HomeTelevisionSugar: More Than Meets the Eye with Colin Farrell led Detective Series 

Sugar: More Than Meets the Eye with Colin Farrell led Detective Series 

Colin Farrell in Sugar
Photo Credit: AppleTV+

The Apple+ series Sugar follows the titular character, a private detective played by Colin Farrell, hired to find the granddaughter of an old Hollywood producer (James Cromwell, Babe). The case seems a perfect fit for someone as film-obsessed as Sugar, but as his investigation grows closer to discovering the truth about her, things become complicated. Too complicated. What begins as an homage to film noir (with legs of its own which are firmly planted by Farrell’s performance), forces its way in another direction, one that audiences may or may not find necessary, or exciting.

One classic element of detective noir is the main character’s narration of his thoughts. It’s a great way to handle necessary exposition, and in this case it provides the opportunity to repeatedly showcase the gorgeous vintage blue Corvette that Sugar uses to get around. Farrell’s voiceover provides insight into his observant mind and grants the audience a glimpse of his larger purpose as well, one that’s shrouded in mystery, with hints dropped in passing each episode. It works for the show; just one of many aspects’ creator Mark Protosevich gets right as he builds this world within familiar Hollywood. 

Deliberately noticeable zooms, artistic angles, and shaky camera work reminds the audience they are watching something, but also gives the feeling of both being an observer in the room with the characters, and that they are being watched as well. Each episode is frequently intercut with scenes from older Hollywood film noir, many of which Sugar views in his downtime, completely enamored with them. Clearly his chosen profession and aptitude for it is inspired by the films he loves so much. At one point his friend and handler Ruby (Kirby, Dead Boy Detectives) offers him a revolver that he refuses, preferring not to carry a weapon, but he’s eventually won over when told it’s the one used by Glenn Ford in The Big Heat

Assisting Sugar with his case is Melanie (Amy Ryan, The Office), a retired rocker battling sobriety, who befriended Olivia (Sydney Chandler, Don’t Worry Darling) through AA meetings before her disappearance. Ryan is terrific opposite of Farrell, and her character provides a perfect grounded contrast. She’s enveloped in this complicated mystery that frequently puts her in harm’s way, but he seems to be the best chance to find her friend, and more than anything she’s drawn to him and his demeanor. 

The missing Olivia’s family is quite problematic. Her Grandfather Jonathan seems to be the only one that is concerned with her disappearance, while her Father (Dennis Boutsikaris, Better Call Saul), Mother (Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad), and brother David (Nate Corddry, The Daily Show) are content to chalk it up to her drug addiction past, though their family has plenty of dark secrets to hide. While never central to the series’ most interesting storylines, they epitomize what most would venture to guess is the worst of Hollywood. Each of them receives satisfying closure to their part of the story, which can’t be said across the board.  

The first season of Sugar succeeds in never feeling derivative, but leaves a litany of unresolved questions and plot points that went nowhere, coupled with underdeveloped characters who seem moderately important until they disappear. Stallings, the head of a human trafficking crew portrayed by Eric Lange is the only consistent antagonist whose role has any meat to it, though they try their best to set the table for what a new season could focus on. That new direction, which becomes necessary following the twists unveiling, could be worthwhile, but it may also venture further away from what draws you in early on.  

At its core Sugar leans into exploring the human condition, with Sugar feeling disconnected from it. While he frequently voices that he shouldn’t care when people are struggling or get hurt, that it’s not his objective, he can’t help himself from becoming personally invested in helping others along the way. That’s the most enjoyable aspect of the show, and when it works best. The early episodes best explore the sincerity of his character. His kind and soft-spoken nature is on display despite the looming violence that he’s capable of delivering when necessary. 

Though it begins as a relatively straightforward detective noir story, relishing in the nostalgia of a time in which they were peak Hollywood cinema, Sugar gradually evolves into something dissimilar, though not unexpected if you’re also playing detective. While its future might be full of new potential, a series built entirely around the appeal of Farrell’s Sugar, and Wiley the scene stealing dog he rescues early on, working cases and driving around in his Corvette would have been entertainment enough for most. 

Sugar is now streaming on AppleTV+

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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