I read and reviewed the first 12 issues or so of writer/artist Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth both out of a general interest in Lemire’s work and to prep myself for this Netflix show. My conclusion was the story was fine, but I didn’t much care for Lemire’s artwork.
Well, that out of the way, I can actually watch the series. Ryan was raving about it, but Ryan raves about a lot of things, especially musicals. I might not have the same opinions. There’s only one way to find out though…
With James Brolin acting as a wise-sounding narrator, this show is…noticeably different than the comic it was inspired by at least in terms of tone and the overall look of the program. It’s a lot more bright and colorful, almost looking like a fairy tale with some very dark elements that the title character, a boy named Gus, chooses to ignore or just doesn’t understand. Here’s where the lack of Lemire’s artwork really changes the tone as the comic version of Gus looked like a panicky kid ready to run and hide no matter what was going on. This Gus, though raised in a similar environment, isn’t like that.
See, there’s a plague of some kind that hits the human race and starts to kill off large portions of it. Known only as “the Sick,” people catch it and don’t get better. That comes to a dark turn for one Dr. Singh, one of the characters the narrator identifies as the central character of the story, when his wife somehow contracts the illness.
Man, why do I keep tuning into things with plagues while there’s a pandemic going on?
But then children start being born that are some kind of animal hybrid. These hybrids don’t get the Sick. Are they some kind of next step in evolution or something?
I haven’t finished either this series or the comic that inspired it, so I have no idea. No one seems to even broach the idea though someone usually does in a story like that.
See, Gus has a deer’s ears and antlers, and when he was a baby, his father (played by Will Forte) took the kid out into the middle of Yellowstone park and started living out there, teaching the boy, basically, to never trust anyone else. At the age of nine, Gus saw his dad die of the Sick, and then he lived on his own for a while. Gus never knew his mother, thinking at times that a doe was his mom, and after his father died, finding a photograph of a woman and a map. If he wasn’t taught to never leave the woods, he might go check it out.
But then some hunters find him, looking to do..something to him. Gus is only saved by a large man he calls Big Man, a fellow who takes out the two hunters easily enough with a gun. Gus has never seen a gun before, and the Big Man seems largely indifferent to Gus. However, Gus clearly gets it into his head to have the Big Man somehow escort him to his mother (again, assuming that is his mother), and while we don’t see the Big Man agree to that, well, Gus seems like a cheerful sort of kid. Big Man already nicknamed him “Sweet Tooth”.
So, there’s our set-up. Gus has lived a sheltered life in a forest for the past decade, and now he’s on his own and ready to meet actual other people. I prefer to keep comparisons between mediums out, but beyond the tone, there is one other really big difference between the book and the show that I caught pretty fast: Gus’s father in this version is not a Bible thumper. Those sorts of small changes make this version more likely to be more like a fairy tale than some sort of dark future dystopia. Will that make the show very good in the end?
Well, this first episode was promising enough. I want to see what’s next.