a screenshot from the Sweet Tooth trailer

A Fresh Take: The Cinematic Artistry of Netflix’s ‘Sweet Tooth’ Pilot by April Marshall Miller, age 14


Photo Courtesy by Netflix ‘Sweet Tooth’ Trailer on Youtube. Time stamp: 0:37

CALIFORNIA — A good production’s job is to take the audience to a fresh landscape then build upon that with colors and life. The pilot of Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth,” created by Jim Mickle and Beth Schwartz, does just that. It is a breathtakingly beautiful episode featuring a childhood innocence in the midst of a terrible sickness on Earth. Viewers are introduced to this futuristic world through the eyes of a human-deer hybrid Gus. The audience was transported into a different world, which is exactly what was properly intended by the production company.  

The world is at peace when the story starts, but is then infected by a deadly virus called the G5H9. Peace turns to chaos as people start dying left and right due to this horrible virus. Then the unimaginable happens. A half human-half deer was born. It was followed by other hybrids. The people in the world began to unfairly blame the hybrids for the virus. The hybrids started to be killed and hunted. Gus, the half human-half deer and his father were able to sneak away to live in the woods. The father fenced up the woods where they lived and told Gus to never go outside of those walls. Gus insisted on going outside and learning more about what was going on, but his father refused.  

As the critic Oliver Sava at Vulture wrote, “It’s a dangerous place for people like him, but there’s no fear in this moment, just the thrill of a new adventure.”    

From there we see life through the eyes of an innocent child filled with magic, despite the terror surrounding the fence. Gus grows up as a normal boy with antlers and all is good until the world begins to creep in through the fence. Poachers come onto the property and try to kill Gus, but end up murdering his father instead.    

From there, Gus has to take care of himself. He searches through old maps and locates his mom in Colorado, when originally he thought that a deer in the forest was his mother. Then one day he tries to leave his fenced patch of wilderness, but is trapped by poachers! He tries to fight them off when he encounters a helpful new friend he calls “Big Man.” Together, they leave the safety of the woods to go to Colorado to find Gus’s mom.  

On a scale from 1 to 10, I would give the pilot of this show a 9/10. My only critique would be that I feel they didn’t add enough world-building in the beginning; the second you open the show is when the world descends into chaos. I would have loved to see more initial character development and feel that there was a lost opportunity here to get into the nitty gritty details of the world and how this chaos has ensued. A certain character, Doctor Singh, plays a large part in helping birth the hybrids amidst helping his sick wife. Since he was such a major factor in the hybrids’ journey, and since he opens the show, I would have liked to see him more involved and get to know him better. 

Although a lot of pilots do not have a steady foundation and the actors are not yet comfortable with each other, the dynamic on this show is the opposite of that. The characters are well-developed, clear, and have distinct personalities, despite all the attention given to world-building. While I really enjoyed most aspects of the pilot, there are some people who had different opinions than I did. 

Brian Miller, my father, a fellow with an eye for beautifully sophisticated things, originally wanted to watch Sweet Tooth because it seemed “interesting.” He thought that the storyline was intriguing with its similar setup to what we went through in the pandemic as an overall society.  

“I thought it was an interesting TV show,” Mr. Miller remarked. “I only saw the first episode so far. The concept was unique, but somewhat duplicitous, because it’s something that has already been there,” he continued, referring to how the concept of mass sickness has been over-used in television. “I did think it was weird when the little kid thought that the deer was his mother; I thought that was a little odd. And I think they over-exaggerated the comparisons of how things changed. But the concept and story was there, just geared toward a younger audience.” 

Asked if he had an emotional reaction to the cinematography, he said: “I did enjoy the cinematography. I thought they did a very good job. No, I didn’t find an emotional experience in the cinematography. I thought it was catered more to younger kids.” 

I believe that a beautiful emotional experience doesn’t have to be complex or super rich in detail to feel meaningful. In the first episode there was a rain scene; Gus and his father stomped in the rain and shook their heads wildly. This was such a simple scene, but to me, this scene is super rich because it evokes feelings of freedom within oneself and freedom and light within a dark world that wants your light to fade.    

Kudy Kaplin, a close friend, and Netflix-watching enthusiast, said, “I had a very emotional experience for me with the cinematography.” She went on: “I really like how they had the little kid, finding and exploring the world outside of himself; I think that was really beautiful. I really liked when Gus found the deer for the first time and thought that that was his mother. That was an experience.” 

I highly recommend ‘Sweet Tooth’ on Netflix, I think that it is a magical retelling of the pandemic that will make you cry and laugh in one episode. And if you don’t like it? You wasted one hour of your life. So what? You have so much more life to live. 

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