There comes a time in a child’s life when they’re invited to hang with the big kids and it changes everything. These early encounters with teenagers can be intimidating and even frightening if the kid isn’t ready, introducing dangerous aspects of life that come with expanded freedom. For me, this was a teenage sleepover at a neighbor’s house when I was in the fifth grade, accompanied by my sisters in high school. The thrill of staying up late and saying curse words was snuffed out during a VHS viewing of Scream, which scared me so much I would get chills every time I walked past the front door at night, sprinting up the stairs to my bedroom. Being with older kids showed me things I wasn’t comfortable with and tested my limits, and Gus goes through a similar experience with the Animal Army in “Secret Sauce.”
This is the first episode that doesn’t begin with the introduction of a new character, instead showing last episode’s Animal Army ambush from the angle of the attackers. Before, we were still in Gus’s point of view, hearing the carnage but not seeing the vicious details. The cold open switches the perspective over to Bear, who leads her team in taking out the Last Men with their knives and crossbows. I don’t fully buy Stefania LaVie Owen as a ruthless killer, and I would have liked to see more of Bear in action before meeting Gus, who triggers empathy in her because of what he represents. Bear is a smart leader in that she looks at how circumstances change and makes informed decisions; she sees that Gus isn’t like any of the other hybrids, and the fact that he can communicate his needs means that they must take them into consideration.
Owen plays Bear’s compassion very heavily, and while it makes Bear more appealing to Gus, it takes away some of the character’s edge. That would make her feel like more of a threat to Jeppard as well as a more authoritative leader. Owen looks a lot like environmental activist Greta Thunberg, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence given Bear’s extreme environmentalist view of the virus and the hybrids. Like Pubba, she believes that the virus was nature’s way of punishing humans for destroying the planet with their selfish needs. Nature started to heal with the creation of hybrids who can live without taking and keep the world alive.
The world of the Animal Army is sensory overload for Gus in the best way possible. He’s never seen an amusement park. He’s never seen a computer. He’s never eaten sour gummies, which “taste like lightning.” The neon lighting and industrial architecture give their base a nightclub vibe, and the color palette distinguishes this location from the other settings and gives it a more youthful atmosphere. Gus is treated like a king by these teenagers, but there’s a dark side to this Lost Boys fantasy: They really want to kill Jepperd, and a significant number of them don’t care how Gus feels about him.
We see Jepperd at his most vulnerable in this episode, tied up and forced to share the details of a past he’s not proud of, and it brings out a new side of Nonso Anozie’s performance. There’s a lot more remorse and regret, and you can see that spending time with Gus is making Jepperd more sensitive to the pain he’s caused in the past by siding with the Last Men. Despite her hatred of the Last Men who killed her family, Bear shows mercy to Jepperd, which ends up setting off a mutiny when she decides not to execute him. A rival faction of the Animal Army wants to see Jepperd dead, and the only thing that stops it from happening is Gus, who steps in front of a raging tiger and makes it back down. The two of them escape in the chaos.
This episode’s domestic anchor comes via Aimee, whose connection to the larger story becomes very clear as we catch up with her and the hybrid child she found years ago: Wendy (Naledi Murray). They have their own version of the Pubba–Gus dynamic, living in their isolated haven in the Essex County Zoo and venturing out only when they need to make shopping trips. It’s during one of these shopping trips that Aimee sees a cigarette, and they’re able to hide fast enough to avoid one of the Last Men now patrolling the streets for hybrids.
There’s danger all around them, but Aimee and Wendy have a wonderful life. There’s a shot of the two of them cooking together that frames them beautifully in the kitchen window, and the serenity and bliss of that image says a lot about their relationship with each other and their zoo home. This is a safe space, and it’s one big enough that it can be shared: The Essex County Zoo is the Preserve that Gus is trying to reach, and Aimee gets the idea from her daughter.
Sweet Tooth doesn’t make hybrid nature seem like a curse, and we haven’t spent any time with the hybrids who are being persecuted, just hearing about it in different ways. Instead, the show depicts being a hybrid as a gift from nature, and physical adorability helps to sell that idea. The comic-book Gus has a despondent gauntness that makes him an inherently sad character, but that’s not the case with TV Gus, who looks like a healthy, bright-eyed child with fuzzy ears and antlers. Wendy has a similar vitality to her. When she gets excited, her snout perks up and she snorts like a pig, which is exactly as cute as it sounds.
“Secret Sauce” introduces one more hybrid in Bobby, Wendy’s friend who has been living in the zoo’s garden. The part-groundhog Bobby is CGI for full-body shots but an animatronic puppet for close-ups, and I really admire the production team’s commitment to finding practical solutions for the hybrid characters. It provides something real to interact with, which helps get a better performance out of child actors who might have a harder time acting with a scene partner that will be added in post.
The narrator’s fixation on when individual stories begin was an indicator that these threads are unfolding on separate timelines, and by the end of the episode, we learn that Aimee is a few years behind the main action with Gus and Jepperd. The timing for Adi and Rani isn’t as obvious, it could be happening in the past or concurrently, but it’s easy to see where their plot is going: Adi needs a living hybrid to continue Dr. Bell’s research, and it’s probably going to be the very special one we’ve been following for three episodes.
Sweet Tooth’s horror elements are strongest with the Singhs, who are in an intense psychological thriller as they try to hide Rani’s illness from increasingly suspicious neighbors. This forces Adi to finally give in and accept that hybrids will be hurt in order for him to help his wife. The episode’s title comes from the antiviral treatment, which is created by combining hybrid bone-marrow stem cells with secretions from the pineal gland of a living hybrid. He caves and orders more of the Secret Sauce by flare, but while he’s away at work, his nosy neighbor Nancie (Bronwyn Bradley) checks in on Rani. Nancie wants to make weekly virus testing part of their routine, including surprise tests. Adi reasonably argues that there aren’t enough testing kits for that to be feasible, but it’s obvious she’s touched a nerve.
Nancie’s fears are all but confirmed when she asks Rani about the anniversary Adi made up earlier and gets a confused response, setting off a chain of events that ends with Nancie storming into the driveway and getting kicked in the chest by Adi’s horse. It’s the post-apocalyptic version of the “getting hit by a bus” plot device, but it works because the horse doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s sitting there on screen, waiting for someone to step behind it and get kicked, because that’s what happens if you step behind a horse. Nancie isn’t thinking about the horse after finding out her neighbor is sick, and she ends up dead because of it. Now the Singhs have another thing to keep secret, which is going to be a real challenge in a tight-knit community like theirs.