While Netflix's Sweet Tooth may imagine a future where a deadly virus renders civilisation derelict, its focus - and its themes - remain fixed on hope. Aside from some fleeting moments of clumsiness, Jim Mickle's interpretation of Jeff Lemire's celebrated source material is an exceptionally strong, remarkably confident deviation bolstered further by a compelling premise and a stellar cast.
In the near future, a highly contagious virus known only as the Sick ravages humanity and introduces human/animal ‘hybrids’ into the gene pool. As society splinters into isolated groups of anxious survivors, a horde of renegade civilians known as ‘the Last Men’ have begun rounding up hybrids. One hybrid is particularly desirable, but for an unexpected reason: he can talk.
Sweet Tooth's greatest asset is its plucky protagonist, the human/deer hybrid Gus. It's in the spirited youngster that the series finds most of its resonance, and it recognises that almost instantly. Gus is a hero untainted by original sin and thus positioned as a force of goodness the likes of which humanity neither knows nor deserves. While Gus isn't the only focus, he's the one most worthy of our admiration and adoration, and he earns it immediately.
At its core, though, Sweet Tooth is a study of humanity's best and worst proclivities. In a world almost exclusively populated by people who are too terrified and bitter to be intentional, one character, the mysterious loner Jepperd, strives for goodness. The contrast between Jepperd's contrition and the general public's knee-jerk cruelty is fertile narrative ground that warrants even more emphasis next season. Granted, the depth and darkness of Lemire's comic allowed for a richer exploration of this concept, but Mickle and company have nevertheless succeeded at crafting a family-friendly spin on a saga that is everything but.
Sweet Tooth is an earnest adaptation elevated by strong characters, inspired performances, and the promise of more answers - and more questions - in its inevitable sophomore season.
Sweet Tooth is available now on Netflix.