Meet Sweet Tooth, the enigmatic character from the world of Twisted Metal. Clad in tight pants and a leather harness, his brawny and wide frame dons a terrifying clown mask, which perpetually bears a gruesome grin. He seems to dwell in a realm beyond reality, where his inner fantasies sporadically intersect with the outside world. Violent and sarcastic, Sweet Tooth craves attention and has a voice reminiscent of Will Arnett, though his physical appearance resembles that of wrestler Samoa Joe. He embodies shades of the Joker and numerous other comic-book villains, a unique amalgamation that revels in its own eccentricity and sense of fun.
However, beneath this mishmash of traits, Sweet Tooth remains empty, lacking emotional depth, coherent narrative purpose, or alignment with broader themes. In essence, he resembles a simple doodle from a middle-school student’s sketchbook.
Sweet Tooth serves as an apt representation of the Twisted Metal series, especially in the new Peacock adaptation. While his role may not be as prominent as the central antagonist, he epitomizes the adaptation’s core essence: an unapologetic pursuit of cool, fun, and outrageous elements. The show unreservedly incorporates guns, cars, dark humor, visceral action, and a plethora of flashy, eye-catching elements while sidestepping the need for intricate world-building or profound character motivations. This approach allows the adaptation to thrive on pure entertainment, avoiding the burden of excessive seriousness or overthinking.
In essence, Sweet Tooth and the Twisted Metal series, in general, embrace the mantra of “anything goes” as long as it’s thrilling, amusing, and wild, reflecting a vivid, unapologetically exhilarating experience.
Examining the cultural landscape, Twisted Metal seems like a promising venture. It caters to fans of The Umbrella Academy and Deadpool, both successful franchises known for their snarky storytelling, violent fight scenes set to upbeat tunes, and distinct voices. Twisted Metal takes pride in its eclectic mix, fearlessly combining car explosions with the likes of “MMMBop.” Yet, this plug-and-play approach is the extent of its offering—it borrows heavily from existing elements that resonate with audiences. But does it really need to be more than that? By the end of the ten-episode season, when Sweet Tooth’s head is ablaze, yet he continues his vehicular mayhem, the answer might seem unclear. Nevertheless, this doesn’t automatically elevate it to the realm of good television.
Fortunately, Anthony Mackie’s impressive performance as the lead, John Doe, a witty and amnesiac “Milk Man” making deliveries in a post-apocalyptic America, saves Twisted Metal from being unbearable. His character’s charm and inner turmoil resonate, particularly in his relationship with Eveline, his beloved tricked-out orange Subaru. However, the story takes a comedic turn when he crosses paths with a nameless, stoic woman, whom he endearingly dubs Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz). This chance encounter transforms the series into an unexpected buddy road comedy.
While these moments have their merits, they are mere distractions amidst the already chaotic car-crash sequences. Beatriz and Mackie’s performances somewhat mask the shallowness of their characters, yet it does little to fill the void of meaningful narrative development. The emotional arc of their relationship serves as the sole narrative focal point, but it fails to infuse Twisted Metal with more substance or enjoyment beyond the simple pleasure of smashing a Hot Wheels with a hammer. And like this act of destruction, the repetitive nature of the show becomes apparent as it heads towards its predictable path of unrelenting mayhem and destruction.