I Watched the Series Premiere of “Sweetbitter” and Here’s What I Thought

Last Sunday night I rolled myself into a blanket burrito, sat on my bed and prepared myself for the series premiere of “Sweetbitter” on STARZ. I first heard of the show months ago, scrolling through my Twitter feed and stumbled upon an advertisement for the show. The trailer hooked me immediately. I enjoyed seeing this young woman who’s lost in New York City and trying to find the right footing. She didn’t seem too far from myself in an odd way. I hung onto the premiere date and then finally, I was ready to watch the show I had waited months to dig my teeth into.

The series is based on the national bestselling novel of the same name by author Stephanie Danler and was published in May 2016. The series is set in 2006 and follows the story of Tess (Ella Purnell), a 22-year-old woman desperate for a fresh start. She packs her things and leaves her home in Ohio to move to New York City. There, she decides to take a job waitressing at a semi-prestigious restaurant.

On premiere night, with my grapefruit La Croix in hand, I was prepared for it to go either two ways: horribly bad or amazingly good. I’m just going to cut to the chase and say it was amazingly good.

As the opening scene takes the viewers along with Tess and her impulsive desire for a fresh start and reaching the city she romanticized would be full of possibilities and endless opportunities. Although, it is learned quickly on that the city of dreams Tess imagined isn’t always so dreamy. In one scene, Tess tries to sell her car to a couple and the man is keen on paying her an insulting price. Since rent in New York City costs at least an arm and a leg, Tess obliges and hands it over. She walks away disappointed, Ohio license plate in hand and it is then she learns life isn’t as sweet as she thought it would be.

As a young woman myself, I felt for Tess, a lot while watching her on screen. There are more times than I can count when I’ve sat across a manager, supervisor or head of a company and just felt like I totally got an interview under control until I realized after that I actually didn’t. Throughout the show, I watched as Tess struggled with this new world, especially in a business as cutthroat as the restaurant business. It was humbling, watching Tess take mental notes of every single detail of the ins and outs, making sure not to mess up on her first day on the job. Something I can say most people can relate to starting any new job.

The show paints a vivid picture of an intense work environment while mirroring the softness and innocence of Tess. Her innocence is conveyed in all of her decisions, down to her nervous nail biting. It’s a fresh, dark and often moody take on what a coming-of-age story can look like. It’s refined, smart and addicting all at the same time. 

As Tess navigates her way through every aspect of her job, she gets paired with Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald), who becomes somewhat of a mentor to Tess. Simone is witty, cool, knows what year and type of wine she’s drinking from just one sip and thrives in this line of work. Despite Simone’s appeal, Tess is warned by another waiter to watch out for Simone, as she is no one’s friend. Of course, no show I approve of would be complete without a love interest.

Enter: Jake (Tom Sturridge), a bartender at the restaurant. It’s obvious Tess immediately grows intrigued by Jake, who is the stereotypical bad boy that is always up to no good, but can charm the heck out of you. The only problem is, Simone and Jake are currently seeing each other, which creates a love triangle destined to implode.

“Sweetbitter” is a coming-of-age story more than it is about food or wine. It is about finding oneself, specifically how Tess finds more than just a new world within New York City; she finds a group of people who will shape her and define her into a person with purpose.

I enjoyed the premiere so much so that I watched it again the same night. I can already say that I will be keeping up with the show and cannot wait for episode 2! I highly recommend the series if you’re a fan of shows like Girls or Sex and the City.

“Sweetbitter” airs every Sunday 8 PM (Eastern Time) and 11 PM (Western Time) on STARZ.