One of Sweet Tooth’s greatest strengths is its ability to infuse postapocalyptic horror with wonder and delight, which prevents the show from becoming too bleak and heavy. Much of this comes via the child hybrids, whose innocence and naïveté keep them shielded from the harsh reality of their world. That ultimately works to intensify the dramatic elements of the series, so when we get a harrowing scene like the one at the end of “What’s in the Freezer?”, it hits very hard.
General Abbot has operated offscreen for the majority of Sweet Tooth thus far, but he steps into a very visible villain role in this episode, starting with the cold open where he confronts Dr. Bell about her recent retirement. She was lying about her cancer in hopes that she would be able to stop committing atrocities against hybrid children, and that’s a crime punishable by death in Abbot’s eyes. He’s a soldier with one goal — take back control of the planet and reclaim humanity — and he’ll do anything to make that happen. Dr. Bell tells him that the hybrids will be around long after they’re gone, but that just motivates Abbot to try even harder in finding a cure and wiping out the new inheritors of the planet. He finds out who has Dr. Bell’s research and orders her killed, presumably by injecting her with the H5G9 virus because no one will suspect foul play.
The cold open adds another layer of tension to the Singhs’ story, and as everything goes wrong for them in this episode, you start to wonder how Abbot will make things worse. The neighbors are starting to look for the missing Nancie, Rani’s condition is worsening, and there’s no secret sauce because the Last Men are all out of hybrids. Things get really bad when they realize that the freezer door at the clinic is open, which means somebody probably saw Nancie’s dead body in there. This story line escalates very quickly; Adi and Rani can’t even make it out of the clinic before they’re ambushed by their neighbors demanding answers.
Adi tries to cover their asses by saying Nancie was infected, and when the neighbors ask why he didn’t tell them earlier, he goes on a tirade about the hypocrisy of their community as they put on a façade of normalcy while killing each other with no remorse. Adeel Akhtar’s performance has the desperation of a man fighting for his life, and all of his guilt and resentment comes pouring out as he tries to divert attention from the fact that he’s been keeping his neighbor’s dead body in a freezer. He can’t divert attention from Rani’s coughing and twitching pinky finger, though, and once the mob discovers Rani’s sickness, the Singhs get wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the middle of their burning home.
This scene is extremely disturbing, and the dread climbs as their house is doused in gasoline and the match is lit. Adi and Rani definitely think they are about to die, and the performers channel the couple’s panic and fear, as well as their undying affection for each other in what they presume to be their last moments. But they don’t die. As the flames build, they hear the sounds of cars and gunfire, followed by Last Men rushing into their home. Abbot saves them from burning alive, but that may have been a better fate than what he has planned for them. Adi is going to have to do some terrible things to pay for his rescue, which is its own special kind of hell.
Without any living hybrids, the Last Men are under a lot of pressure to find new subjects for experimentation, and the Preserve is the perfect place to find them. Aimee’s operation has grown over the last few years, and we get some quick glimpses of the new residents, including an owl, monkey, and sloth hybrid. The episode doesn’t spend a lot of time with them because the hybrid characters are expensive to put onscreen, but these quick glimpses make the Preserve feel alive, with little moments like the sloth trying to grab an apple off a counter or the monkey reading a comic book in a hammock.
Bobby is the most animalistic hybrid with significant screen time, and he gives some serious E.T. vibes in this episode. The scene of Wendy dressing him up in flower sunglasses and a straw hat wouldn’t have the same charm and personality if there wasn’t a real puppet for Wendy to interact with, and the close-up shot of a dolled-up Bobby fully deserves the laugh that makes him angrily shuffle away from Wendy. These are the kinds of sweet moments that make this world more inviting, reminding us that there is still joy despite the menacing atmosphere.
That menace does make its way to the Preserve, starting with a radio message that is too adamant about bringing a dying hybrid baby directly to Aimee. That goes against the Preserve’s protocol, and anyone who isn’t willing to leave the baby alone in a location determined by Aimee is seen as a threat. Dania Ramirez effectively depicts the internal conflict in Aimee as she listens to this message, debating whether the desperation is real and there’s an actual hybrid at risk, or if this is an attempt to locate the Preserve for malicious means. She decides to turn off the radio, but it doesn’t make a difference. By the end of the episode, the Preserve has been found and marked by the Last Men, putting the future of this sanctuary in jeopardy.
The Gus story line is more predictable than usual this week. Bear joins Gus and Jepperd at the top of the episode and leads them back to the train through a field of purple death flowers. There’s a rickety-bridge scene that doesn’t offer any twist on a very standard adventure challenge, and when Gus falls into the flowers, he has a classic hero dream full of literal imagery and basic foreshadowing. It is nice to see Will Forte back as Pubba, even if he’s a less prickly version that is there to boost Gus’s spirits and tell him he’s making the right decisions.
It might not feel very original, but it does align with the fairy-tale aspects of this narrative, offering prophecies of the future that imbue the hero with greater importance. The vision of Abbot in the broken mirror evokes the magic mirror in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and it’s the first time Gus sees the man who has caused so much trouble for his kind. The show is setting up a big confrontation between these two, but it’s hard to imagine Gus getting to Abbot without suffering along the way. This episode considerably bumps up Abbot’s threat level, heightening the danger for the season’s back half.