Sweetbitter Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Salt

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What a series premiere! Sweetbitter Season 1 Episode 1 gifts us with a well-paced, awkwardly humorous episode that coaxes the viewer to experience what its like to just pick up your life and move to a big city with nothing but a dollar and the hope that you'll find your dream once you get there.

Because we can only experience this world through the eyes of Tess, it's easy to feel her desperation when the guy who was supposed to pay $1,600 for her car, so that she can make first month's rent, only supplies $800 and an attitude.

We feel her confusion when Mrs. Neely goes from asking her to pour the sherry into her soup on the table to demanding her soup be brought out from the kitchen.

Tess Needs a Job - Sweetbitter

However, it seems like this form of empathy also stems from the fact that we don't get a good handle on who Tess is as a person. We haven't gotten to see much of her personality because she doesn't really interact with anyone she knows for an extended period of time.

The episode kicks off with her moving to New York by herself with no send-off from family or friends. 

Howard: Did you come here with friends? Boyfriend?
Tess: No, I didn't.
Howard: That's very brave.
Tess: Is it?
Howard: Mhm.
Tess: 'Cause it's been two days, and it feels... idiotic.
Howard: Well, it's brave if you make it. Good luck.

And when she gets to New York, she has short conversations with strangers, and it's hard to immediately show your personality to people you've just met. So, the result is we don't really know the woman we're following as the episode unfolds. 

Related: Get Starz via Prime Video Channels for Captivating Original Series & Hit Movies!

We can see that Tess is a nice person, although a bit naive. And although Howard amends his earlier compliment, we see that she is brave enough to move to a new, big city by herself. We also notice she has a little anxiety, shown by her nervous habit of biting her nails.

Then, later in the episode, she makes the bold statement:


At least when [your parents] are gone you have somewhere to put the hurt.


That would lead us to believe she may have some daddy issues sprinkled in with a bit of dark humor and a steely backbone.

But we don't see much of who she is, and that also may be why it's so easy to put ourselves in her shoes -- because she doesn't have much of a personality yet. When she first leaves her small town, she alludes to the fact that there isn't much adversity there, nothing that ever really challenged her. 

Related: Sweetbitter: The Leading Ladies on Character, Place, and Style 

So, functioning off of the knowledge that you need adversity to build character, it completely makes sense as to why she moved away from her one-horse town to the city with adversity at every corner. 

I knew if I stayed one more minute, I would blink and 10 years would go by.


The fear of her life just passing by without her realizing it would not be an option in New York. The city will shape her into something, whether it's a winning something or a losing something, she will not leave the streets of NYC unchanged, and it seems like that's her intent.

Paul Sparks as Howard

It's not that Tess wasn't someone back in her hometown. As she said, she had tons of books. She must have had friends, experiences in her life that did make her a functioning human being with likes and dislikes. However, she purposefully left parts of herself when she moved.

Related: Sweetbitter Interview: Find Out Now Why to Watch the New Starz Series!!

She knew that to be the person that was waiting for her in NYC, she had to leave parts of who she was behind and carefully choose which parts of her she would carry over into this new life.

When you move somewhere new, I guess you sort of get to take inventory of your life, and I wanted to be careful about what I brought here.


Therefore, it feels like we're following a woman without much personality yet because she plans to build her character and personality as she experiences NYC day to day. I couldn't be any more ecstatic to watch her do this. 

In contrast to other stories, where we watch a person who already has a lot of character react to situations in ways we could probably anticipate, we won't be able to do that with Tess in Sweetbitter. At least, not yet.

So, not only will the plot be a surprise but so will her reactions to the plot, and that sounds like a recipe for amazing television.

Another thing I'm excited to explore in upcoming episodes are the people who work at the restaurant. Tess's blank slate of a personality directly juxtaposes the personalities she works within Sweetbitter Season 1 Episode 1.

SB 2

Will is nice and a bit impatient, but you can tell he has a silver tongue that he uses to talk himself and others out of horrible situations regularly. Jake is this edgy, rebel who comes to work late, curses at people without a second thought, and eats the food meant to be served to the guests. 

Tweedle-Rude and Tweedle-Ruder, the waitresses who go out of their way to be mean to Tess, are vindictive and chatty. Sasha is a sweetheart with a sharp-tongue and a stand-offish demeanor when you first meet him.

Related: Sweetbitter Interview: Getting to Know the Exciting Side Dishes!

While, Simone is a maternal-like figure with a cool demeanor, buckets of confidence, and overflowing wisdom. What's interesting about this character is she seems like a nice person with a perceptive eye that could help Tess.

You've gotten by on your charm for so long, you haven't built any character.


However, Will's warning about Simone to Tess in the wine room, "She's not your friend," echoes in my ears every time I see her smile and wisp Tess's bangs out of her face.

It's obvious Tess is already slightly obsessed with her (as am I) and wants to get to know more about the blonde know-it-all, but Will has already warned her that trusting her will bite her in the ass later on.

With this in mind, I wonder how Simone and Tess's relationship will develop on the upcoming episodes. 

Speaking of obsession and decisions that might later come to bite Tess in the ass, did you guys see that quick montage of images pass Tess's mind when she tasted the oyster Jake gives her? Hellllloooooo, can you say HOT?!

I need more of him and Tess in the next episode. Can you believe they just dropped a montage like that filled with sex, the ocean, and freedom and left us hanging until the next episode?

It's cruel, honestly. Smart, but cruel, nonetheless. 

What did you guys think of this amazing first episode?! Did you like it as much as I did? Are you intrigued by Simone as much as Tess and I are? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! And don't forget to watch Sweetbitter online via TV Fanatic if you want to see more! 

Salt Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.9 / 5.0 (11 Votes)

Candice Horde was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in July 2018.

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Sweetbitter Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

When you move somewhere new, I guess you sort of get to take inventory of your life, and I wanted to be careful about what I brought here.


I knew if I stayed one more minute, I would blink and 10 years would go by.