.

It is set in a world where the H5G9 virus has wreaked havoc on ­humanity. At the same time, babies with animal features—known as hybrids—begin to be born.

The hybrids are scapegoated for the virus’s emergence, and hunted as a result.

The main plot follows Gus, an older “deer type” hybrid who is ­looking for his mother after being hidden in the woods by his father for the first ten years of his life.

Following his father’s death, he sets off across a newly ravaged US with Jeppard, a lone traveller.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to other characters trying to make their way in the new world. There’s Rachel, a counsellor now living in a zoo, and Dr Singh who is struggling to survive after the virus killed his wife.

These sub-plots can be confusing at times, but all loose ends are neatly tied together.

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The show has the feel of zombie movies, as Gus and Jeppard meet other survivors and avoid hybrid hunters. But bright visuals and impressive CGI moves away from the darkness of the source material.

Instead, there is a fairy tale vibe. The show balances the grimmer aspects of dystopia with the optimism and innocence of Gus—played brilliantly by Christian Convey.

In this way, Sweet Tooth is interesting as it turns the conventions of the genre on their head. It opts to ditch the ­darkness and despair for something more optimistic.

While Sweet Tooth is definitely lighter than the original graphic novel, there are elements of ­bleakness. It has all the appearances of family friendly viewing, which sometimes lets you forget you’re not watching a children’s film.

But parts of the show are not for those who avoid the darker side of fantasy.

At times, some of Gus’ encounters can seem trite.

Parts seem to drag a little. While Gus discovers life outside of isolation, some may find the origins of the hybrids more interesting.

It takes a while to get to the ­meatier parts of the story.ear

But the series is short and sweet enough to be worth it. And the fear and ignorance surrounding the ­existence of hybrids serves as a reminder of how little fuel some people need to take part in the oppression of others.

The premise maybe could have benefitted from a less individual storyline.

It would have been interesting to see more of the experiences of other hybrid children.

Fans of the graphic novel might find that the series suffers from the bright adaptation. But there is enough of the original themes to keep old fans interested.

Overall, Sweet Tooth is worth the watch. But if you’re tired of virus‑themed fiction by now, maybe give this a miss.

Sweet Tooth is available now on Netflix


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