Sunny review: excellent paranoia-soaked thriller based on novel by Killarney writer Colin O’Sullivan

Television: Full points to Apple for achieving peak menace from a standing start

Sunny. Photograph: Apple TV+
Apple TV's new Japanese-set show Sunny. Photograph: Apple TV+

Sunny (Apple TV+, from Wednesday) is a Japanese-set thriller starring American actor Rashida Jones, adapted from a novel by Killarney writer Colin O’Sullivan. That’s quite a mash-up of influences. Yet the series has a remarkably assured tone – blending mystery, dark comedy, and dystopian sci-fi with understated verve. It also has a huge cute robot which may be connected to an evil AI cult. So full points to Apple for achieving peak Kubrickian menace from a standing start.

Jones plays Suzie, an expat living in Kyoto and, as the story begins, reeling from the death of her Japanese husband, Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), and their son in a plane crash. Masa designed fridges and it’s a surprise when a representative of his employer arrives on Suzie’s doorstep with “Sunny”, a cuddly android with a big expressive face, a chatty disposition – and physical tics apparently lifted straight from her late spouse.

Suzie is told her husband created Sunny. It turns out, moreover, that the fridge division moved overseas more than a decade ago. What was Masa up to all those years? And might it be connected to the plane crash and the fact neither his nor their son’s body has yet to be recovered?

There’s no use asking Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura). The robot just wants to help around the house and claims to remember nothing until it is activated in Suzie’s livingroom. But the machine’s arrival prompts Suzie to reflect on her relationship with Masa, which we revisit in flashback to their early dates in dimly lit cocktail lounges.


Jones is no stranger to uncanny sci-fi, having co-written the Black Mirror episode Nose Dive, about a woman whose life falls to pieces when her social approval ranking slides (analogous to what happens on social media today). Sunny is less preachy and predictable than Black Mirror, and the whodunnit elements surrounding Sunny’s origins are agreeably dark and labyrinthine. Plus, there is the charm of the Japanese setting – a sort of uncanny valley identical to western life in some ways and completely different in others.

With shows such as Foundation and Silo, Apple has carved out a niche as the home of intelligent and provocative science fiction. Sunny is another worthy addition to its staple of superior sci-fi. It is a mix of quirky comedy and a paranoia-soaked thriller that may lead viewers to question their faith in technology – and in the people they think they know best.