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Apple TV+'s Daring, Unpredictable Sunny is Summer TV Standout

Apple TV+ is slowly shaping up to be one of the best streaming services around. Having recently brought us the likes of “Bad Sisters,” “Severance” and “Presumed Innocent,” they are also shelling out some of the most interesting thrillers in recent years. What makes this service so much better than its counterparts, is the care that is clearly taken into making these shows. The directors they champion and the production value in each series sets them apart, and their newest series “Sunny” is no different.

Set in a semi futuristic Japan, “Sunny” follows Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones), whose life is upended when her husband Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and their son seemingly perish in a mysterious plane crash. While speaking to authorities, the other victims of the plane crash are asked to call their loved ones' phones to listen to their voicemail as a means of hearing their voice one last time. However, when Suzie calls her husband, instead of going to voicemail, it continues to ring. This sets her out on a mission to uncover the truth behind her husband and son’s disappearance, but a wrench is thrown in her path as she struggles to recover from her grief. 

When a colleague of Masa’s shows up at Suzie’s door with a domestic robot named Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura) as a consolation gift, things start to take an even stranger turn. Did Masa know he was going to die in the plane crash and knew Sunny would help Suzie in her grief? Or is there something else, an outside force that has brought the two together. Their unlikely relationship allows them both to achieve a connection they are longing for, despite Suzie’s initial hatred for robots.

The series takes an unlikely pair and brings them together for the show's advantage. Without the presence of robots, this would just be another run-of-the-mill thriller, but the unique sci-fi angle raises some interesting questions surrounding corruption and free will. It’s hard to say if robots control their own fates in this universe, or if they’re at the complete mercy of the humans they serve. Sunny seems special in this regard, and the people around her—including Suzie—pick up on this too. It puts them in even more danger than they were before and leads them on what feels like a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as they seek to uncover the truth.

As “Sunny” expands, so does the cast of characters in the series. The highlight is undeniably Hime (You), a platinum blonde who enters the story with a terrifying calmness unfit for her harrowing surroundings. It’s clear that she will end up being one of the biggest adversaries in Suzie and Sunny’s search for truth, and You plays her excellently. Along with her, Rashida Jones is finally given a role that allows her talents to be harnessed. As Suzie, Jones is given the space to appear grief-stricken and brazen, allowing her to disappear into the character rather than succumbing to the typecasting of her post-sitcom years.

Where Jones really shines is in scenes where Suzie’s grief begins to fracture her memory. The present is often juxtaposed with scenes detailing how Suzie and Massa met, and Suzie is forced to go back to these moments to try and uncover what happened to her husband. With these lapses in memory, Suzie begins to question whether she ever truly knew her husband at all. The present and past continue to jumble, throwing you for a loop that forces you to rewind certain scenes to make sure what you’re seeing is true. It makes the story all the more engaging and allows “Sunny” to morph into a series that feels worthwhile.

Nobody seems to be who they say they are, from Suzie’s mother-in-law Noriko (Judy Ongg) to various colleagues of Masa’s, and it appears that everyone in Suzie’s life has ulterior motives. The smiles that greet her are paired with eyes that never crinkle upwards, and it’s clear that the people she’s supposed to trust are hiding things from her. While some think hiding secrets are for her benefit, others are clearly playing the long game. For most of the series, this game isn’t quite clear, but it doesn’t hinder the show in any way. Rather, it allows the show to become one of the most intriguing Apple TV+ releases of the year.

The series is juggling a lot of themes and tones, and surprisingly almost all of them work. The comedy that trickles in allows not only the audience, but Suzie to breathe, and writers know when the laughs need to take a backseat for the drama. From its strong performances to the high-quality cinematography, it's clear that the people responsible for the series had a clear vision, and the streaming service that is backing them didn’t let this vision be stifled. “Sunny” is not only an engaging thriller, but one of the most intriguing series this year has to offer. 

Whole season screened for review. Premieres on Apple TV+ on July 10th.

Kaiya Shunyata

Kaiya Shunyata is a freelance pop culture writer and academic based in Canada. They have written for RogerEbert.com, Xtra, Okayplayer, The Daily Beast, AltPress and more. 

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