Sweet Tooth’s villain is willing to kill babies to ‘turn the clock back to 2019’

Dr. Singh (Adeel Akhtar) shines a penlight at Gus (Christian Convery), an apprehensive young boy with the antlers and ears of a deer in Sweet Tooth.

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In Sweet Tooth, Netflix’s post-apocalyptic fable based on Jeff Lemire’s DC Comic of the same name, humanity’s only hope is to reject change, and try, by any means necessary, to recreate life just as it was before “the Great Crumble.” Or at least that’s what the show’s dapper and fascistic antagonist General Abbot (played by Neil Sandilands) would have you believe.

“When you start to [put the villain] of your story together you start to go ‘What is actually driving him? What’s actually making this work?’” showrunner Jim Mickle told Polygon over video in anticipation of season 2, which hits Netflix on Thursday. According to Mickle, what makes Abbot work as a villain is also what makes Sweet Tooth work as a show: The futility of trying to turn back time, and the necessity of moving forward.

In Sweet Tooth, blame for the apocalypse is heaped on hybrids — a generation of children born with a mixture of human and animal qualities, and then abandoned to the wild. Most survivors wrongfully believe that hybrids are completely inhuman, and humanity as we know it is in its final days. But the greatest threat to hybrids are the hunters of the Last Men, led by a shadowy fascistic leader, General Abbot, who, in the show’s cliffhanger season finale, captured our adorable hybrid hero, Gus (Christian Convery).

Dr. Singh (Adeel Akhtar) shines a penlight at Gus (Christian Convery), an apprehensive young boy with the antlers and ears of a deer in Sweet Tooth.

Image: Netflix

When asked if Mickle saw any real world relevance to the idea of a society that says “our children are different from us, and therefore civilization has ended” he wasn’t shy about agreeing.

“Definitely. You can get really literal with [those connections] — and that to me is where it starts to fall apart a little bit, when you get too literal. But that goes into [Sweet Tooth’s] theme of ‘You can’t go home again.’ That, to me, is what fueled Abbot. […] A lot of the things that seem like opposition in the world, it’s always framed in this thing of ‘Go back to the good old days,’ whether it’s make ‘America great again” or it’s Let’s go back to a time when no one read these books, or Let’s go back to a time when, you know, gender was gender — whatever those kinds of things are, it always sort of seems to come from this weird, vague, fool’s gold, nostalgia.”

In the show’s sophomore season, Abbot’s motivations, his army, and his dungeon full of hybrid children naturally came into primary focus. He wages a campaign of hearts and minds among adult survivors, promising that he holds the key to the destruction of hybrids and a return to the normalcy of the times before the Great Crumble.

“That was a big part of what drove this story,” Mickle said. “In a way you can look at that and go “I understand exactly where it’s coming from.” [Abbot]’s basically someone going ‘I want to turn the clock back to 2019 when we didn’t have to worry about this. You didn’t have to worry about masks, you didn’t have to worry about vaccines.’ There’s an allure to that that is incredibly appealing. That was where the story really came together.”

Abbot’s foil, of course, is Gus the deer boy, who spends much of season 2 coming to terms with the meaning of his own past — and the role he has in shaping the world’s future. That’s the viewpoint on cataclysms that Mickle hopes viewers take away from the show.

“The world is never really going to be the same,” he said, describing his own experiences of global pandemic (Sweet Tooth’s pilot episode was filmed before production was forced to halt, with the rest of the first season filmed in late 2020). “That became a theme of season 2 that really comes home at the end. I think there’s a pessimistic way to look at that. And then there’s a look like, That just means that we have to move on and find what the world is going to be after that.”

Sweet Tooth season 2 is now on Netflix.

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