‘Sugar’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Who Is John Sugar? 


AppleTV+’s new crime thriller series Sugar has started streaming, with two episodes released in the premiere week, setting up an interesting base for a hard-boiled detective mystery that is about to come throughout the season. The plot follows a tough private detective named John Sugar, who is appointed to find the missing granddaughter of a renowned and influential Hollywood film producer. The first episode begins with introductions to the titular detective and also the particular case that he has to handle at the moment. Overall, the series makes a good start with an interesting and intriguing opening episode.

Spoiler Alert

Who is John Sugar?

Sugar begins with an intense black-and-white scene in Tokyo, Japan, where a man nervously responds to a knock on his apartment door. The man, named Hideo, is evidently in a tense mindset and does not want to open the door, but he also does not want to raise any suspicions. Furthermore, the visitor informs him that he is here only to return some money that Hideo had mistakenly dropped outside the building, and the young man finally responds. This visitor is an American, John Sugar, who is actually a private detective working on a current mission. Sugar, the protagonist of the show, is not just any private investigator but has a very special choice for missions. The man is determined to look for missing people, especially children, and so he only takes on jobs that involve searching for missing persons. Even at this moment, Sugar’s search for a missing boy has brought him to the doorstep of Hideo’s apartment in Tokyo.

A young boy named Yuma has been missing for a few days, and his parents have already received a note of ransom from the kidnapper, who happens to be Hideo. Irrespective of his reasons for such a crime, Sugar first questions and then takes down Hideo in order to find the boy, while also remaining careful not to hurt the man too much. After all, John Sugar dislikes violence, and he firmly believes that he does not have to add more pain and torture to the already violent world. Once Hideo is down, Sugar successfully finds the young Yuma hidden inside the house and then waits for his client to come to the place. In this particular case, Sugar had been hired by a Yakuza leader who was the real biological father of Yuma, and he now pays the protagonist handsomely for his efforts. As Sugar leaves the place, Hideo is beaten and possibly killed by the Yakuza gang, and the protagonist knows too well not to intervene.

Soon, Sugar receives an email regarding a new case, for which he flies back to Los Angeles. Along the way, some more philanthropic sides of his character are displayed, for John Sugar is a genuinely good-intentioned man who just happens to work in a very violent and questionable profession. He never shies away from an opportunity to help people, particularly those who need such interventions from rich people like him. On his way from the airport to the hotel fixed by his client, Sugar learns that the driver is distressed with the ill-health of his daughter, so he immediately helps him get in touch with a skilled doctor that he knows, also suggesting that he will bear the costs of treatment. Later on in the episode, Sugar also helps a homeless person he meets outside a club and encourages him to mend his relationship with his estranged sister and to move back home, even paying the man the money to buy tickets.

Such is the character of John Sugar, and his agent and handler, Ruby, also agrees with his good nature. But at the moment, Ruby is worried about some other things, primarily the fact that Sugar has taken up a new job right after completing the mission in Tokyo instead of taking a much-needed rest. The man is clearly suffering from unmentioned neurological trouble, in which he has sharp pains in his left hand, which even seemingly bleed at times, rendering him senseless from the pain. Ruby wants Sugar to get himself checked by a doctor, but he has been avoiding doing so for quite some time. Another matter that angers Ruby is the fact that the new client has directly made contact with the detective after she turned him down, which is disrespectful to her. However, Sugar now manages to convince Ruby that he must take up the job for the sake of another missing person.

What is the strange case that Sugar starts to investigate?

While in Tokyo, Sugar received an email from the representative of Jonathan Siegel, a legendary film producer in Hollywood, and immediately made up his mind to meet the man. Another major side to Sugar’s character is his extreme love, fascination, and addiction towards films, and so meeting Siegel is almost like a fantastical opportunity. Returning to Los Angeles and going over to Siegel’s house, he learns of the mission that the elderly man wants to recruit him for. Jonathan Siegel’s twenty-four-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, has been missing for a few days, and he is extremely worried for her safety. He admits that Olivia did have a drug problem in her past, because of which she had left the house and gone missing multiple times, but during all those instances, she kept in touch with her beloved grandfather, who even funded these sudden getaways. However, this time around, Olivia never contacted Jonathan, and he could not get in touch with her either, which is why he hires Sugar to look for her. Either enthralled by the chance to be amidst Hollywood personalities or genuinely moved by Olivia’s situation, for she apparently reminds him of his own sister, Sugar agrees to investigate the disappearance discreetly.

Sugar starts his search at Olivia’s house, to which he gets access with the help of Jonathan. Surprisingly, although the grandfather is very concerned about the young woman, her own father, Bernie, meaning Jonathan’s son, is not at all perplexed by the situation. According to him, this is another one of Olivia’s drug-fueled disappearances, and he has currently told his son David to regularly check Olivia’s apartment to see if she is back. David and Olivia are step-siblings, as they have different mothers, and they are clearly not close to each other at all. David is more of a snobbish rich brat who goes around with his own personal bodyguard, Kenny, and he is not at all pleased at a private investigator being hired to look for the woman. In fact, David sends Kenny to tail around Sugar and find out what the detective is up to after he first meets him at Olivia’s apartment. The sudden intrusion of David at the apartment, as well as the bodyguard following him around, make Sugar rather confused and suspicious about the Siegel family and their complicated relationships.

What does Sugar find out about Olivia?

Going ahead with the investigation, John Sugar realizes that Olivia’s biological parentage and the twists in relationships are going to be quite important in this case. Jonathan Siegel’s son, Bernie, has had multiple partners in his life, and he was together with a young actress and model named Rachel Kaye at one point in time. Bernie and Rachel had a daughter together, Olivia, but the man eventually moved on from that relationship as well. Rachel Kaye had, in fact, died in a car crash, losing her life at a young age. Sugar finds out that Bernie’s ex-wife, a rockstar named Melanie Mackie, had recently gotten in touch with Olivia, and the two had even spent a day out together, photographing themselves. Looking for answers regarding the missing woman, Sugar tracks down Melanie and befriends her. While Melanie gets drunk and tries to seduce the detective, he chooses not to ask anything about Olivia just yet. The romance does not take place either, perhaps because she is drunk and Sugar knows that the situation is not really consensual.

Later that night, Sugar returns to Olivia’s apartment, this time breaking into her car to go through the records of where she had been before her disappearance. He then also opens up the boot of the car to shockingly discover the dead body of a man hidden inside it, as if stowed away till it could be disposed of. The detective also finds a small suitcase, possibly at the apartment, and takes it over to his hotel room in order to have a closer look. That night, as he goes through the internet profiles of the women, he finds out that Olivia had recently started to become more like her biological mother, Rachel, in terms of speaking up against women being abused and taking a feminist stand in her social media videos. However, while searching the suitcase, Sugar makes another surprising discovery, as he finds a stack of Polaroid photographs, all of Rachel in intimate poses. Olivia had somehow found these photos of her mother and was possibly reacting to them, maybe by trying to find the perpetrators behind them. However, the photos were clearly not taken without Rachel’s consent, as she is looking straight at the camera in most of them, and so the truth must have been something else. As John Sugar has a painful fit in his arm and passes out soon, he has to take a break from the investigation and rest the night away.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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