Netflix’s coming-of-age dramedy, “Atypical” continues to charm and entertain in Season 3. The half-hour show tells the story of Sam, a young man on the Autism spectrum trying to find himself and claim his independence while dealing with day-to-day life and the ups and downs of family, friendships and relationships.
In Season 1, Sam (Keir Gilchrist), a then 18-year-old high school senior was on a quest for what every teenager wants, love. With the help of his therapist, Sam ventures to put himself out there and ends of winning the affection of the adorably high-strung, but well-intentioned Paige (Jenna Boyd). Dealing with the feeling of no longer being needed, the matriarch Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) fills the void with infidelity that quietly plays out in the background and affects the entire family. In Season 2, Sam’s relationship with Paige continues to blossom before they both go off to college while Elsa and Doug (Michael Rapaport) try to work through their marital issues while on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile, Sam’s younger sister Casey (Bridgette Lundy-Paine) is also coming into her own while transitioning to a new school to focus on her track dreams.
Season 3 picks up with Sam’s collegiate career about to begin. Wanting to do it on his own, he embarks on the journey without the help of Elsa and disability services offered through the school. But he has help in the likes of his trusted, quirky best-friend Zahid (Nik Dodani), his long-distance girlfriend and his younger sister who always has his back. The ten, 30-minute episodes are chocked full of life’s curveballs, relatable familial dynamics and life lessons through the lens of Sam’s narration.
Along the way, Zahid and Sam’s friendship is put to the test when Zahid gets a new girlfriend who may not be the best thing for him. Paige’s life is turned upside down when she is thrust into the new world of her dream college and the “perfect” vision of that. Casey embarks on her own journey of self-discovery when her relationship with Evan (Graham Rogers) is tested by her “friendship” with Izzie (Fivel Stewart). And Elsa and Doug continue to figure out their marriage.
This season continues to explain life and how Sam interprets it through his passion for penguins (you’d be surprised how much they have in common with human behavior) as they continue to play a major role in Sam’s development and the progression of the season. Season 3 is all about adapting, transitions and growth in spite of your life not going according plan even though you’ve planned out every detail. Life is always throwing curveballs, its all about how you take the pitch.
The writers continue to sincerely and accurate depict real-life issues for those dealing with “disabilities” and in an era when representation matters, it is refreshing to see a spotlight shined on the lives of these individuals. Although the central character is not played by someone on the spectrum, Gilchrist gives a sensitive and authentic portrayal. The show also does an applaudable job of casting actors who are actually on the spectrum in standout recurring side roles.
The series is engrossing from the very beginning…there is drama mixed with lots of lighthearted, heartwarming, life-impacting moments. This season will give viewers all the feels while on the roller-coaster of life for the entire Gardner family. The character development is really well done, especially with Casey, as the creators delicately and sincerely deal with her confusion about her sexuality. We even get to delve into Evan’s backstory as his character takes on a larger role and begins to find himself. We even get a glimpse into why Elsa is the way she is when she runs into her mother one day out of the blue. Even the side characters are intriguing and engaging, everyone from Evan’s family to Techtropolis co-workers and new fellow students.
In season three, “Atypical” continues to shine as it comes into its own. The creators and writers have kept the original drive from the first two seasons and make you care even more about the characters. The acting is still great and the writing continues to be profound, witty and sensitive. And there are even two new recurring faces that most TV viewers will recognize who show up as Sam’s college professors (“The Connor’s” Sara Gilbert and “Will and Grace’s” Eric McCormack). There’s still a lot of good stuff left in the tank of this show and we’ll eagerly await to see what life has in store ahead.