Sugar S1E8 Recap: Season Finales Are Hard


John Sugar, in a suit and sunglasses, with a Ferris Wheel in the background
Screenshot/Apple TV+

The following recap contains spoilers for Sugar S1E8, “Farewell” (written by Donald Joh & Sam Catlin and directed by Fernando Meirelles)

It’s hard to pull off a good Season 1 finale, particularly when you don’t know if you’ll get a Season 2. Sugar S1E8 seems to be very aware of this, punctuated as it is by moments of voiceover narration on the strangeness of ending, but the creators of the show may have been almost too aware of the task they’d set themselves with this episode.

Jonathan sitting in his living room talking to Sugar
Screenshot/Apple TV+

On the one hand, the goal is clearly to provide relative closure through the conclusion of the Siegel case. Olivia (Sydney Chandler) is alive, and Sugar reunites her with her family. He takes the opportunity to offer his condolences to Margit (Anna Gunn), which resolves the lingering hard feelings between them, and then he confronts Jonathan (James Cromwell) with a couple of questions that the show has encouraged us to ask over the course of Season 1: What happened to Clifford’s body?; and what’s the deal with the Polaroids?

Episode 8 provides us with answers to these questions, insofar as Jonathan basically confirms that he was behind the removal of Clifford’s corpse and that he had an affair with Rachel Kaye (Natalie Alyn Lind), but it does so in a way that makes it feel like these questions never really mattered. Jonathan might be Olivia’s biological father, but… so what? John doesn’t seem to care, and I’m not sure why we should, either.

Throughout Season 1, I’ve enjoyed how Sugar has subtly provided foreshadowing in the background and seeded little mysteries. It felt like the series was showing respect to attentive viewers instead of spoon-feeding us the questions and answers. But that subtlety is meaningfully gone in “Farewell,” as though, with the season finale, the creators felt like they had to lay things bare.

Olivia looking downwards as she talks with Sugar
Screenshot/Apple TV+

It’s even worse when it comes to the second goal of the episode: to provide the grounds for a potential Season 2.

Early in S1E8, a cop pulls Miller (Paul Schulze) over in order to murder him, which is pretty intriguing, but no one seems too fussed about it as the episode proceeds. Ruby (Kirby) makes some general remarks to Sugar about how the powerful people who had been blackmailing the group are now after them because John exposed Pavich, but she doesn’t even directly mention Miller being killed in cold blood by a police officer, and we don’t see any evidence of them trying to kill other members of the group. A story about political elites seeking to persecute or expose the aliens living among us could be compelling, and S1E8 plants the seed for that possibility but then doesn’t seem terribly interested in germinating it.

Henry standing in a room with John
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Instead, the main narrative path forward is laid out through the CD that Sugar took from Ryan Pavich’s (Cameron Cowperthwaite) basement last week. I’d thought it was a DVD, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s a CD, and John gets a player from Henry (Jason Butler Harner) in order to listen to it. Something about this case is sticking in his craw, even though it’s been solved and Olivia is safe.

Sugar gets the impression from the audio recording that there is someone in the room with Ryan besides for his victim (Alex Borlo), and Olivia confirms that this was the case for her when she was being tortured. This second person never talked, but she could hear him writing, and it’s very quickly confirmed that this second person was none other than Henry.

Indeed, Henry confirms it himself as he talks to Sugar on the phone. To complete his heel turn, Henry strongly implies to John that he was the one who took Djen (Maeve Whalen) by leaving her dress in a closet with rose petals in front of it.

This is almost too much. I’m surprised Henry didn’t proceed to cackle for good measure.

Sugar and Ruby stand side by side, in profile
Screenshot/Apple TV+

Ruby confirms to John that the Polyglots all knew about Pavich and what Henry was doing all along. Despite having some distaste for it, they found it within the purview of their mission to observe. But she didn’t know about Djen, and that’s apparently enough for John to remain on good terms with her.

He wishes Ruby well as she gets ready to leave the planet, but John’s not leaving because Henry’s not leaving. He has to find Henry, and maybe find Djen, and it is super clear what Sugar Season 2 will be about if it comes into existence.

Djen wearing a dress with a hood
Screenshot/Apple TV+

I don’t like any of this. I don’t like that Henry, who seemed like a good guy, has turned out to be the bad guy. I don’t like that Senator Pavich and other powerful people remain in the background and hardly puncture the narrative. And I really, really don’t like that Sugar appears to be completely unconcerned about what happened to his pal Charlie (Paula Andrea Placido), who hasn’t even been mentioned since Episode 6. That just seems out of character.

And this is where my true criticisms of Sugar’s Season 1 finale lie. It’s not just that I don’t like what the show did, but that a lot of things don’t quite make sense, either in terms of who these characters are or in terms of basic rationality.

It makes sense that Sugar can’t help but listen to the CD from Pavich’s basement even though he’s returned Olivia to her family and his job is over. It makes sense that he decides to reveal his true nature to Melanie (Amy Ryan) because of how they’ve connected over the course of the season. But when Ruby tells him that the group knew about what Ryan Pavich was doing all along and Sugar basically shrugs, that feels out of character.

Just last week, Henry was the one who gave John the address to Ryan’s house. I suppose he might have hoped that Sugar wouldn’t follow through further, but Henry is also the one to give John a CD player so that he can listen to the CD he took. Surely Henry could have at least tried to engage in some delay tactics, knowing they had to get to the evacuation ship by sundown or be left behind, but he does no such thing.

The only way to make sense of this is to infer that Henry wanted John to find out, wanted to stay on Earth, and wanted Sugar to stay as well. He does kind of say as much during their phone call. I guess it’s the shift of Henry from a helpful friend to something like the Moriarty to John’s Sherlock Holmes that bothers me. I could see Henry being a detached anthropologist, but he suddenly seems diabolical, and that doesn’t feel like it fits with what we’ve come to know about him.

It feels like Sugar S1E8 wanted this twist so bad that it forced it, and I can’t help but compare it to the Big Twist at the end of Episode 6. That was quiet. The ground had been laid for it, such that when the moment happened, it felt both surprising and inevitable. In contrast, Henry’s heel turn felt hamfisted and shoehorned into the narrative in order to motivate further seasons of the show.

Melanie giving Sugar a pained look
Screenshot/Apple TV+

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Sugar Season 1, as I hope has been evident in my weekly recaps and in the discussions I’ve had with Ryan Kirksey on The TV Obsessive Podcast, but, as you may have inferred by now, this finale makes me fear that the show has seriously lost its way.

It could be redeemed in a second season if Henry’s character is deepened to make his motivations more coherent, and if we get more information about Pavich et al., along with what the aliens behind the Polyglot Society have been up to (the purpose of their mission, etc.). But, the fact that S1E8 ends with Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”—a song which I think should be on the list of needle drops to retire—makes me less than optimistic.

Though, I’ll still watch Season 2 if we get it.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

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