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Sweet Tooth S3.png

Netflix's Unexpected Final Season Of 'Sweet Tooth' Explained

By Jen Maravegias | TV | June 8, 2024 |

By Jen Maravegias | TV | June 8, 2024 |

Sweet Tooth S3.png

Are people aware that Netflix has a news website? Tudum is where Netflix posts information about shows and movies featured on the streaming service. There are articles, pictures, videos … all sorts of stuff. I think Netflix has overestimated Tudum’s reach, though, because just in the last two weeks, they’ve dropped two high-profile projects without any fanfare or notice. One of them was Godzilla Minus One. The other was the entire third and final season of Sweet Tooth. No one reads your news website, Netflix! You have to tell us about these things ahead of time! Get an unhinged social media manager to post on Threads or something.

There’s very little that’s kind or gentle about the final season of Sweet Tooth. All eight episodes are fueled by a dire sense of urgency and a lingering fear that death is in the cards for all of our friends and every other human on the planet.

At the end of season two we celebrated the defeat of The Last Men. But General Abbott wasn’t the biggest Big Bad out there. That honor goes to Helen Zhang. Mrs. Zhang, played diabolically by Rosalind Chao (3 Body Problem), is determined to bring human births back by any means necessary. Her hatred of Hybrids is intense, and she acts against them with boundless sadism that even extends to members of her own family.

Kelly Marie Tran plays Mrs. Zhang’s eldest daughter, Rosie, who got pregnant after The Sick started spreading. She decided to keep her baby against her parents’ wishes and ran away from home to give birth to a litter of four wolf boys. Mrs. Zhang’s heart softens for no one, she only allowed Rosie back into the family on the condition that her boys be treated like the animals she sees them as. They’re muzzled and trained to be a vicious pack of hunters. In the present of season three, they are the literal wolves at the door hunting Gus, Big Man, Bear, and Wendy as they travel to Alaska in search of Gus’ mom.

Mrs. Zhang is evil through and through but played with fascinating complexity by Rosalind Chao. Kelly Marie Tran brings enormous depth to Rosie’s character as she tries to live up to her parent’s expectations, forced to hide her love for her children beneath a stern and grim exterior. It helps us feel just enough sympathy for her to root for redemption.

Alaska is where half of the story takes place this season. Birdie (Amy Seimetz) has been living up there searching for a cure, combing through the notes left behind by Captain James Thacker. His expedition in the early 1900s is thought to be the first to encounter whatever caused The Sick. Birdie hopes his notes will lead her to its origin and its cure. There’s a small, secret community up there where Birdie has befriended Siana (The Expanse’s Cara Gee) and her half-fox daughter Nuka (Ayazhan Dalabayeva).

There are inevitable comparisons to be made to all of the other horror/sci-fi films that use the Alaskan wilderness as a backdrop. Real-life anxiety over climate change’s effects on the permafrost has been influencing fiction writers for decades. The vibe here is more 1982’s claustrophobic The Thing than Fortitude, with a touch of 40 Days Of Night because the final sunset of the season is almost upon them as Zhang’s henchmen and Gus’ companions converge on the settlement.

The urgency driving Zhang’s desire to cure The Sick and Hybrids is that her younger daughter, Ginger, is pregnant, and she does not want any more Hybrids in the family. Finding a cure will somehow immediately change the DNA of the fetus growing inside of Ginger and give Mrs. Zhang the human grandson she longs for.

The once-secret settlement quickly becomes a war zone as Sweet Tooth veers into action mode in the season’s final episodes. There are shots fired, snowy car chases with giant utility trucks, harrowing rescue attempts, and a mythical “Caribou Man,” the very first Hybrid and the only child of the only survivor of Captain Thacker’s original expedition who helps Birdie and Gus find their way.

The action barrels at breakneck speed to a conclusion that hinges on Dr. Singh (Adeel Akhtar) wavering back and forth between hero and heel, and Mrs. Zhang’s daughters. They led a privileged life under their mother’s heavy thumb. They have to choose to continue to sit in their privilege in silence or stand up for themselves and their children.

Sweet Tooth has always presented its audience with strong allegories and moral lessons. Last season was about how powerful each of us can be, regardless of size. Season three follows in the footsteps of season two with the villains looking to destroy anything “different” or “other.” This season is more queer-coded in that respect and is in tune with the current and ongoing struggle for trans rights. Gus and his friends seek help from a family living in an isolated farmhouse where hybrids aren’t welcome. When the couple’s child meets his first two actual Hybrids, he wants to share his secret with them. He takes them up to his special room decorated in rainbows and bright colors. He’s safe there to remove the binder his parents forced him to wear to conceal his wings. When he tells Gus and Wendy his parents made him hide his true nature from the world they help him discover the beauty and strength of being his authentic self. And, in return, he helps them escape when Rosie Zhang’s wolf boys close in on them.

The only thing Sweet Tooth has ever been vague about is the origin of The Sick. That doesn’t change in season three. There’s a tree in an ice cave, but it’s half deer antlers, or maybe they’re caribou. And when it’s lit on fire, it burns blue flames. There’s also something called “The Blood Of The Earth” that Thackery exposed during his expedition. It leached into the ice at the top of the world and infected everyone with The Sick. If they cure The Sick it will also prevent future generations of hybrids from being born. What is “The Blood Of The Earth?” Magic sap? Maple syrup? The mechanisms are at least partially magical, and this part of the story that explains the cure for The Sick is very fuzzy and out of focus.

There’s a lot that feels poorly explained at the end of the show’s run. There are characters and plot points from previous seasons that were abandoned. Whatever happened to Dr. Singh’s wife? What was the deal with the blue flowers that keep showing up around those who have The Sick? Where did they come from? I’m not sure the specifics of how or why are the important part of Sweet Tooth. In searching for the cure, Birdie concludes that humanity is the real sickness destroying itself and the earth. The debate that consumes her and Gus at the end is whether or not humanity deserves to be rescued from the hatred and anger it has unleashed upon itself. The final choice comes down to Gus who visits with his Pubba (Will Forte) one last time in the spirit realm to get his guidance.

I likened the story structure of Sweet Tooth to that of a trilogy in my season two review. And it ends the way every good trilogy ends. The good guys take some serious losses. Your heart breaks and feels full in turns. Lessons are learned, new friends are made, old friends are reunited, our hero finds love and then there’s an Ewok Party in the trees.