The world of Sweet Tooth keeps expanding, but there’s always a domestic anchor that keeps the story rooted in reality despite its fantastic genre elements. That anchor comes via Adi and Rani Singh, who are dealing with the immense stress of Adi’s new job and keeping Rani’s sickness a secret from their neighbors. While Adi feels very fulfilled by his work at the clinic, he’s still distraught by Dr. Bell’s experimentation on hybrid children and can’t bring himself to continue that part of her research. But there’s a lot of pressure on him to start. Aliza Vellani gets much more to do this week as we see more of Rani’s dynamic with her husband and the other people in their quarantined subdivision, and she’s willing to compromise their values if it means surviving.
While most people in this world live in a post-apocalyptic environment, the residents of the Singhs’ neighborhood appear to be living in the past, with the big difference being that they’ll kill anyone who tests positive for the virus in order to keep it that way. The previous episode hinted that the class divide had grown after the Great Crumble, and that becomes very clear after the terrifying events Adi and Rani are part of in “Weird Deer S**t.” The neighbors all gather on Survivor’s Day, a mandatory meeting that also functions as a pinky inspection. Adi is extremely nervous, and for very good reason. When their host’s pinky finger twitches at the kitchen island, he’s subdued by guests and held down while Adi tests his blood. When the test is positive, they wrap the man in plastic and set his house on fire.
The group goes a little over-the-top with their rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” but it’s a tactic to make the death a ritual sacrifice that keeps everyone in line. The fire is the most frightening moment of the series thus far, particularly because the neighbors started their evening playing charades and having cocktails. One of the men eats pie while watching the house burn, emphasizing how desensitized this group has become to the act of killing, even if the victim is one of their close neighbors. There’s a lot of hiding in “Weird Deer S**t:” The Singhs have to conceal Rani’s sickness if they want to continue living in their suburban bubble, and Gus has to pretend to be a human child pretending to be a hybrid in order to visit the Market, where he’ll hop a train to Colorado.
There are some breathtaking shots of Gus and Jepperd making their way through the wilderness at the start of the episode that contrast with both the sinisterly sterile suburb and a grungy, chaotic Market that’s full of people barely scraping by. The visual splendor of this series hammers home the idea that nature is serene and majestic while humans are destructive, invasive, and wretched. This episode gives us a clearer picture of how society has changed after the Great Crumble, and while the subdivision is in a little pocket of the past, the Market is shaped by the present. We see how the economy has changed — non-expired lithium batteries and shoelaces are valuable currency — and how hybrids have shaped youth culture, as human kids and teenagers walk the grounds in their homemade hybrid cosplay.
Hybrids end up in cages in the Market, so Jepperd disguises Gus as a cosplaying human boy with a helmet, some tape, and a few rules: 1) no ear movement 2) when confronted, start talking because hybrids can’t speak, and 3) no “weird deer shit.” We’ve seen how Gus’ animal instincts can get him in trouble, and the anxiety that something will set off those instincts pervades their entire time at the Market. Gus’ ears are a practical effect, and that informs Christian Convery’s performance, giving him something real to feel and react to when he’s performing. They function a lot like eyebrows, enhancing Gus’ expressions by moving up and down. (The tactile texture and crisp movement all look very natural on screen, and it helps to sell the ’80s adventure vibe that the creative team is going for.)
Jepperd is at the Market to secure his meds and get rid of Gus, but those two objectives end up in conflict. Jepperd’s former supplier was taken out by the Last Men, but Gus knows the scent of the medication and smells it in some boxes being moved by armed cars. They follow the boxes and Gus sniffs out the medication, but they’re discovered by a guard and Gus’ true hybridity is revealed. Both he and Jepperd become captives, dragged away from the Market by soldiers on horseback. After last episode’s triumphant takedown at the visitors’ center, the thought of Gus and Jepperd becoming prisoners so early in the show is a real bummer.
Thankfully, Bear (Stefania LaVie Owen) and the Animal Army swoop in to rescue them. The focus of this episode’s cold open, the Animal Army is a group of teenagers who use their VR video game training to rescue hybrids from the Last Men, the military force led by General Abbot (Neil Sandilands) who were responsible for last episode’s raid on the Yellowstone visitors’ center. The Animal Army, which operates out of an abandoned amusement park, is part Mad Max, part Billie Eilish. I’m excited to spend more time with them and their striking animal-inspired costumes — they’re weaponized teenage cool. And now, instead of prisoners of the enemy, Gus and Jepperd become part of the resistance.
The show has introduced a lot of people who empathize with hybrids and want to help them, but this episode’s cliffhanger reveals that Abbot, who has his sights on The Preserve, the sanctuary for hybrids that Gus is trying to find, is getting very close to his destination. After seeing the complete lack of mercy from soldiers and the wealthy, it’s hard to imagine things going well for those hybrids if Abbot gets his hands on them.