‘Sunny’ Apple TV Series Review: Rashida Jones in Career-Best Performance

Countless shows and films have explored the narrative surrounding humans and artificial intelligence. Take your pick: Her, Ex Machina, Blade Runner 2049 (and that’s just from this century). But none of these stories have played out with the dark comedic brilliance of the new series Sunny, which stars Rashida Jones. In the latest show from Apple TV+, an unexpected friendship between a mourning woman and her AI robot will have you on the edge of your seat.

Set in the distant future, domestic AI robot Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura) arrives on Suzie’s (Jones) doorstep during a very dark time in her life. She’s an American living in Kyoto who has descended into a deep depression after the loss of her son, and her husband, Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima). The pair disappeared in a deadly plane crash; Suzie is at a loss with how to continue without them. In rolls “homebot” Sunny, the robot that can complete any domestic task—and intends to boost her mood.

Suzie vehemently despises Sunny’s presence from the beginning, setting up the show’s most intriguing relationship. However, Sunny becomes a final, pivotal part of Masa that Suzie can hold onto, after it is revealed that her late husband owned a robotics company that was working on the AI to make Sunny. (Suzie was under the impression he worked with refrigerators.) In fact, there is a lot Suzie doesn’t know about her family and her world. Why is her mother-in-law (Judy Ongg) acting more standoffish than usual? What is the truth behind Masa’s work? Why are there men following her all of a sudden? And what dark secrets lie in Sunny’s programmed code?

The show flits between thriller, sci-fi, romance, crime, and comedy—and remarkably, the blend works. There is a defiance against genre here that is especially clear with the show’s humor; laughter helps ease the mounting tension in all the right moments. Created by Katie Robbins and based on Japan-based award-winning Irish writer Colin O’Sullivan’s The Dark Manual, Sunny taps into the pervasive paranoia surrounding technology and the explosion of AI. Robbins pushes her show in risky directions, challenging expectations and demonstrating an investment in storytelling that some of today’s TV could only dream of. For a show about tech—a subject often dealt with using cold, sterile hands—Sunny has a charming warmth. This is also true visually; with Robbins’ guidance (and A24 production) the show has the energy and stylings of an indie film with impressive production. Alongside dreams and flashbacks making memories hazy, cinematography wows on a fairly unanticipated level.

Rashida Jones as Suzie and Hidetoshi Nishijima as Masa in a still from Sunny.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

The show’s distinct appearance is bolstered by Sunny’s physical presence, not a post-production addition that requires the actors perform to a tennis ball. The robotic team behind Sunny do a terrific job of humanizing this mechanical figure with head tilts and big expressive eyes that seem to both understand and radiate emotion. But can a robot truly feel, disobeying its programming and overcoming lines of code? Robbins doesn’t lunge for any easy answers.

Opposite Sunny, Jones delivers a career-best performance that sees her handle the intricate role of a brokenhearted mother, a bewildered wife, and a lost woman blanketed in grief. With each episode progressively more thrilling than the next, Sunny is ultimately a show that transcends fears of robots and AI. The 10-episode series provides commentary on grief and free will, alongside what sacrifices a mother will endure for the truth. Robbins plays the long game, hiding secrets around every turn—and making Sunny one of the most standout and unmissable shows of this year.

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