(It's impossible to talk about Sugar without spoiling a major element that both defines and re-defines the show — if you haven't watched it and plan on doing so, don't read any further!)

One of my biggest complaints with Blue Eye Samurai (a show that I liked and enjoyed overall) was that in its fence-straddling between wanting to tell a meaningful, stand-alone story and set itself up for a second season of East-meets-West bushido misadventures, it not only failed to actually provide a meaningful ending but in its failure it threw away its protagonist's character arc.

That is — not quite the case with Sugar, but Sugar's flaws lie in the fact that, six episodes into an eight-episode noir series, it hard pivots into science fiction.

Lots of hay can be made about the pivot itself — it was, I think, telegraphed artfully, and shows a level of outré experimentation that you don't often find on Apple TV.

My complaint is more that this pivot is less a new texture on what was, for me, a really entertaining noir (a very faithfully executed Chinatown-esque story, filled to the brim with metatextual film references and a Colin Farrell performance that cements him as one of my favorite lead actors working right now!) and more "okay, that noir stuff is fun, time to put it to the side and talk about this new plot point instead."

The catharsis in any detective story, noir or otherwise, is the (literal or otherwise) parlor room scene, when you get to piece together all the little scraps and hints and loose plot threads and cohere them into a satisfying gestalt. Quite literally and deliberately, that never happens in Sugar — Sugar, having failed as a detective, is given (by the person who turns out to be the mastermind, in a plot point that again makes little sense except for as fuel for Season 2) the address of the person who he's trying to find.

What are we meant to take away from this show? What message does it try to impart, besides "Colin Farrell driving around in L.A. is cool as hell" and "humanity can be corrupting to aliens" [1]? Moreover — why does the hard pivot need to exist?

The most obvious answer I can think of is — to justify multiple seasons of the show, which is reasonable enough. But this could have existed as a straightforward six-episode miniseries and it would have been one of my favorite pieces of media ever, and I'm salty that they decided to err on the side of bombast.

  1. I know, I know, that's not exactly a charitable way to phrase that. ↩︎


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