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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Mondale (1×04)

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This is the last week that Sunnyside will be airing live on NBC, as from here on out episodes will be made available for streaming instead. So how did the show bow out?

The cast is split into smaller groups again, with Garret going with Jun Ho and Mei Lin, and Griselda, Hakim, and Brady dealing with Griselda’s son Eric’s musical.

The bonding between Garret and the half twins is pretty effective. Having to create a fake business together highlights their different talents and allows them to organically learn new things about each other. We find out that Jun Ho and Mei Lin are half twins, which is pretty funny and has. . .interesting implications regarding their father. It isn’t much of a surprise to learn that the twins’ father is neglectful, but Garret standing up for them at the end is more effective than his defense of Drazen last week because we actually see them bond and see how Garret feels attached to them due to the part he played in their fake business.

I’m having trouble keeping track of Garret’s character, though. Is he a competent wordsmith or not? The second episode he was easily outsmarted by both the lawyer and Hakim, and this week he’s able to fool the right hand man of an elite businessman. It’s inconsistent and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to believe that Garret is competent or that everyone else is dumb enough to fall for his obvious lies.

The musical storyline could have been awesome. Garret proclaiming the inaccuracies of Eric’s play is a great way to show how much Garret has learned about American history. I would have liked to see more characters take this cue, with other characters like the twins taking the opposite, and believing that the play was factual. It would have been an organic way to show us who is progressing and who isn’t.

I’m not sure what the lesson to be learned with Griselda’s storyline is. I like the idea that Hakim and Brady shouldn’t interfere, since she’s trying to support her son because he will have opportunities that she never had, but Eric is really taking advantage of her. It’s one thing for her to put her finances towards his dream and its another to have Eric pushing her around to do his laundry. The message would have been clearer if Eric really was just oblivious, and not just a brat. Maybe this is to give us insight into Griselda’s parenting style, but with her strictness with the twins last week, it seems contradictory that she’s such a pushover with her own son. I could see this being a dichotomy of the character, but the ending of Eric giving her the money was played pretty straight, which suggests this won’t be explored much further and is approved by the show.

Brady had the best showing tonight, even though we have no idea why he hates musicals so much. There is a trend in Sunnyside so far where characters exclaim things about themselves without backing them up. Brady’s musical distaste was a solid through line, and it added even more weight to his objections to how Eric treats his mom, but it would have been stronger if we were given some reason as to why Brady dislikes musicals so much, even if it was as mundane as “I don’t like when people sing.” There have been multiple episodes now where Brady takes a personal hit to help his friends, and I feel he’s becoming attached to them – not because anyone has told me, but because he’s come to the defense of them several times.

At the end of the day, some of the characters are getting filled out (Hakim, Brady), some are still hovering around tropes (the rich twins with father issues), and some are getting more confusing by the episode (Garret, Griselda). Hopefully some consistency is right around the corner.


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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Multicultural Tube of Meat (1×11)

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Sunnyside/NBC

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.


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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – I Don’t Know Her (1×10)

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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.


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Sunnyside

Sunnyside – Sigma Triangle Squiggly Thing (1×09)

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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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