Apple TV+’s Sugar: So, What Is That Big Twist?

May 4, 2024
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This article contains major spoilers for Sugar episode 6. Virtually every “spoiler-free” Sugar review that ran in advance of the Colin Farrell-starring detective series’ premiere on Apple TV+ mentioned that the project featured a big twist. While one might consider it poor taste to “spoil” that a story even contains an enormous twist, it’s hard […]

The post Apple TV+’s Sugar: So, What Is That Big Twist? appeared first on Den of Geek.

This article contains I Saw the TV Glow spoilers.

Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow is a unique, neon-colored, melancholic analysis. It’s a complex work determined to show you might find yourself through art and the joys of escapism. Instead of depicting this coming-of-age story with promise, as is often cinema’s wont, Schoenbrun presents a haunting, Kaufman-esque diversion, illustrating the consequences of avoiding one’s embracement of oneself and the repression that bottles throughout the years. Most remarkably, Schoenbrun provides a significant, one-of-a-kind trans allegory; a raw psychedelic vision unlike almost anything previously put on the screen. In fact, the closest comparison I can think of is to say it’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things for non-cis folks. 

The setup seems at first straightforward. In 1996, 13-year-old Owen (Ian Foreman) imprinted his soul onto a YA Goosebumps-meets-Buffy-styled horror TV series called The Pink Opaque. The series follows two chosen girls, Tara (Lindsey Jordan) and Isabel (Helena Howard), paired with a pink ghost at the back of their necks that allows them to see and fight supernatural monsters. On an election night voting outing with his mom (Danielle Deadwyler) at his middle school, Owen then spots ninth-grade upperclassman Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) sitting by her lonesome in the gym, reading an episode guide to The Pink Opaque.

They instantly bond to the extent they have a sleepover and watch the series as it airs. Their shared love for the series spiritually connects them more than their relationship with either of their families. But as he enters ninth grade, Owen’s (Justice Smith) inner life begins to crumble as his mom is diagnosed with cancer, and his dad (Fred Durst) barely has a relationship with him. His only solace is The Pink Opaque, which Maddy leaves weekly VHS taped episodes of in various classrooms.

Eventually, Maddy and Owen talk again, leading them to have one more Pink Opaque sleepover. Soon after Maddy disappears without a trace. In her absence, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur for Owen. It also opens the movie up as a heart-rending metaphor about self-realization… or what happens when the self is denied for a lifetime.

Owen’s Memory Omission and Repression

Throughout I Saw the TV Glow, Owen is positioned as an unreliable narrator. He tells the audience about his upbringing and fixation on The Pink Opaque. Yet Owen omits all the gender-related conversations bridged between Owen’s attachment to Isabel as he recounts his memories. He admits that the series is his escapism; moments between Owen and Maddy’s relationship, illustrating Owen exploring his gender identity, aren’t ever unveiled until Maddy brings it up to him.

Later into the film, as The Pink Opaque stans are in early adulthood, Maddy returns to the suburbs to make Owen remember their past watching the show. Owen selectively recalls the time they shared watching the show. When Maddy describes, however, the truth is revealed as moments locked in the closet of Owen’s hippocampus, hidden from the audience, come out. During their hangouts in adolescence, Owen experiments with his gender identity. We see him donning a pink dress and walking similarly to Isabel, all to Maddy’s accepting approval. The changing perspective of what’s hidden from the viewer as an omission of Owen’s transness and the truth spoken by Maddy adds a subtle layer to the film’s tackling of identity. 

Owen’s fear of being authentic with his identity can be traced back to the film’s beginning, where even his young 7th grade self wears a coat of shame on him regarding The Pink Opaque. The fact that it is his source of escape is kept in secrecy—an act of self-denial.

Upon meeting Maddy for the first time, giddy over seeing someone else in real life be into The Pink Opaque as he was in his isolated suburbia, she asks if he watches. He instantly nods but also shakes his head, fearing being judged, let alone seen. The strained parenting he got from where his mom coddled him like a baby well into his high school years while his dad had no real connection with him influenced his reactions and navigation with the outside world.

On a car ride home from the fair, distressed by his mom’s news, Owen asks if he can stay up to watch The Pink Opaque, to which his mom declines because it’s past his bedtime, and his dad inputs, “Isn’t that a show for girls?” That projection of masculinity imbued on him by his father already says enough about the distance Owen has from him. Yet his influence instills his memories, forcing any truth about his inner trans thoughts to disband. 

Opening Up Your Innards

Whenever Owen expresses his genuine emotions, they are always directed toward Maddy. Though their conversations are few and far between, their platonic kinship imposed by the series lends them to share deep talks about their lives and fears about themselves. Maddy shares with him that she’s gay, and Owen claims doesn’t know what he likes. His non-defined ace, trans self, responds, “I think I like TV shows.” Owen also shares that he fears having no soul, as if he’s constantly been suffocating; if hypothetically he opened up his innards, there would be nothing of substance. 

Those words come into play during a pivotal moment in Owen’s life where, during their adulthood, years after Maddy’s disappearance, she returns in confident, gender-non-conforming clothing, similar to Tara’s in the series. She informs Owen that they are really Tara and Isabel from the show. Their lives have been uprooted by the events of the season 5 finale where their nemesis, Mr. Melancholy (who looks like a cross-breeding between the iconic Man in the Moon face and the nightmarish Mac Tonight from the ’90s McDonald’s ads), poisoned them with Luna Juice. The fiend also buried them alive and cast their souls to the realm they live in now.

During an incredible monologue scene powerfully performed by Brigette Lundy-Paine, Maddy pours their soul into describing the hell they endured to get to and from the realms on the other side of the TV screen. Maddy did this so she can convince Owen that he’s Isabel and their deep conversations about him feeling buried alive was the truth. In a Matrix-like “Red Pill, Blue Pill” scenario, also a hella trans allegory, Owen rebukes Maddy’s hypothesis. He lives out the cursed life permeated by his dad’s projection of masculinity. 

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The Ending

I Saw the TV Glow’s psychologically horrific finale bridges its trans themes into a profoundly unsettling yet poignant bow. Owen’s obsession with The Pink Opaque and with Maddy helped him find a deep-rooted connection and discover his true self while distracting him from the isolating mundanity and devastation surrounding his family. However, his lack of embracement and trust in Maddy’s reach at every opportunity failed him. 

Owen eventually lives out the greatest fear experienced by queer offspring of estranged parents: they become their father. As time passes, Owen explains that he acquired his family home after his dad’s passing, ridding himself of all his childhood belongings, including his beloved Pink Opaque videos Maddy gifted him. Owen’s tastes differ to fit the masculine expectations he sets for himself, upgrading his life to fit into traditional, cisgendered modernity. 

Upon watching The Pink Opaque on streaming via his new flatscreen, all his love for the series from his youth and the nostalgic satisfaction of watching an episode during airtime are gone. The enchanted love he once had as a child upon his first obsession vanishes as he watches with discontent, admitting how embarrassed he feels. Considering that his soul is too far gone from embracing any thoughts of his transness, so too does this affect his thoughts toward the show.

As he goes into his elder years, becoming so soulless as a typical, average Joe, an elderly Owen—the makeup effect of making Justice Smith look old is gnarly—on the brink of death, freaks out at his dead-end entertainment center job. Owen’s repression finally found its breaking point. Sadly, it’s in his final years.

In the bathroom, he coughs up Luna Juice, the stuff that Isabel drank in the season 5 finale… and Owen decides to cut himself up as he talked about doing as a metaphor before. Upon looking at himself in the mirror, he sees the TV static live inside his innards, and he seems relieved that there is a semblance of a soul within him; that it was there all along. 

I found myself fascinated with the film’s contemplation of queer repression by its finale, with how Schoenbrun shows the bleak consequences of bottling up your inner identity. The climax reminded me of I’m Thinking of Ending Things with the reveal that everything seemed to be Jesse Plemons’ memory. Because we’ve been closely aligned to Justice Smith’s Owen and the tribulations he went through with his family and the show he loved so dearly, the impact of him opening his chest at the end and seeing his true self, but only at an advanced age, is a more impactful ending and a gut punch to the chest than a rainbow-colored road.

It turns the film into something of a trans cautionary tale, emphasizing the thematic lesson of not living up to your true identity. It suggests a sad lifetime where a piece of art you fixate on tells you more about yourself than your lived experience ever did. It’s a perfect message for a new wave of kids of different backgrounds who want to find themselves but don’t have the right resources or community to guide them. All that you need is a TV show.

The post I Saw the TV Glow Ending Explained: A24’s Transcendent Trans Cautionary Tale appeared first on Den of Geek.

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