“Dr. Potato” is the best episode of Sunnyside so far, but the series still has a ways to go in regards to its character building and storytelling.
One of the positives of the story was the interaction between the cast as they separated to try to help Drazen not get deported. Garret, Brady, and Hakim went to a store Drazen used to frequent (his wife works there, and has been hiding there), and through these smaller interactions we get to learn more about these characters organically. So far the show has told us more than it has shown has, and has become a little dependent on verbal character gags that aren’t always successful since we don’t know the characters well enough yet. I’ve heard Garret say on several occasions how “One time” he did something, but we need to see some of these moments ourselves before they become so ingrained in his character that the mention of them provides a full visual picture.
In the store, Brady’s love of Bugs Bunny is reinforced and meta-commentated on with him saying it isn’t his only discernible trait. This is proven at the end of the episode when Brady comes back to support Drazen despite his fear of slipping up and being deported himself. Hakim’s constant joy at America’s possibilities and oddities is starting to turn into a genuine character trait instead of just a gag. We are learning that he is overall just a positive man, such as when he talks to Mallory about his hopes that she comes back from surgery with a fungus story, so his positive outlook is definitely starting to take place as a major part of what makes Hakim tick, with his fascination with America being a natural extension of that.
Griselda and the siblings have some moments while waiting in line, with Griselda coming down hard on them like they’ve never seen. They definitely need the strong hand, but I’m hoping eventually the show dives deeper into these two. They are still mostly just “rich” and very spoiled, and I know they can be more complex than that.
These small character moments are an improvement, but Sunnyside is still lacking when it comes to its main conflicts. Drazen’s detainment would be so much more affecting if we actually knew him. Garret’s speech in his defense would have been more believable (how does Garret know he’s a good guy? He barely knows Drazen), and his fate would matter so much more to the audience if we cared about him. As it stands now, this is all just plot with little emotional heft behind it, which is a shame because Sunnyside is talking about a topic that doesn’t get much media exposure and a lot of people can learn from.
This was easily the funniest episode and the humor was mostly used to great effect. Hakim winning a trip to the 1984 Olympics from his bottle cap was not just funny but characterized the store as well as highlighting his positivity. Drazen’s crime of pirating a movie is considered low stakes by the characters until it is revealed that he pirated Spice World, providing a humorous spin while highlighting the ridiculous biases of the system, which was then followed up on with the joke about staving off nightmares of not giving immigrants translators. I hope Sunnyside keeps on this path. (The Knicks joke was also expertly paid off).
The show still needs to find its footing with its characters and how it discusses its main topics, but this was a step in the right direction, especially regarding the humor.
Sunnyside – Multicultural Tube of Meat (1×11)
Garret leaves his friends to run for office, and the group fumbles without him on Sunnyside. I’m not exactly sure why there is so much distress amongst the group when he leaves because Garret hasn’t been a very good teacher. In fact, he’s been a pretty poor teacher, with many lessons ending early or being about topics that have little to do with gaining citizenship.
Garret has absolutely become a better person, and the fact that he cares so much about these people does prove that he is their friend, but there is no tension between his choices here. I don’t believe he’s made enough strides to actually be a good fit for office, and I know the immigrants will be fine without him since he hasn’t been a good teacher.
Drazen’s release is a cause for celebration in theory, but considering we barely knew him when he went away and spent no time with him since, there isn’t much celebration for the viewers. He leaves again at the end of the episode, which just clarifies his position as a plot device instead of a character.
There is a moment where the immigrants express the fact that there is no guarantee that they ever achieve citizenship, and it’s a pretty raw moment. We’ve seen enough of the difficulties along the pathway to citizenship that this moment hits properly.
However, we haven’t seen enough of what makes America great to make the ending land. The episode ends with the immigrants all deciding to continue fighting for citizenship, with Garret proclaiming America is great because it is a place where all types of people can come together. This is true, and it’s true that this group came together this way, but over the season the messy system that has impeded a lot of attempts for citizenship has been highlighted much more than the benefits to becoming an American have, and I’m not sure seeing the success of some immigrants would make our entire group instantly become positive again.
America is a complicated place. “Multicultural Tube of Meat” is a somewhat accurate depiction of the dichotomy of America, highlighting the melting pot nature of the country and the American’s first nature of the same country. But that isn’t explored so much as “America is worth it” is. I’m not sure where that leaves us with Sunnyside.
I liked the hot dog analogy, though.
Sunnyside – I Don’t Know Her (1×10)
Sunnyside finally has some real consequences for Garret…almost. The show undermines itself by making everything work out so incredibly well that it doesn’t come off as a lesson so much as a lecture.
We see Garret get humiliated by the Staten Island crew when his meddling destroys the bill, and their speech about his reputation and who he is actually hits home pretty hard. I believe that Garret takes a look at himself, but his immediate decision to go block an intersection to give his speech feels contrived and unearned for a few reasons.
First off, we don’t see much of Garret’s reflection. We only see him moping about and feeling sorry for himself, which is a normal and in character reaction for Garret, and we see the moment a lightbulb goes off in his head. But we have no idea exactly why this lightbulb went off. For an episode that hinges on Garret’s relationship with the immigrants he spends way too much time away from them. Through the show we’ve seen in moments how the immigrants have affected Garret, and I believe he would defend them on a whim, but Garret has also been heavily selfish, despite his improvements. His introspection could have used some input from the immigrants, since they are the ones providing his new perspective.
Secondly, blocking the intersection where he ruined his political career seems like it was intended to bring the story full circle but had none of the nuance to make it feel like much more than a contrivance. I can’t imagine that this is the best environment for Garret to speak out and unintentionally relaunch his political career, and even within the rules of Sunnyside’s world, I don’t believe he would get enough attention to have anyone seeking him out to run for office, especially due to him massively inconveniencing tons of people driving on the intersection.
Maybe there is an argument to be made that sometimes we do need to inconvenience people to get them to listen, and if the B-story had propped that idea up, that could have worked. But as it stands, it doesn’t feel natural or believable that this event pushed Garret’s life in such a positive direction.
And that’s the final complaint I have for the episode; the incredibly convenient outcome for Garret. He feels bad for a couple of hours and is back on top by the end with minimal effort. It doesn’t take much to go out and scream on the road, especially for someone like Garret. He hasn’t earned this, and neither has the show.
The lesson Sunnyside is trying to impart is a positive one, though, so I hope those watching do take the lesson to heart. Democracy doesn’t work when the citizens don’t care, and immigrants aren’t asking for special rights, but equal ones. I just wish it was delivered in a more affective package.
Sunnyside – Sigma Triangle Squiggly Thing (1×09)
Sunnyside mixes its premise with its characters very well this week. Brady takes center stage and provides us with a real look into the complications of being an immigrant who grew up American. He doesn’t want to be viewed as an immigrant, nor does he want the responsibility of accepting his place in the charge to spread awareness of the issues. He just wants to get back to how his life was before he knew the truth.
Garret and Hakim playing the devil and angel on his shoulder suited both of them well. Hakim is proud of who he is, and Garret, while sporting confidence, really isn’t. The debate over whether to lie or tell the truth ends up siding with the truth as the right way to go, but the episode lends legitimate credence to Garret’s method of lying with Brady’s desire to keep his life the same, highlighting the complications of the situation.
In the end, though, we are shown how when people like Brady do tell the truth and trust the people around them to understand, positive change can happen. His frat bros would have never even thought about immigration if not for him, and Garret makes a great point when he tells Brady that people are more likely to incite change when an issue is affecting people in their lives.
The B-story involves the twins trying to force Griselda to relax. Griselda’s inability to relax is right in character, and the twins have been set up as the perfect duo to help Griselda chill. Again, this story presents both sides of the issue with weight. Griselda has a real reason to want to work as hard as she does, and while it would be easy to dismiss the twins desire to get her to relax to be because they are so aloof and know nothing else, they make it clear that Griselda shouldn’t stop working hard. She just needs to take care of herself along with taking care of everyone else, which is a lesson a lot of people need to learn.
All in all, this is the strongest episode of the show regarding its premise and characters mixing together. The ending of bring Cabo to Brady involves all of the friends working together to make one happy, and each of their personalities comes through in the few moments. Garret’s talent for partying, the twins’ ability to create a setting and theme, Hakim’s desire for fun with safety, and Griselda there to happily clean up the mess. Good stuff.
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