Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Kissing Game season 1.
With its trippy raves and rebellious teens, Netflix’s Kissing Game — aka Boca a Boca — sure looks like it has a lot in common with HBO breakout hit Euphoria. However, Kissing Game is also much, much weirder than its American premium cable forebear. While Euphoria is a painfully realistic story of addiction and oftentimes violent teen angst, Kissing Game follows the outbreak of a glow-in-the-dark disease that initially spreads through a “kissing orgy” at a “cult” party. The virus attacks the emotions and bodies of its youthful hosts until they are milky-eyed husks of their former selves. The second half of Kissing Game season 1 also adds a prehistoric cow-beast to the proceedings just to keep viewers on their toes.
While these two sci-fi-leaning plotlines may be the most shocking and confusing elements of Kissing Game — what caused the disease?! What the hell is the aurochs hiding on Nero farm? — they are also the key to understanding the show. These twists are also proof that Kissing Game is much more enjoyable when you accept these storylines were always meant to be more metaphorical than the traditional teen show mystery.
Kissing Game introduces its central deadly disease within the first minute of series premiere “Got You!,” when protagonist Fran (Iza Moreira) finds her best friend Bel (Luana Nastas) sobbing in her bathroom. As Bel tilts her head to the light, we realize she has a giant purple mark on her mouth. More dark lines branch out from Bel’s lips. Bel is terrified and promptly hospitalized. The next time we see Bel, she is alone and catatonic in a quarantine wing. The splotches on her face have turned neon and her eyes — now unblinking and unfocused — have clouded over. Doctors explain complete apathy has seized Bel’s mind and body. Soon, many more teens at Bel and Fran’s high school, located in their rural Brazilian hometown of Progresso, begin suffering from the same symptoms and join Bel in quarantine.
Tragically, Bel dies from the virus in second episode “Friday Night-Monday Morning.” Another classmate follows Bel to the grave when he falls out of a window.
At first Fran, who teams up with loner Alex Nero (Caio Horowicz) and new guy Chico (Michel Joelsas) to solve the disease mystery, assumes a drug everyone took at a forest “cult” party outside of Progresso caused the epidemic. Then they realize kissing is what is actually passing the disease from Progresso teen to Progresso teen, seemingly starting with Bel.
While Kissing Game doesn’t explain who Bel kissed to catch the disease, it is heavily implied the virus first began at the rave-y village outside of Progresso where the party was held. Fourth episode “Are You Looking?” gives us the first real clue about how the village initially contracted the illness when Alex — a cattle heir — hears an eerie, impossibly loud moo outside of a tent in the village. If you pay close attention to the scene, you’ll notice a cowbell sound before the animal call, which suggests the animal belongs to someone. Wild animals don’t have cowbells around their necks.
The final two Kissing Game episodes explain how this random forest beast is the cause of the outbreak (as confirmed in the season finale Netflix plot summary, which reads, “Alex exposes the source of the disease”). In penultimate season 1 episode “Unfollow,” Alex’s sister Bianca (Bella Camero) reveals the secret of her work for their cruel father Doni (Bruno Garcia). While everyone knows Bianca has been mapping the gene of the ancient aurochs — the ancestor of the bull — to improve the family cattle business, Doni has kept the application of his daughter’s research under wraps. Doni has been doing genetic experiments with Bianca’s genome, which has extremely important gaps, and filling in the genetic spaces with the DNA of the family’s proprietary cattle, Nelore Nero. Doni has recreated the long-dead aurochs with extremely dangerous modifications.
At the end of the episode, Alex goes to the shed where Doni is hiding a pack of the genetically modified aurochs and finds monstrous creatures. He films the animals and releases the footage during Doni’s big “Field Day” for possible clients. It’s a damning confirmation of Doni’s many ethical sins. The situation is made even worse when we see the aurochs’ face — there is neon fluid branching out from its eye. This is the same signature symptom in every teenage Kissing Game disease case. Alex makes the causation explicit when he reveals his own symptoms — a similar series of neon streaks stretching from his mouth to his heart — in front of the Field Day visitors. While it is unclear how the village dwellers first picked up the disease from Doni’s aurochs, it seems possible they may have eaten the animal (what else are they consuming in the forest?).
Kissing Game doesn’t waste its time explaining the connection between Doni’s aurochs and the disease with drawn-out dialogue because the virus — which, it is confirmed in “Unfollow,” harms teens most because they harbor the most “pent-up” emotions — is symbolic for the danger of holding onto the outdated prejudice of older generations. “Boca a Boca is the story of the virus of conservatism, of regression, and of the arduous battle against it,” Caio Horowicz, who plays Alex, told Brazillian publication Folha De S. Paulo, according to a translated interview. The fact that Doni’s monsters manage to even infect the bohemian village dwellers is a reminder of how insidious that conservative intolerance can be.
However, the finale of Kissing Game suggests the next generation can overcome the ills of society by totally embracing who they are. That love in the face of hate is what brings Progresso’s teens back to life. As Horowicz told Folha De S. Paulo, “It is the story of a youth who comes with their foot in the door, saying that there are attitudes that are no longer tolerable.”