REVIEW: The pleasant before and after taste of Starz' 'Sweetbitter'

The show could have been much more than what we have seen so far but Ella Purnell as the innocent Tess is an endearing character and there's so much more to find out in episode 2


                            REVIEW: The pleasant before and after taste of Starz' 'Sweetbitter'

There are enough shows that 20 something can relate to today but Starz's 'Sweetbitter' on finding a career and identity at 22 is so much more of a journey than just a TV show on fine dining.

The pilot episode of 'Sweetbitter' which aired on May 6, received mixed reviews. While it appealed to those who had followed the 2016 book by Stephanie Danler, the show fell short on gripping the audience with sufficient character development.

Because let's face it, the show centering around a young girl leaving her suburban home and coming to New York City isn't necessarily new but what makes it different are the characters and the plot.

Ella Purnell as Tess (Twitter)
Ella Purnell as Tess (Twitter)

Shows based on a workplace environment seem to do well, be it a hospital or a cafe. A high-class Manhattan restaurant was a much-needed relief and Ella Purnell playing the protagonist Tess is more than just satisfactory. The wide-eyed curious girl, arriving friendless and ambitionless in New York City, and quickly getting intoxicated in the chaotic world of the restaurant industry is a 30-minute indulgence on booze, drugs and sex.

Set in 2006, we are introduced to Tess setting the table in her home, meticulously arranging the cutlery and with one last look at her home kitchen, she places a note on the plate and walks out the door.

“All I had was a vision. A city. Lit up. Loud. Full of people,”  Tess says in a voiceover while driving down the highway to New York.

In the city, she sells the only concrete thing she carried from home: a car, at a trivial price. Then she sets out job hunting and lands herself in a nerve wrecking interview with Howard, owner of a posh Manhattan restaurant, where we see Tess being quite miserable.

She fails the interview and doesn't know the five noble grapes of Bordeaux and despite being an English major isn't really reading any books. She is determined to work her way up and compliments his finger nails. That seems to have worked as she lands a job-on-trial at the restaurant, which opens the door to the shadowed and messed up lives of Tess and her co-workers.

At the work place, she is fascinated by her senior, Simone, played by Caitlin FitzGerald, who seems to be a well-put sophisticated blonde with ample knowledge of wine and excels in all that she does.

Then comes Jake, played by Tom Sturridge, a bad boy waiter who stirs Tess's fascination. There's a whole lot of chemistry between Tess and Jake when he offers her de-shelled oysters, an aphrodisiac, at the end of episode one.

After taking a gulp Tess sees a black and white vision of waves crashing on the sand, Jake kissing her naked shoulder, salted fish, and sex. But at the same time the episode revealed that something is definitely going on between Jake and Simone.

Preview of episode 2

The story with more room for development and the answer to what is really up with the handsome bad boy Jake and perfect Simone is addressed.

No spoilers here as the episode airs on May 13.

The episode titled 'Now Your Tongue is Coded' will find Tess figure her social circle at the restaurant with her co-workers, who in a way have only mocked Tess so far. When she goes back to the restaurant after her shift is over, she finds an inside party happening among her co-workers. She strikes a friendly conversation with Simone, who takes great pride in her knowledge and Tess looks up to her in awe. Tess asks her how Simone knows all that she knows, to which Simone responds that she doesn't do anything with half a heart.

On mentoring Tess, Simone tells her about different points in the tongue that savour taste; “sweet, sour, salty, bitter.”

Then after their in-house party, the co-workers head to their real party of the night in a "home bar" where cocaine is snorted and where Tess finally makes it to the group circle after getting her lips cut. (Will not tell you how). She also get a nickname, "baby monster."

At the bar, the sexual tension between Jake and Tess is heightened and Jake turns out to be even more of a wild boy than we fathomed.