Sweet Tooth Series Finale: Creator Jim Mickle Explains Why [Spoiler] Had to Die, Weighs In on Big Man’s Dubious Fate

The following contains spoilers for the series finale of Sweet Tooth!

If there’s just one thing that Sweet Tooth creator Jim Mickle wants viewers to take away from his series, it’s this: hope.

“We’re in an era where that’s sort of been baked out of the discourse,” he tells TVLine. “I think we can allow ourselves to feel empathy towards one another and I hope that the show greases the wheels for that a little bit.”

In the series finale of the DC/Vertigo fantasy series (all eight Season 3 episodes are now streaming on Netflix), Gus was hope personified, even if humanity didn’t want to view the hybrid children as actual people. Throughout a climactic showdown at the cave where the Sick was first unleashed, Gus continued trying to figure out an answer to the conflict that could benefit all of the planet’s living beings. But even when the boy’s hope could’ve and maybe should’ve dwindled — his mother Birdie was stabbed to death right before his eyes while Dr. Singh and Helen Zhang’s army held them all captive — Gus remained brave and optimistic in the face of danger.

After seeing a vision of Pubba who reminded him that nature always takes its course, Gus destroyed the disease-ridden tree responsible for the pandemic with fire, thus ending the Sick and subsequently ensuring that the remaining humans would be the last. Dr. Singh died in a redemptive move to save Gus from falling cave shards, while Big Man made it out of the cave… and maybe lived on? (More on that below.) Gus then reunited with his hybrid friends in the park where Pubba raised him and grew up be… the story’s ever-reliable narrator!

Here, TVLine talks to Mickle about the final season’s biggest surprises, Birdie’s untimely death, Big Man’s questionable fate and whether there could be another iteration of Sweet Tooth down the line.

TVLINE | How emotional was the filming of this season knowing that you were preparing for the end?  
JIM MICKLE | I spent many days the last week just bursting into tears behind the camera and trying to mask it. It was really difficult because you’re constantly shooting farewells with characters or really impactful scenes for characters or some sort of breakthrough, and there was something about that at the end that just really, really got to me. I haven’t watched Season 3 as a whole in a while. I haven’t seen it all back-to-back, so I’m excited to binge it and experience it firsthand.

TVLINE | How long ago was the final season filmed? I spoke with Christian [Convery] a couple weeks ago and he’s a whole teenager now!  
Yeah, it’s insane, I know. We wrapped last February. We got back here [to the U.S.] in March and then basically the strike happened. The strike shut things down for about six months and we were about midway through post and editing, and then we picked it back up in the fall. So it’s been over a year since we wrapped and thankfully, the timing with Christian and how he’s evolved as a grown man was really great for the show. Lucky.

Sweet Tooth series finale
Sweet Tooth series finale

TVLINE | In the series finale, we catch one last loving glimpse of Pubba. Was it always the plan to have Will Forte return?  
We always love him. He’s so good. He’s so good on screen, but he’s so good just as a person. It was so fun to have him back in the saddle. At some point, one of our writers stepped back and was like, “You know, this whole show is really all about a boy dealing and grieving for the death of his father in the pilot episode.” To hear it said out loud, it was suddenly like, “Yes. Right. Yes. Holy s–t!” So that once that sort of framed it, it really felt like we needed him back in the show one more time to connect those dots.

TVLINE | Speaking of connecting dots, how does that vision of Pubba set Gus up for what he needs to do later in the finale? 
Good question. I wanted to move away from “the chosen one” thing. That’s such a trope of stories and storytelling, especially with kids. So there was a version where we could have easily gone down that road in a way that I just wanted to avoid. Nature has always been a powerful part of the show and Mother Nature is undefeated. So to me, that is really about his dad taking it off of his plate and just being like, “It’s out of your hands. It’s really nature that’s going to decide who goes forward, humans or hybrids.” So that was a bit about getting back to his grassroots forest ways.

TVLINE | Dr. Singh has a surprising turn to the dark side this season. Can you tell me a bit about his wicked turn in Season 3?  
Season 3 is closest to how he is in the comic book. That’s how we meet him in the comic and [we were] riding that wave. I was always a huge Adeel [Akhtar] fan, so I had basically called him and begged him to take the role back when we did the pilot. He read the comic book and he came back and was like, ‘So I’m just killing children?’ He just had another baby and I could just see that he was kind of questioning it. So it was kind of like, ‘Don’t worry. We’re gonna tell this guy’s real story here.’ So I’m very happy that for two seasons, we got to build up who he is and how he got to be that way. That was not in the comic. That was really enjoyable. It was fun to link it back up to where the comic is in Season 3. So a ton of that is just on him and just being able to question like, ‘How far can we push this guy and still be human?’ And thankfully, Adeel is as human as possible on screen. That was a big part of it. But I love his transformation this season and how he leaned into it and seemed to really enjoy it.

Sweet Tooth series finale
Sweet Tooth series finale

TVLINE | It wouldn’t be a big series finale if we didn’t have a heartbreaking death. From a storytelling perspective, why did Birdie have to die and how does her death tee up what’s to come in the finale?
We went for stories that did both versions and it always rang false when she survived. It felt too clean in a way that just felt like… this is not what the show is. Ultimately, I think for Gus, by the end of the show, by the end of the season, I wanted to push him as far as possible in terms of seeing just how awful humanity could be because [he] is always making excuses for human beings and always making excuses for Jeppard and people that do dark things. We would talk about [how] that’s his superpower, constantly seeing the best in people. And so, we were never really going to be able to make the audience think that we might kill Gus off, but his innocence, I think, was something that was always really at stake. We had to push him to that, to his breaking point, to see how far he could go, and [Birdie’s death] just felt like the perfect way to do that. And again, a perfect send off for her too because her hands aren’t clean by any means! A version where they just lived happily ever after just felt like it wasn’t quite our story.

TVLINE | So, Big Man. He did make it out alive, right?  
Well, it’s open to interpretation, I think! It’s funny, people have seen this one and come back believing [it] both ways, which was definitely intentional this season. So, yes, there was a little bit of calibrating exactly how that ending would go. I sort of went into it with a version that I thought and I evolve day to day on what I think it is, which is, I think, part of the fun!

TVLINE | I was both stunned and delighted to learn that an older Gus was, in fact, the narrator. How long did you know that was the case and that James Brolin would appear in the flesh at the very end?  
That was always the plan from the beginning. We told James that when we recorded the first voiceover. We didn’t know if we were going to get a Season 1 let alone three seasons or an opportunity to end it. We told him at the beginning and gave him a whole download of what the show was going to be and he sort of nodded and went, “OK, sounds good.” I’m sure in his mind he was like, “I don’t know that we’re ever gonna get that far,” but that was the goal all along and that’s what we wrote toward for three seasons.

Sweet Tooth series finale
Sweet Tooth series finale

And then finally, in that last episode, as we were getting close to it, the crew, everyone sort of looked at each other like, “So, are we really bringing him down? Is he really gonna come to New Zealand? Is he really gonna put these ears and these antlers on?” It was a huge moment like, “He is on the plane! He is on his way here!” I really didn’t believe it until he showed up, but it was just a perfect ending for the show. He was so cool, he was so good and so gracious, and walked into a weird set with a lot of kids and puppets and stuff like that and didn’t question it at all. He just sat down and was like, “This is wonderful,” and he was great.

TVLINE | This series says so much about family, both chosen and not chosen, friendship, even social politics. What are you most hoping viewers take away from this story? 
Hope. We’re in an era where that’s sort of been baked out of the discourse and I think our show has a huge heart and you don’t often see that. I feel like when I see stuff now, things try to be, I don’t know, a lot of style and wit and zap and irony. But I think we can allow ourselves to feel empathy towards one another and I hope that the show greases the wheels for that a little bit. It’s still a fun show and it’s still exciting and all that. But yeah, I hope coming out of it, being good to one another is not a bad word.

TVLINE | We’re living in a world of franchises and spinoffs and offshoots. Does Gus’ story end here with a period or are there options for something else down the road?  
It does for me. It’s definitely a period and there’s a real satisfaction to be able to do that. Being able to end the show when it should end is really nice. I think we all can point to a lot of shows that go on too long or don’t go long enough and never hit their stride, so I feel like we really hit a perfect spot there. I have ideas and thoughts in my mind of what it would look like if we went on, but I think that’s probably more of a business decision and audience decision of whether people want that or not. I would be perfectly happy either way.