Spoilers are ahead for the Brand New Cherry Flavor finale. On the surface, the new Netflix limited series Brand New Cherry Flavor is a gory revenge thriller about an up-and-coming director named Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) who is fighting to get her film back from pervert producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange). But for all the blood, guts, and kitten regurgitations (of which they are many — too many, tbh), the eight-episode series based on the Todd Grimson novel of the same name is really a Hollywood satire.
At its macabre core, Brand New Cherry Flavor is about the high price of fame — particularly, in Hollywood, where everyone seems willing to sell their soul for a chance at success.
Lisa makes a deal with a devilish figure named Boro, played by an absolutely bonkers Catherine Keener. (She's basically her Get Out character Missy Armitage cosplaying as the darkest timeline's Stevie Nicks.) Boro is a supernatural entity who drinks the blood of cats, turns her customers into zombie henchman, and swaps bodies when it feels appropriate. The witchy woman promises she'll make the producer pay through a bit of dark magic. But at a steep price: everyone in Lisa's orbit becomes collateral damage for her dreams. Even Lisa barely makes it out of the series alive.
It's a sinister read on Hollywood mentorship: Beware of anyone looking to help you get ahead. Lisa assumes Lou is going to take her under her wing, but he's more interested in sleeping with her. When she doesn't, he gaslights her into thinking it's her fault she lost the opportunity to direct her own film. She's not experienced enough. She didn't pay her dues yet. She'll get another chance one day if she makes nice with him.
Boro also comes to Lisa under the guise of a helper. Lisa has to jump through hoops: kitten vomiting, toad licking, eating all sorts of disgusting concoctions, all of which will give you a brand new cherry flavoured stomach ache. She's under the impression that following Boro's odd instructions will get her what she wants and she follows blindly. Blame it on her desperation. In actuality, Boro's just using her. It's Ursula stealing Ariel's voice only to make a move on Prince Eric.
Yet Brand New Cherry Flavor doesn't cast Lisa as a victim. Instead, it questions whether she is really any better than Lou or Boro. Her journey towards Hollywood success includes a one-eyed leading lady Mary Gray (Siena Weber) who believes that Lisa took advantage of her, too.
While filming the final scene of Lisa's short film, Mary gouges out her own eye and eats it. It's a horrifying moment that has anyone who sees the film wondering how Lisa managed to make it look so real. Mary and the audience learn the truth in episode 5. The two were on drugs when it happened, but Mary believes it was Lisa's aggressive prodding to be more real in her performance that led to the accident.
Worse, Lisa left Mary alone in the woods, while she drove off to L.A. with the cursed footage that leads to her meeting with Lou. (There are hints, thanks to a film canister labeled "Lucy's Eye Ext. Woods Day," that there is unedited footage from the shoot that we haven't and will never see.) Now Mary is out for her own revenge, which leads her right to Boro, who is more than happy to take advantage of her pain.
In the end, Lisa gets her film back, though it's not because of Boro. It's because of Alvin Sender (Patrick Fischler), a rich Hollywood executive who liked her film and always wanted her to direct it. Lisa has no remorse for what has happened to all those who really wanted to help her achieve her dreams like Code (an underutilized Manny Jacinto) or film star Roy Hardaway (Jeff Ward), whose love for her ends up leading to his decapitation.
However, she does seem to have real sympathy for Lou, who, thanks to Boro, goes blind and can no longer enjoy movies the way he once did. Seeing his pain makes Lisa remember why she wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place: It's not fame she wants, it's creative freedom. Perhaps, she has more in common with him than she thought. His state makes her realize she can't serve two masters, she can only serve herself.
Lisa isn't a hero for choosing to go home to Brazil and leave Hollywood behind. She's just smart enough to not make another deal with the devil. She doesn't take down Boro and seek vengeance for her friends, she runs away from a mess she created. She saves herself. She allows this entity to use the broken Mary for her bidding, which will ultimately lead to the exploitation of more vulnerable people in the future.
The truth is, Lisa was just the flavour of the week, someone for Boro and the rest of the parasites in Hollywood to feed off. Unfortunately, as Brand New Cherry Flavor shows, there is always someone else willing to sell their soul for a chance at fame and success.