If you’re like me, you’re most likely guilty of piling up multiple shows or movies on your watchlist. Until recently Atypical just existed on mine. Every time the trailer began to play I ignored it and searched for something else to watch. A lazy Sunday at home led to this binge and I wish I had started sooner. For those who already saw the trailer and weren’t already convinced, I’m sure you’ll find the right reasons to watch the latest original series Atypical from Netflix here.
The series follows an 18-year-old teen, Sam, who is on the autism spectrum, as he navigates his life deciding to experience romance and tries to become independent. It is a sweet, coming-of-age tale that also looks at the main character’s family dynamic and his upcoming challenges. It is light-hearted and full of humor which will see you moving from episode to episode in rapid time. I should know, I finished the last season in one day!
As the final season of Atypical releases on Netflix, we are giving you seven reasons to watch this heartfelt and educational show which puts across its points without being preachy.
1. Atypical shows how autism affects everyone, not just Sam.
Atypical does do one thing and that’s telling us how being on the spectrum affects not just the life of the person with autism but the life of their friends and family too. This show is definitely a breath of fresh air. It not only educates people on how to interact with people on the spectrum but also makes us empathize more. The series goes about breaking stereotypes one must have held for autistic people without reducing Sam to just his condition.
It shows all the ways Sam’s family members have adapted their lives to incorporate and make room for his distinct day-to-day needs, while still having separate lives that sometimes have to be relished away from the teenager. From his younger sister Casey having to hold his lunch money daily so that he doesn’t lose it, to his parents taking him to a particular location so that he will be comfortable going there at a later date, everyone makes changes in their lives to accommodate Sam. It also shows how their efforts can be a thankless job, as Sam rarely shows appreciation for them going the extra mile.
2. You will relate to the characters more than you think.
Although the show focuses on Sam and his path through life trying to define what “normal” is, it also depicts some key family issues which are very relatable. As it explores family dynamics, one can’t help but relate with the Gardner family and see themselves reflected in it. Sam’s autism may come with its own challenges, however, Atypical consistently reminds you that no one is truly ‘normal’. Their family dynamic is authentic, their chemistry is powerful and their performances are compelling. Every circumstance that arises speaks to the strong bond shared between them regardless of their personal issues with each other.
At the end of the day, what makes this show so important is its relatability. We have all felt different at some point in our lives. This show reminds us that we are all different and what seems to be normal may not be what’s best for you. Sam’s ability to connect with the audience allows watchers to get to know him and gives the show authenticity.
3. Amazing choice of cast
The cast of this new series is definitely one to praise. Keir Gilchrist forces us to love Sam in so many ways. Despite being someone on the spectrum, it is not the only quality that defines him. He’s not a walking compilation of symptoms, he’s a person with hobbies, relationships, and fears. His relationships are complex and messy, but they’re also genuine. He and his sister Casey fight a lot, but they are also fiercely protective of one another. Brigette Lundy Paine does an excellent job at encompassing the character of Casey in an amazing way.
Then there’s Sam’s friendship with his co-worker Zahid (Nik Dodani), which is one of the purest bromances on television. Sam thinks his goofy best friend is the wisest person he knows. It’s a genuine friendship that helps both characters get through tough times. Also, the portrayal of the Gardner couple is spectacular. Jennifer Lason Leigh plays the overly cautious, devoted mother, Elsa who is also flawed in several ways. She does such an excellent job of communicating her character’s need to feel needed. On the other hand, Michael Rapaport’s character Doug Gardner in Atypical steals the Netflix show.
4. It lives up to the category of dramatic comedy.
One of the biggest successes of the Netflix series Atypical is balancing comedic scenes with dramatic ones. Due to the array of serious topics the series handles, there are many grave scenes that take place. However, there are other scenes that prove it not only has good comic timing but also endearing characters with their own quirks and eccentricities. For example, scenes between Sam and his friend Zahid provide comic relief thanks to Zahid’s hipster, happy-go-lucky attitude.
The series cuts the tension and taboo with keen humor, often bordering on the impertinent, but Sam is never the butt of the joke. In Atypical, Sam’s funniest moments often come at times when his character is not being funny. After a few episodes, viewers might even be able to accurately predict what he’ll do before he even does it. It is refreshing to see his character offer a different reaction than what the audience may be conditioned to expect. Even the typical teenage storm-off is met with a chuckle. For instance, unlike an average confrontational male lead, Sam continues to sit until prompted by someone else to go after the upset individual.
5. The newer seasons feature autistic cast members.
Season 1 of Atypical was criticized for having failed to feature performers on the spectrum. It also presented what seems to be the default autistic character in entertainment: a straight, white, cisgender male with an affinity for STEM subjects and a lack of empathy. The phrase: “nothing about us without us” is used in many disability communities, and that goes for TV too. However, the makers actually took account of the criticism and stepped up to the plate for the second season. The show hired consultants such as Elaine Hall of The Miracle Project and “The Journal of Best Practices” author David Finch who is on the autistic spectrum himself. So, there was an inclusion of autistic voices both in the show and behind the scenes.
Sam tries group career counseling and viewers are introduced to his new peer group, which consists of five more characters on the spectrum, each played by actors or actresses on the spectrum. According to creator Robia Rashid, “It’s a show, first and foremost it’s about a family, but it’s definitely about the autism community, so I wanted as much involvement from the autism community as possible and I loved the idea of this peer group”. The new additions to the cast paint a broader picture of people on the spectrum, as they have vastly different personalities and hobbies. It’s also important that there are people of color within the peer group, which is crucial when it comes to an authentic illustration of autism. The new cast members explicitly show that there is no “one size fits all” model for autism.
6. You see mid-life crisis from a woman’s perspective for once.
From American Beauty to Lost In Translation, we’re familiar with men’s mid-life crises on screen, but for women, we usually only ever hear throwaway jokes about menopause and moodiness. In Atypical, however, we see Sam’s mum have a crisis when she feels she’s no longer needed as a mother in the way she used to be.
Elsa Gardner had always played the role of that hovering overprotective mother, with Sam as her top priority ever since they discovered he was autistic. Meanwhile, her relationships with her husband and her daughter took a backseat. When her son announces that he wants to be more independent, she feels the identity of that overprotective mother suddenly being taken away from her. Not knowing who she is anymore, her midlife crisis plays out. It is relatable for so many women.
7. Easy to watch
Last but not the least, one of the elements that make Atypical such an easy Netflix watch is the runtime. Each episode varies in length with only a few reaching past thirty minutes. Not a huge commitment right? I wish every show was like this. An hour an episode is far too much for the working week and so, these episodes are commuter-friendly meaning you can fit one in anywhere. Ideally, you can complete one season per day. What better way to spend a few hours of your life? Trust me, it’s worth it. The characters, storylines, and life lessons presented throughout this series will force you to keep binging one episode after the other.
I admit that I’m not ready for Sam Gardner to leave his nest (a reference he uses about Antarctic penguins in the show). But the fourth and final season of Atypical finds him leaving the safety of his Connecticut home and venturing out into a perplexing world that often seems perplexed by him. The show stands out as both a great portrayal of life with autism and also a great dramedy in general. Whether you decide it’s groundbreaking or ridden with stereotypes, it’s a show that deserves to be watched by everyone, even if it’s only once.
But don’t take our word for it. Atypical is on Netflix now, so get streaming.
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