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Sweet Tooth review: Dystopian Netflix tale of survival delivers heart and despair in equal measure

Stefania Lavie Owen, Christian Convery and Nonso Anozie in Sweet Tooth
Gus (Christian Convery, centre) faces danger at every turn in Sweet Tooth (Picture: Courtesy of Netflix)

The story of a virus outbreak that’s changed the world as we know it may hit too close to home for some. But new Netflix drama Sweet Tooth hits just the right spot, adding a sprinkle of fantasy to a dystopian thriller that sees unlikely allies team up for a turbulent buddy adventure.

Based on the DC comic book series of the same name, Sweet Tooth – which is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey – follows a young boy called Gus (Christian Convery), who is part human, part deer. He grows up in a secluded house in the forest with his father (Will Forte), who keeps him safe in a land where hybrid children who are born part human and part animal are hunted.

In the series, hybrids first emerged around the same time that a virus wreaked havoc among the public, causing some to believe that the hybrids were the cause. After 10 years of seclusion, Gus embarks on a treacherous journey alongside a man named Jepperd (Nonso Anozie), exploring the world for the first time after spending almost his entire existence in isolation.

At first glance, Sweet Tooth may seem like the perfect afternoon watch for young children – the title’s adorable, the protagonist is as cute as a button and a fun adventure will surely appeal to the masses. But be warned – Sweet Tooth isn’t afraid to veer to dark places, and when we say dark, we mean dark.

The moments of brutality and pure savagery in the series may come as a shock to viewers unfamiliar with the comic books. The hunt for hybrids instantly draws parallels with the constant persecution of mutants in the X-Men, while the depiction of a prejudiced society may prompt some TV fans to think of other fictional authoritarian regimes, such as Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Sweet Tooth feels like an amalgamation of several different stories and genres, with Gus’ team-up with the imposing Jepperd bearing a resemblance to Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. But while the transition from light-hearted to serious moments may feel incongruous at first, as the story progresses, the various pieces of the puzzle slot together to create a clear picture.

Will Forte and Christian Convery in Sweet Tooth
Gus’ father teaches him how to stay safe in a world full of threats (Picture: Courtesy of Netflix)

The moments of joy that Christian masterfully brings to the screen as Gus serve as a reminder that the hybrids being hunted are just children, who still retain their innocence in spite of the horrors they’ve witnessed in their lives.

Despite growing up learning that the entire world is a threat, Gus is still willing to take a step into the wilderness and see what life has in store for him. But he is not impervious to the dangers he was warned of, so young Sweet Tooth must use every tool at his disposal to survive.

Christian Convery and Nonso Anozie in Sweet Tooth
When facing danger, you definitely want Jepperd on your side (Picture: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix)

Verdict on Sweet Tooth

While at first impression Sweet Tooth may not appear too frightening a watch, the Netflix series draws on its source material to take viewers to an unflinchingly dark place, not shying away from depicting the cruelty of the dystopian world in which it is set.

Young Christian makes a star-making turn as Gus, brilliantly conveying the lead character’s daring streak, his innocence and his determination, all the while measuring up to his co-star Nonso in talent, albeit not in stature.

While there are several elements of the tale to keep up with, loose ends are tied up and storylines interweave in satisfying and sometimes unexpected ways.

Every single one of the eight episodes packs a huge adventure, one that will surely leave viewers hoping for another serving of Sweet Tooth.

Sweet Tooth season one is available to watch on Netflix.

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