Sugar Season 1 Review – A sleek crime-drama ruined by poor writing and bizarre plot twist

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 2/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 2/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 2/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 1.5/5

Plot twists are a contentious thing. After all, taking your audience by surprise is a risky thing. The Good Place (2016), for example, offers a delicious turn of events when Eleanor realises the truth. It puts a lot of the story’s puzzle pieces together and gives the story an overall direction.

On the other hand, Robert Pattinson’s intense romance drama Remember Me (2010) is — ironically — best remembered for the disappointing, twist ending where Pattinson’s character is affected during one of the most tragic events in US history. To watch a character work through several obstacles only to meet an ill-fated end leaves people resentful of the film.

It’s a gamble really. A good plot twist can elevate a story, give it more dimension, and make it more entertaining. A bad plot twist often doesn’t make sense, comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t fit in with the larger story. Sugar (2024), Apple TV+’s newest crime series, has a genre-bending plot twist that falls into the latter category.

The plot twist comes in during the second half of the season, alters the genre and the direction of the story in a way that completely takes the viewer out of it. It’s too bizarre and to top it off, the twist isn’t explained or further explored. You’re just forced to accept that this crime drama is also (without revealing too much) a sci-fi show.  

And that’s not all. Sugar is also a series about movies themselves, in a way targeted to film aficionados. As John Sugar, a private eye, investigates the disappearance of a famous film producer’s granddaughter named Olivia, his passion for the art of movies makes itself known. This means that we get a number of clips from the classics interspersed throughout the episodes.

If this sounds like too many genres for one show, it absolutely is. Sugar Season 1 struggles under the weight of developing the investigation, unravelling the larger twist behind Sugar’s identity, and his affinity for movies and filmmaking. Together, it gives the series a disjointed feel, like three shows being forced into one.

What does set Season 1 apart is the stylish visuals and the sun-soaked colours of a drama set in LA. The opening credits are washed in vivid hues, with a painted-on feel. Sugar himself wears a suit at all times and drives a snazzy, blue Corvette. But while the visuals are a treat to the eye, the camera angles don’t always work and the editing can be jarring.

The series forces you to contend with its stylishness, its artsy vibe, to the point of overload. A better cinephile than I might appreciate the interjected movie clips and even understand their relevancy, but for the casual watcher, they just come across as another stylish gimmick.

Sugar himself seems as contrived as Season 1’s aesthetic. He’s the perfect, ultra-accomplished PI who speaks several languages and fights with the same ease. He cares about the world immensely, to the point where he makes inane comments on homelessness and the state of humanity.

He keeps insisting he doesn’t want to hurt people…while throwing punches and taking down bad guys. He’s picture-perfect on paper and Colin Farrell definitely gives him the right amount of melancholia and gravitas. Unfortunately, he’s hard to root for and his internal dialogue gets monotonous very quickly.

The investigation itself isn’t particularly engaging. A lot of the characters fall into stereotypes except for Melanie, Olivia’s stepmother, who is evocatively played by Amy Ryan. Sugar’s own personal demons are no different from any other hard-boiled detective with a dark past. When the final culprit of Sugar Season 1 is revealed, you’re left with a wistful feeling of how much better the series could have been written had it worked with a narrower focus.

So, even before the perplexing genre shift occurs, Sugar isn’t a very captivating crime drama. And the plot twist — bound to make its way on a number of listicles in the future — just makes it all the easier to drop the show.

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  • Verdict - 4/10

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