Netflix’s Sweet Tooth is a lyrical, relevant comics adaptation

Christian Convery stars as deer boy Gus in a show about a fictional pandemic that manages to acknowledge our real one

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      Sweet Tooth 

      All eight episodes available to stream Friday (June 4) on Netflix Canada

      Fantastical dystopia shows are a dime a dozen these days, but Sweet Tooth carves out its own space. Adapted by Jim Mickle (Stake Land, Cold In July) from the Vertigo comics series by Jeff Lemire, the new Netflix series takes place in a world depopulated by a virus that still circulates 10 years later, and might also be the reason “hybrid” babies are being born with animal characteristics.

      Our guide to this ruined America is Gus (Christian Convery), a deer boy raised in isolation—specifically, in Yellowstone National Park—by his father (Will Forte) for a decade, and who now joins a hulking stranger (Artemis Fowl’s Nonso Anozie) for a journey to Colorado. We also meet a doctor (Adeel Akhtar) chasing a treatment for the virus, a therapist (Dani Ramirez) who holed up in an abandoned zoo when the plague struck, and a fierce teenage warrior (Stefania LaVie Owen) who grew up in the wreckage of America.

      Convery doesn’t have the haunted look that Lemire’s Gus had on the page, but he has a curiosity and enthusiasm that works for this version of the character. Mickle positions the show as a fable, with gentle narration by James Brolin and a score by Jeff Grace that edges toward the lyrical. The New Zealand locations add to the slightly unreal beauty of the world after the Great Crumble: you can believe nature is reasserting itself, and running a little wild.

      Like most new streaming series, Sweet Tooth takes its sweet time, drifting between three separate storylines that intersect just in time to set up a second season. But unlike a lot of other shows, this one understands pacing and structure; Mickle gives each episode an organic flow from start to finish, drawing us into his post-apocalyptic vision by revealing just a little more of it every time.

      There’s something else that’s unique about Sweet Tooth: it’s a show about a fictional pandemic that manages to acknowledge our real one. The show was in development well before 2020, but principal photography didn’t begin until last summer, and the production reconfigured itself to incorporate recognizable elements of our own plague year. Masks and handwashing are the most obvious, but other aspects are woven into the fabric of the show in subtle, unsettling ways. The longer we spend in Gus’s world the more we’re encouraged to see our own within it. This might be a fantasy, but it isn’t necessarily escapist.

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