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Series / Sweet/Vicious

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"Payback is Vicious."

Sweet/Vicious is an MTV series created by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson that premiered on November 15, 2016. While the show was canceled after one season, Robinson has written a "season two" comic book, due out in 2019.

The series follows the adventures of two college girls, Jules (Eliza Bennett) and Ophelia (Taylor Dearden), who act as vigilantes, punishing the sexual predators at Darlington University.

This series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Ophelia bashed Carter's brains in with a wrench because she thought he was going to kill Jules. She was only trying to knock him out.
  • Action Girl: Jules is an incredibly talented hand-to-hand fighter. Ophelia grows into a more than competent fighter as well.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Chloe and the Lindsays, the leaders of the Kappa Kappa Phi sorority, are a particularly nasty example, cruelly abusing pledges and filming it for a fetish site. Ophelia describes Chloe as "the love child of a CrossFit instructor and Mussolini."
    • Ophelia's mother Bobbi was this when she went to Darlington, coming up with at least one of the Kappas' hazing rituals herself.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Ophelia. During an argument with Jules they have this exchange:
    Jules: I need this. It's the only way that I can get better.
    Ophelia: Oh, brother, that is such a goyim thing to say.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The term Sweet/Vicious was actually coined by Brady, one of the girls' targets who went public with the beating he received. The term catches on and Jules and Ophelia end up adopting it as the official name of their vigilante enterprise.
  • Attempted Rape: Happens to Ophelia in the fifth episode when she uses herself as bait to try and catch Landon. Even though she escaped from it unscathed, it still left her badly traumatized.
  • The Bait: In the fifth episode, Ophelia uses herself as bait to bust Landon. It almost ends in disaster when it turns out that Landon had a buddy, with Ophelia only saved by her stun gun.
  • Becoming the Mask: Ophelia, in her guise as "Fifi" in the fourth episode, actually starts to identify with the sorority she's infiltrating, feeling that, for all the horrors of their Initiation Ceremony, it is actually creating genuine bonds of sisterhood among them. Any sympathy she has goes out the window, however, when their crimes become apparent.
  • Big Bad: Nate Griffin functions as the main antagonist of the series, being Jules' rapist, whose assault lingers over her while Nate dates her friend Kennedy. While the show initially operated in a Villain of the Week format, the seasons second half focuses on Jules trying to overcome her trauma while Nate tries to turn Kennedy against her, as well as exposing and bringing Nate down despite him being a celebrated athlete at Darlington.
  • Black Sheep: Ophelia is implied to be this within her family. While she comes from a wealthy background and has a trust fund, her mother Bobbi is exceptionally disappointed that she hasn't followed in her footsteps as a member of Kappa Kappa Phi.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Ophelia has learned how to throw a mean butterfly knife, as Landon learns the hard way.
  • Blatant Lies:
    Harris: What are you guys talking about?
    [simultaneously, panicked] Jules: Nothing! / Ophelia: RADICAL FEMINISM!
  • Brains and Brawn: Ophelia and Jules, respectively. Ophelia mostly serves as Jules's backup when they're out and is heavily outclassed as a fighter; her main talent is with computers, digging up dirt on targets, and scoring low blows.
  • Caught on Tape:
    • At the end of episode five, Ophelia chases Landon out into the middle of campus and winds up with several people filming the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown she inflicts on him. Her only saving grace is that she's still in disguise.
    • In the series finale, Miles gets Nate to confess to what he did to Jules, as well as a previous incident when they both were in high school, getting everything on camera.
  • Civvie Spandex: Jules and Ophelia wear only black hoodies and scarves to conceal their identity during the vigilante activities.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Jules and Ophelia use every dirty trick at their disposal to get their man.
    • Landon's sidekick in episode five can also fight dirty with the best of them, as seen when he stabs Jules in the leg with one of the caltrops they used to disable Landon's car.
  • Content Warnings: Most episodes start out with the following after the "Previously on…" bit, noting that the episode contains potentially triggering depictions of rape:
    "This show contains a sexual assault scene that may be difficult for some viewers to see. Viewer discretion is advised."
  • Dark Action Girl: Chloe and her fellow Kappa leaders in the fourth episode turn out to have enough self-defense training to fight back better than most of the protagonists' male targets. It is still not enough to beat Jules and Ophelia, though.
  • Date Rape: An integral part of the show, as most of the girls' targets are guys who got away with this.
  • Dating Catwoman: Jules's boyfriend Tyler is the stepbrother of Carter, the man that she and Ophelia accidentally killed in the pilot.
  • Distinguishing Mark: The cut on Ophelia's arm she sustained fighting Landon and his friend becomes this in the sixth episode when the police are searching for someone whose arm was cut open like the person in the video.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In the sixth episode, one of Ophelia's Totally Radical references flies over Jules' head.
    Ophelia: No shit, Benedict Cumberbatch.
    Jules: What? What does he got to do with this?
    Ophelia: Sherlock. No shit, Sherlock? It's a saying. Oh my God, I do not have time for this!
  • Engineered Public Confession: Thanks to Miles's help, Jules and Ophelia are able to broadcast a video of Nate all but admitting to raping Jules and another girl in front of the entire school.
  • Evil Counterpart: Zeta Zeta Psi and Kappa Kappa Phi are two sororities that are as diametrically opposed to one another as can be. While the Zetas are all about true sisterhood and female empowerment, making their pledges feel welcome through mutual support, the Kappas are a bunch of vicious alpha bitches who abuse their pledges to the point of sexual assault and hospitalization. When Kennedy, the leader of the Zetas, tells the new pledges "welcome to Hell Week", she's pretty obviously being sarcastic about it, while Chloe, the leader of the Kappas, is very serious when she describes her sorority's initiation with those words.
  • Frameup: Ophelia is very fond of this tactic to get out of trouble with the law.
    • Ophelia frames Chase Park, one of her former victims, in order to throw off the attention of the police, slashing his arm to give him a wound similar to hers that's being used to identify the "robber".
    • Later, she and Jules use Carter's stolen phone to frame his murder on a paedophile (to get Tyler out of jail without implicating themselves). Borders on Framing the Guilty Party; the man they frame has almost certainly gotten away with murder in the past, just not this specific murder.
  • Gamer Chick: Ophelia demands that Evan declare her "the queen of Mario Kart" after she creams him on Rainbow Road.
  • Good All Along: Miles, Nate's best friend. Flashbacks to the night Jules was raped at first implied that he was complicit in the event, but later when Jules comes forward, it is made clear that he never knew the details and is disgusted by Nate's actions to the point that he helps the vigilantes to acquire Nate's confession.
  • Groin Attack: One of Jules's and Ophelia's favorite moves. They're equal-opportunity with it; in the fourth episode, right after kicking Chloe in the crotch, Ophelia states that she doesn't know why so many people think that the move only works on men.
  • Hate Sink: Nate Griffin is the Alpha Dog of Darlington and Kennedy's boyfriend, who raped Jules and one other girl before the series. Throughout the series, Nate continues to scare Jules and tries to turn Kennedy against her. Nate refuses to take responsibility and generally seems to believe he did nothing wrong, getting more exasperated the more he's confronted. In a drug-fuelled rant, Nate says that victims deserve to get raped and that he is untouchable.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jules has a flashback to Nate raping her when she tries to have sex with Tyler.
  • Hidden Depths: Fiona is The Ditz, but she's also smart enough to correct Harris's law paper and collected enough not to get thrown by the Title IX committee's questioning.
    • Most of Tyler's on-screen time has him interacting with Jules, being sweet and loving. His artwork, though, is inspired at least in part by dealing with depression, and in the finale, it's revealed that he got into a fistfight with his stepbrother a few months earlier over the latter's unwillingness to deal with the allegations of sexual assault made against him.
  • I Call It "Vera": Ophelia refers to her gigantic six-foot bong as "LeBong James".
  • Ignored Epiphany: Happens to Nate in the sixth episode. After Jules delivers to him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for raping her, he goes to his girlfriend, Jules's sorority leader Kennedy, ostensibly to confess to her what he had done. He tells her that he slept with Jules... without mentioning that it was rape. This fractures Kennedy's relationship with Jules, not helped by her already suspicious of Jules's lying to her in the past to cover up her secret.
  • Initiation Ceremony:
    • Jules and Ophelia's attempt to bury Carter's body is almost derailed when fraternity pledges start prowling the graveyard as part of their initiation.
    • The target in the fourth episode is Kappa Kappa Phi, a sorority whose initiation involves brutally hazing pledges. They're secretly filming it all and using the footage for a highly profitable fetish site.
  • Intrepid Reporter: As part of his work in Darlington's law review, Harris becomes determined to investigate the activities of the vigilante on campus. He deduces that Jules is the "robber" by the sixth episode.
  • Jerk Jock: Many of the girls' targets are college athletes, but Nate is the biggest asshole of them all.
  • The Load: Ophelia begins to feel like this after she is caught on camera and Jules reams her out during a fight. It gets to the point where she decides to confess to being the vigilante so that Harris and Jules won't get into trouble for her mistakes.
  • Loving a Shadow:
    • Ophelia calls Kennedy out on this, regarding Jules and Nate. Throughout the series, Kennedy seems blissfully ignorant to Jules plight and what Nate did to her, in favor of focusing more on her relationship with Nate, and her sisterhood with the other Zetas. When the truth gets to her, Kennedy believes Nate's "cheating" confession, over Jules admitting she was raped, and is a lot quicker to forgive Nate than she is with Jules. When Ophelia confronts her, she tells Kennedy she must have known the truth but ignored it in favor of keeping the Status Qou. Ultimately, Kennedy sees through Nate when he lashes out at her for not trusting him, reconciling with Jules and supporting her in her case against Nate.
    • Ophelia's mother, Bobbi has this problem too. It's mentioned throughout that despite Ophelia being a trust fund baby, she has a troubled relationship with her parents for her rebellious attitude. One episode has Ophelia infiltrating the Kappas - of which her mother was a former president - and has to take up a valley girl persona to integrate with them. Bobbi Mayer is thrilled to hear Ophelia is joining her old house, and seems to genuinely bond with her throughout the episode. Once the Kappa's are exposed and dismantled, Ophelia drops her "Kappa persona", prompting Bobbi to leave, indicating that Bobbi cared more about who she wanted Ophelia to be, more than Ophelia as a person.
  • Makeover Montage: In the fourth episode, Ophelia removes the green dye from her hair and puts on preppy clothes in order to infiltrate Kappa House as "Fifi". She's not at all happy about it, and she is very quick to return to her old style, much to her mom's dismay.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Works on both the good and evil sides.
    • On the good side, we have Jules and Ophelia, two college girls who are each, in their own way, vastly more dangerous than most of the boys on campus.
    • On the evil side, we have Chloe and the Lindsays. Not only are they able to hold their own in hand-to-hand combat with Jules and Ophelia far better than most of their male targets, but the scope of their evil deeds is far more widespread. Most of Jules and Ophelia's targets are assaulting individual girls simply to satisfy their own base instincts. The Kappas, however, turn it up to an industrial scale — not only do they systematically abuse dozens of girls at a time over the course of Hell Week (and presumably even after that), they are also profiting from their heinous actions to the tune of twenty thousand dollars a week by filming and selling it as fetish porn. And to top it all off, Chloe and the Lindsays are just the latest offenders from the Kappas' ranks, as the Kappa leadership (which, at one point, included Ophelia's mother) has a history of hazing pledges going back decades.
    • Of the school officials who try to undermine Jules's case against Nate, the female Title IX counselor is the one who most consistently attacks her.
  • Mistaken Identity: Their target in the third episode, Max, turns out to be the wrong man. The real culprit had catfished his victim with a fake profile using Max's name and pictures.
  • Not My Driver: The villain in the fifth episode, Landon Mays, is a driver for an Uber-like rideshare company called GetIn who picks up women who've been out drinking after they've been drugged by his friend, parks in a back alley, locks the car doors, and rapes them while they're barely (if at all) conscious.
  • Obliviously Evil: Applies to the series antagonist, Nate Griffin. Despite raping Jules' prior to the series, he generally doesn't seem to grasp what he did to her was wrong; or at least why what he did was wrong. As far as Nate himself is concerned, he only slept with Jules while she was drunk, and that the worst thing he did was "cheat" on Kennedy. As such he spends much of the series as a casual and lingering presence in Jules' life, even going as far as to enter her bedroom and sit on her bed to talk to Kennedy while she and Jules were already having a conversation. When Jules confronts him about his assault, he can only respond with a confused "What are you talking about ?". Subverted towards the end of the series; after Nate is officially charged as a rapist, while on a drug fueled rant, Nate showcases that if he's aware of the severity of his actions now, he just doesn't care.
  • Playful Hacker: Ophelia is extremely talented with computers, and commonly hacks her friend's calendar to add her own activities.
    Ophelia: I don't check my phone, and you do. So this just makes the most sense.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Both campus security and the Westport PD are either incapable or unwilling to do anything about the large number of sexual assaults that take place in the university. At least in the case of campus security, this is by design, as Officer Barton is fired by the Darlington's higher-ups the second he starts making a connection between the vigilante's victims and the un-investigated sexual assault cases.
    • The way in which the Westport PD handles the investigation of Carter's death is a cavalcade of incompetence.
    • The uselessness is shown to extend all the way to the Office of the District Attorney, which willfully looks the other way in sexual assault cases in order to protect the university.
  • Rape as Backstory: Jules was raped by Nate, Kennedy's boyfriend. This is what motivated her to become a vigilante.
  • Rape as Drama: Much of Jules's storyline around reporting her rape - her sisters are (once Kennedy believes her) supportive and loving, but the college tries to put her off reporting the rape, the college president overturns Nate's guilty verdict, the DA is indifferent, and much of the college slut-shames and bullies her purely on the basis of Nate's sporting prowess.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jules is the red oni to Ophelia's blue oni.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Somewhere between this and Awesomeness Is a Force - Harris is initially disgusted by Ophelia's vigilante activities to the point of ending their friendship over it. He's won over to their cause by a mixture of finding out that even the DA's office is willing to overlook sexual assaults when it's in the university's interests for them to do so, and by seeing Jules and Ophelia take out eight frat guys in a brawl.
  • Serial Rapist: Landon Mays functions as the series sole example, picking up girls his accomplice drugged at bars and parties, before taking them to an isolated area and raping them while they're barely conscious. Ophelia nearly ends up being one of his victims during an outing gone wrong, and he takes her to a different location.
  • Sequel Hook: The series ends with several:
    • Jules and Ophelia are set up to expand their vigilante activities considerably.
    • Landon Mays talks to Nate about teaming up to take down Sweet/Vicious.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • When Harris asks his Zeta girlfriend Fiona about the gym locker that Ophelia claims Jules's necklace was stolen from, he learns that the gym the Zetas go to doesn't have lockers. Further questions reveal more holes in Ophelia's story.
    • In the next episode, Kennedy calls Jules looking for her Bluetooth speaker, and while searching her room, she finds her statistics textbook under her bed. Kennedy asks Jules about it, and she responds that she's studying it right then and there. This is Kennedy's first clue that something is up with Jules.
  • The Stoner: Every student in the show seems to smoke marijuana. In Ophelia’s case, she isn’t just a user but also the college’s main weed dealer.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Evan, the RA in one of the dorms and one of Ophelia's hookups and, later, her boyfriend.
  • Terrible Artist: Tyler, who is very self-conscious about it. He isn't pleased when Jules and Ophelia host an art show featuring his work, especially since Ophelia and Harris both referred to one of his paintings as "colors f***ing other colors".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Jules: "Shut up. You're gonna listen to me. Let me get one thing straight. I told you to stop, and I told you no, and you did this. You put your hand over my mouth, and then you raped me."
    Nate: What are you talking about?
    Jules: I'm not done. What you took from me wasn't yours to take, and the fact that you thought it was sex for just one second is disgusting. And you came here tonight to make me feel safe? I don't think I'll ever feel safe again because of you. All I feel is just this... emptiness. And I've tried everything I can to get rid of it. I've lied to myself, to my friends and I've smiled and pretended and... and said I was gonna run away. And I've done everything I could except this, which is tell you how alone and broken I feel watching you with my best friend like nothing ever happened. Because you don't carry this like I do, and I hate you for that. And I-I envy you for that. And I just... I thought that you should finally know.
    • In a later episode, Ophelia gives on to Kennedy for ignoring what Jules was going through for the past few months, and for siding with Nate when he confessed to "cheating" on her, while turning on Jules when she finally tells Kennedy that Nate raped her. This helps give Kennedy a wake up call, and makes it easier for her to see Nate's true colors, and ultimately reconcile with Jules.
    Ophelia: She told you the truth, and you... you looked the other way.
    Kennedy: Okay, you actually have no idea what you're talking about-
    Ophelia: No, I know that you know what happened between Nate and Jules. You saw the change in her after that night. Somewhere deep down beneath the "Yas Girls" and the Zeta "realness", you know the truth, and it terrifies you. Well, it's high time that you grow some balls and do the right thing. She's not well, and you are the only person who can help her now.
  • Title Drop: It takes until the eighth episode, but the words of the title finally make an appearance in this exchange:
    Ophelia: If you ever touch a woman without consent again, we will be back, and we won't be as sweet.
    Brady: You aren't sweet. You're vicious. You're psychos!
    • Brady later tweets about the vigilante with the hashtag #SweetVicious - it takes off, and Ophelia and Jules end up adopting it when they launch a website for their vigilante 'business'.
  • Tomboyish Name: Kennedy's name is fairly unisex, but her nickname "Ken" definitely counts.
  • The Unfair Sex: Jules and Ophelia exploit this in the sixth episode to lay low after Ophelia is filmed in action, the police operating under the default assumption that it was a man who was behind the mask and voice changer.
    Ophelia: They probably think it's a dude under the mask because, you know, patriarchy.
  • Vigilante Woman: Jules and Ophelia.
  • Villains Out Shopping:
    • Played for Drama. Despite being the main antagonist of the series, and Jules’ rapist, Nate spends much of the season doing mundane activities, often hanging out with his friends and girlfriend, Kennedy. In this case, it highlights how Nate can be such a casual, lingering presence to Jules, as he’s dating her best friend. All the while, Nate treats his assault on Jules like it was a drunken one night stand that they avoid talking about.
    • As a more standard example, Serial Rapist Landon and his unnamed accomplice briefly talk about a game they're looking forward to seeing, just before Jules and Ophelia get the jump them.
  • Voice Changeling: Jules and Ophelia use voice scramblers under their masks to cover up their identities.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Darlington University is located in the fictional town of Westport, and while the show never pins down Westport's location in the United States, it's hinted that it's somewhere in New England, specifically in Vermont. The green-and-white license plates resemble Vermont's and show that Westport is in the "Rolling Hills State", not unlike Vermont's official nickname of the Green Mountain State, and Jules and Ophelia cover up Carter's death by making it look as though he'd run off to nearby Quebec to go snowboarding. While Vermont is landlocked, and the name "Westport" would seem to imply that the town is on the coast, Lake Champlain (in the western part of the state, natch) is an important inland waterway.