Sugar Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Shibuya Crossing

As is the case with many series that drop on Apple TV+, conversation surrounding Sugar is practically nonexistent, save for a few old Reddit threads.

Those still commenting on the most active of those threads, as well as some Facebook folks we found commenting on the Sugar Series Premiere review, aren’t that excited to be here.

Is it the genre, the storytelling, Apple TV+, or a combination of all three?

Part of the problem is that somewhere, some time, Apple TV+ promoted Sugar as a sci-fi show.

If you’ve watched through Sugar Season 1 Episode 3, then you may still be asking how that fits. But at least “Shibuya Crossing” offered a few strands of evidence that suggest this isn’t just another PI tale.

It is a sci-fi show.

On Sugar Season 1 Episode 1, the narrative direction took great pains to remind you that what you’re seeing may not be relevant to the story as a whole.

This was done by Sugar’s love of cinema, which he’s still leaning on dramatically today. I cannot quite say whether it’s merely a story point or if creator Mark Protosevich is using these clues to address the show (and entertainment) as a whole.

I’ve seen the whole thing, and I still can’t tell you that.

But the mystery is meant to help you understand John Sugar, what makes him tick, and what makes him similar to and very different from those with whom he associates.

On the outside, he’s just a kind and compassionate guy who wants to help people. But his arms shake; he’s got a bunch of cool crystal vials of who knows what that transforms him in some way but doesn’t appear to be your average drug.

There’s something off about John and all his friends. And he’s ridiculously adept at pretty much everything, always a step ahead. He’s got no nose for violence, but he’s willing to use it to save others.

His drive to find Olivia is tied to his memories of his sister, but the lengths he goes during his cases seem severe even for the best PIs we’ve encountered.

Nobody else in John’s crowd seems remotely interested in life around them.

The “this case is bad for you” mantra suggests Ruby and friends know something they won’t share with him. Do they think he’s too sensitive to handle it?

He may be a sensitive soul, but when push comes to shove, the dude will shove with the best of them. Melanie got in trouble, and Sugar used every tactic at his disposal to ensure her safety.

Their connection is genuine, and it surprises them both. It’s not a love connection but a real friendship that blossomed overnight. 

It’s important to note because, in his crowd, that seems to be unheard of. While John is engaging with people and becoming a part of their lives, his pals are observing.

The others are both protective of John and somewhat annoyed at his need to follow through despite their warnings. He’s bumping too close to something that could upend his life, but they’re too afraid that bringing him in will set him off in some way.

Does his stance on violence have something to do with it? Are they worried if pushed too far, he’ll use his assets to wreak havoc they don’t want to deal with?

Byron Stallings is a bad man, but he’s a bad man who seems to be protected by John’s friends.

Instead of telling John who Stallings really is, Ruby deletes his information, robbing Sugar of the opportunity to learn more about him. That seems like an incredibly bad move, but “they” are watching, and “they” want it done.

So who are “they”?

The party was filled with others like John, but not like John. They’re all part of the same secret, but they run in entirely different circles. The key seems to be that they are observing us.

Like the Observers on Fringe, they are not to interfere. John interferes every day through the nature of his work. He’s also crossing a line by showing emotion and interest in things that the others consider superfluous.

In his little data book, John ruminates about breezy curtains and whether UFO is a good rock band. He spends time swimming, enjoying a good movie, and staring longingly at the sky.

Frankly, it’s reminiscent not only of Fringe but Resident Alien. As Harry Vanderspeigel learned about earthlings by watching Law & Order, Sugar learns about us through film.

Another Fringe reference is the old-fashioned typewriter that Ruby uses to communicate with “them.”

Fauxlivia used one to talk to the alternate universe. They didn’t use typewriters, but the protagonist on Counterpart used a similar style of communication — a little room where they were shut off from outside influences and shared communications.

Sugar seems like a love letter to many different shows and movies. Are these people from another universe — parallel or physical? The data is adding up.

Sugar is dancing with the audience. Whether it’s reminding us that what you see isn’t real or that an end is coming whether we like it or not, Protosevich is playing with us.

The day-to-day storyline doesn’t matter, but who John and his pals are, why they exist, and how John differs from them does.

What better way to discover someone’s nature than by following their daily activities and watching how they treat others?

Don’t overthink this one, folks. Just enjoy the ride.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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