What Happens to Big Man and Gus?

Sweet Tooth has come to a bittersweet end with the series finale. 

After three seasons, the Netflix series comes to a dramatic end as fans’ burning questions are finally answered and many characters get an emotional sendoff. 

Based on the comic book series created by Jeff Lemire, the show takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a mysterious disease, dubbed the Sick, has killed most of the human population and coincides with the emergence of hybrid human-animal children. 

At the forefront of the story is a 10-year-old part-deer boy who goes on a journey of self-discovery to learn more about his personal backstory and the pivotal role he plays in the beginning of the Sick. 

Since the story first picks up in the middle of the Sick, many details about its origin were left unexplained — until now. As Gus travels to Alaska with his group of friends in search of his mother Birdie, including Big Man, Wendy and Dr. Aditya Singh, things come to a head in a mysterious cave where the Sick first began. 

Ahead of the final season, PEOPLE talked with showrunner Jim Mickle as well as executive producers Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell about the dramatic close to the story as well as the open-ended final scene. Here’s everything to know. 

Warning: spoilers for Sweet Tooth season 3 ahead. 

How did the Sick start?

As Gus, Wendy, Becky and Big Man embark on a journey to Alaska to find Gus’ mom, they encounter Dr. Aditya Singh, who claims to know more about the origin of the Sick and Gus’ pivotal role. Along the way, they are continuously hunted down by Helen Zhang, who is committed to eliminating hybrids and restarting “pure” human births.

Things eventually come to a head when the central characters arrive in Alaska. Through flashbacks, we learn that the Sick first started when Captain James Thacker traveled to Alaska in hopes of finding a cure for all illnesses and discovered a cave containing a tree with the blood of the Earth. However, when he tried to take the blood for himself, things went awry, spreading the Sick among him and his crew and creating the first hybrid.

This reveals that Gus isn’t the first hybrid child. Though the Sick died off with Thacker and his crew, a woman who romanced one of the crewmen eventually gives birth to a son named Munaq who is half-boy, half-caribou. Gus and Birdie eventually come face to face with Munaq when he saves Gus from the wolf children of Zhang’s daughter, Rosie. As Munaq succumbs to his injuries, he essentially reveals that the Sick was never meant to be cured — rather, the hybrids were meant to be the cure for humanity. 

The origin of the Sick slightly differs from the comic books; Mickle notes, however, that it still encapsulates the overarching idea he had from the beginning. “A lot of the mythology and all that was a trickier thing because we had already told a slightly different version of [the story in season 1],” he explains. He adds that they had a few consultants from Alaska to help them with the “mythology and history” of the Inuit tribes that he believes also “honored the comic book.”

Though Munaq refuses to tell Birdie and Gus where the cave is as he dies, they are eventually able to decipher its location using carvings on a walrus tusk created by Munaq’s mother. Along with Big Man, they venture out to the cave, where Helen Zhang and Dr. Aditya Singh (who has now switched sides) eventually join them. 

What happens in the cave? 

Adeel Akhtar as Singh, Naledi Murray as Wendy, Christian Convery as Gus, Stefania LaVie Owen as Becky, Nonso Anozie as Jepperd in Sweet Tooth.

Courtesy of Netflix

Through his own research and mysterious visions, Singh convinces Zhang that all of her answers about the Sick lie in the cave and Gus’ sacrifice is the key to achieving the non-hybrid future she envisions. Singh also believes it’s his destiny to kill Gus, and convinces Zhang of the same. When they all arrive at the cave, a huge confrontation breaks out and Singh winds up killing Birdie.

In a heroic move, Big Man tries to save Gus, however, Zhang stabs him in the stomach. As Singh raises his knife to finally kill Gus, he hesitates when Zhang mentions his late wife’s name. At that moment, he switches sides again and tells Gus to run. During the scuffle, Zhang removes an axe from the sacred tree, inadvertently giving all the humans in the cave (and elsewhere) the Sick. Overwhelmed with the possibility of losing Big Man, Gus cuts his hand and places it on the tree, where he has a vision of his Pubba, and imagines a meaningful conversation about how death is merely a part of life.

Mickle notes that his father’s death greatly impacted season 3 and became a “massive part” of Gus’ own storyline. “When I looked back, I realized how much that was a big part of it,” he explains. “In a way, it was cathartic to get to address some of that stuff.” 

As Gus comes out of the trance, he sets the tree on fire, which miraculously heals everyone from the Sick. However, it’s shown that their time on Earth is still limited as Zhang’s daughter Ginger gives birth to a hybrid, teasing that hybrids will inherit the Earth and humans will eventually die off. 

Does Dr. Aditya Singh kill Gus?

Adeel Akhtar as Singh in Sweet Tooth.

Matt Klitscher/Netflix 

Following the death of his wife in season 2, Singh faces a lot of inner demons this season. Though he initially helps Gus and his friends on their quest to Alaska, visions of killing Gus and stopping the Sick overwhelm him to switch sides and help Zhang. 

“Dr. Singh’s journey was probably one of the most complex that we got to watch evolve because we were able to see the birth of this villainous character, but yet you totally understood where he was coming from. His drive the whole time was to save his wife,” Downey explains of Singh’s character arc. “And when that drive actually pushed her away, he had to go into this season justifying it. It had to be for something. And if he couldn’t save her, he wanted to be able to at least have some result from all of the terrible things that he had done and where he had gotten himself. And he was really trying to do it for a good reason, for humanity.” 

However, when Zhang mentions his wife’s name, Downey notes that it “realigns him” in a way and forces him to reevaluate his actions. In the end, he decides not to kill Gus, instead saving him by pushing him out of the way of falling debris. Fatally injured, he tells Gus to go, telling him, “You’re free. I am too.” Before he dies, he grabs Gus’ broken antler which has fallen beside him and we later see a leaf grow from it.

Mickle describes Singh’s character arc as one of “a man of science” who transforms “into a man of faith.” He adds that Singh’s sacrifice in many ways was like washing his “slate clean” and “regretting the things that he’s done.” 

“I love that character,” he says. “In the comic book, he’s a bit more a straight-up whack-job and a bit evil, and the beauty of Adeel [Akhtar] is he’s just so wonderfully human and lovable, and so that was a fun part about writing him and I think giving him that sendoff where it felt fitting to who he was and how he played that character.” 

Burrell adds Singh’s character really encapsulates how there’s “always an opportunity for second chances,” adding that even though “he’s done the most horrific things in our series, you still at the end are proud of him and happy with his choice, however tragic.” 

What happens to Gus?

Christian Convery as Gus in Sweet Tooth, James Brolin.

Matt Klitscher/Netflix; Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty

Gus makes it out of the cave safely, though not without a few struggles. As the group sets out to return home, it becomes apparent that Big Man is gravely struggling with his injury. Through staggered breaths, he asks Gus to tell him a story, which ends up being a repetition of the original narration from the very first episode. However, this time, it’s a twist, noting that the story is really about “a big man who taught the boy about the best of humanity.”

Through various flashforwards, we learn where many of the characters end up. Notably, Gus, Wendy and Becky make their way back to the cabin at Yellowstone National Park, where the rest of the hybrids are waiting for them. 

As Gus continues with the story, his voiceover blends into narrator James Brolin’s voice. It then becomes apparent that Gus has been the narrator of the show this whole time: Brolin makes an onscreen cameo as adult Gus, telling the story about humanity to his and Wendy’s grandchildren. 

Mickle notes that it was “always the plan” to have the narrator be adult Gus, but having Brolin on set for that pivotal scene was extra special. “The last week of that shoot was just incredibly emotional,” he says. “It just felt like these sort of epic steps along the way [Brolin] just fit in so beautifully and connected with people in a way that, I think, just really felt like you knew it was meant to be.” 

Does Big Man die? 

Nonso Anozie as Jepperd in Sweet Tooth.

Matt Klitscher/Netflix 

As Gus finishes his narration in the present day, a teary-eyed Big Man inquires about his role in the story. “What about the big man?” he asks Gus, adding, “Did he make it back with him?” 

In another flashforward, we see Gus sitting outside the Yellowstone cabin with an empty chair beside him. The last scene shows Big Man joining Gus in the empty chair and handing him a bottle of syrup with a smile.

Though it seems like Big Man makes it back home after all, Mickle notes that the scene can be interpreted in “a number of different ways” adding that the ending is “intentionally open to interpretation.” On the one hand, Big Man’s appearance could indicate that he doesn’t die in Alaska, however, it could also be interpreted that, even in death, he’ll always be with Gus. 

“For us, it was always about these journeys for both of them and the interesting notion [that] Jepp learned as much from Gus as Gus learned from Jepp,” Burrell says. “That was really important to us is that they really are complementary. We couldn’t have imagined that they’d find each other and impact each other’s lives so deeply. It’s a love story in a lot of ways.” 

“We knew that we wanted it to feel like that Jepp was finding an end at the end of this episode but we also wanted to say, a little bit ET-inspired, ‘He’s always with him. He’ll be right here,’” Burrell adds. “If the audience wants to engage and believe that he sat there with him on the porch, then they can. But at least for me, I think it was an ending.” 

Perhaps the most telling indicator of Big Man’s survival is that, in the flashforward, he is wearing the same clothes he wore in the very first episode, when he met Gus.

“That is the thing that makes it somewhat definitive,” Downey notes. “There’s the reality of: He’s wearing an outfit he doesn’t have anymore, so that tells you something. But emotionally, again, he needs to be very much alive for Gus. And I think for the audience, we want to believe he is still alive.” 

Why did Sweet Tooth end with season 3?

Christian Convery as Gus, Naledi Murray as Wendy in Sweet Tooth.

Matt Klitscher/Netflix 

The creators felt three seasons worked the best to tell the full story.

“Coming from movies, my brain still works in a very Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 kind of a way that I got very comfortable and it was like, ‘Okay, great. We’re not launching another season out of this. We’re actually bringing everyone’s arc to closes here,’ which was really satisfying for me,” Mickle explains. 

He adds that ending the show on their own terms also had a certain “beauty” to it; they knew they “were going to get to stick the landing” by bringing things to a satisfying close. 

Downey adds that conversations about ending with season 3 began even before season 2 started. “After season 1 and we knew that we were going to keep going, there was a conversation with Netflix, and Jim stepped back and thought about, How much time did he need to tell the story,” Downey explains.

“He really thought about the captivity story that is the bulk of the second season and then this adventure to Alaska. And once he’s in Alaska, so many answers come, so many things get resolved, so many things come full circle, it just felt like the natural ending for it,” Downey says.

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