Sweet/Vicious just wrapped its first season on MTV, but it only took half an episode for me to become incredibly invested. A cross between Veronica Mars and Jessica Jones, Sweet/Vicious is a vigilante show that focuses on campus assault.
There’s a scene about 20 minutes into the pilot in which the two girls, Jules and Ophelia, still strangers, drive away from a crime scene. They have a a body in the trunk of Ophelia’s car and they need to dump it, fast. To decrease the tension, Ophelia turns on some music. Defying Gravity comes on and there’s a slight hesitation where Ophelia may change the song but she lets it play. Ever so tentatively, the girls begin to sing along. Then, suddenly, they’re singing at the top of their lungs and you know instinctively, “oh shit, they’re friends now.” It’s rare to see a show establish friendship and camaraderie so quickly and easily but the show manages with that one pure moment of female bonding.
Jules Thomas is a beautiful blonde sorority sister who moonlights as a vigilante on the fictional Darlington University campus. After being assaulted at a frat party, fearful the administration won’t give her justice, she takes matters into her own hands. Jules takes it upon herself to strike the fear of God into any man on campus who has gotten away with assaulting a female student. Her hit list comes from the graffiti in a campus women’s room that tells others which men to avoid.
Ophelia Mayer is the green-haired stoner who becomes Jules’ literal partner in crime after accidentally discovering her secret identity. Ophelia is a genius who slacks off, secure in her hacking skills and her parents’ wealth. She sells pot out of the record store she lives above and in which her best friend works.
My favorite thing about this show is undoubtedly the way it portrays friendship. For as much as Jules and Ophelia are partners at times, they don’t actually know that much about one another. They’re radically different people brought together over this one set of circumstances and the show takes its time to befriend one another. They fight. They apologize. They care, they just don’t always know how to express it in terms the other can understand or accept. Ophelia works to relate to Jules, who is at her most vulnerable. The two are an unlikely pair but they’re obviously ride-or-die.
Harris, Ophelia’s best friend, is a gift. Played by Brandon Mychal Smith (Sam on You’re the Worst), he’s a law student who’s trying to discover the truth about the campus vigilante. He’s a driven, thoughtful person and a wonderful balance to Ophelia. Their friendship brings me joy, especially when they have their friendship anniversary celebration or he lets her sit on his shoulders to take a hit from her 6-foot bong.
Sweet/Vicious can be hard to watch. Many of the ten episodes that make up the first season have a warning for viewer discretion attached as the show doesn’t shy away from depicting sexual assault. The show is unflinching as it depicts many ways that assault can happen – quietly, drunkenly, violently, between friends – but it never victim blames. We see Jules on the path to recovery and as she really comes to terms with what happened to her. The show obviously cares about its subject matter; nothing is done purely for shock factor.
I don’t necessarily know how to talk intelligently about all the ways in which the show handles sexual assault. But I do know that the show is thoughtful and it’s important. There hasn’t been any news yet about whether the show will be picked up for a second season, but do yourself a favor and watch it. The subject matter is serious, sure, but that doesn’t stop the show from being charming as hell. The show has a beautiful tone; it’s funny and absurd and smart. It may be hard to watch at times, but never at the risk of being good, entertaining television.
Sweet/Vicious is available to stream and on demand with MTV.