On the spectrum

The new season of Netflix’s heartfelt comedy Atypical


Photo courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s Atypical follows Sam, a teenage boy with autism as he starts his first year of college. He faces many challenges throughout the show and has to find ways on his own to solve them. Sam has to interact with other college students, keep relationships, become independent and more.

Katelyn Hahn, Staff Reporter

For Sam Gardener (Keir Gilchrist), a teenage boy with autism, it is hard to understand and comprehend all aspects of life. Atypical follows him through his difficult journey of connecting with others and becoming independent. He goes through a vast amount of problems such as issues with friends, family and his girlfriend. Season 3 makes the audience feel many emotions and keeps them interested the entire time. 

At the end of Season 2, Sam finally graduated high school and is now getting ready for his freshman year of college. He has a desire to become independent and starts doing everything on his own. This causes a plethora of issues for him and his family as he comes to realize that college is a lot harder than high school. 

One significant aspect of Atypical is that it doesn’t specifically focus on Sam the entire time. The viewers get to see his family and friends’ lives, too. The audience see’s Sam’s sister, Casey Gardener (Brigette Lundy-Paine) struggle with the fact that she is bisexual and having to pick between two people she has feelings for, her bestfriend and her current boyfriend. Throughout the show, the audience sees how she goes about solving this problem. Another issue that the show undertakes is how Sam’s parents, Elsa Gardener (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Doug Gardener (Michael Rapaport) navigate their own relationship issues. 

Throughout the first two seasons, the focal point of Atypical was Sam’s autism. While the main idea is now his college experience, they still make the show about his autism. They never completely drop the storyline and it is incorporated into every episode. During the series, he still struggles with social situations and learns from those experiences along the way. He gets advice from his girlfriend Paige (Jenna Boyd), his best friend Zahid (Nik Dodani) and his family to help him get through college. 

Many parts were comical and laughable that made the audience laugh. Almost any time Zahid comes into the episode, laughs occur. When Sam and Zahid make up after being in a fight and Zahid made them go through a ceremony to be “re-homied”. In this ceremony, they announced they were best friends again and fist bumped. Comedic aspects like this make the show extremely amusing. 

Many parts of Atypical are extremely heartwarming and make the audience feel good. Numerous times, Sam will finally resolve an issue he’s been facing and will be extremely happy when it happens. This leaves the viewer feeling happy and excited like Sam. One example of this is Sam’s obsession with penguins. Anytime he is stressed or sad, he goes to their local zoo and visits his favorite penguin, Stumpy. Sam immediately gets filled with joy at these moments and it warms the audiences heart. In another part of the show, Sam’s girlfriend Paige was trying to get rid of her impulse-bought canoe that she got in order to relieve herself from the terror that college was bringing her. Sam decides anonymously to buy it, which makes Paige extremely happy and relieved of stress. Their friends then find out that Sam did this and it makes for a beautiful moment. 

The production of Season 3 is exceptional. For one, the lighting and sets look spectacular in most scenes. All of the sets feel authentic and fit the scene. However, the strongest aspect in Atypical’s production is the music. The background music they use conveys what Sam is feeling at the time. If Sam was stressed or overwhelmed, the music would be loud and intense which makes the audience feel stressed with him. They also incorporate popular music such as Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”. These aspects really make the show more amusing. 

Not only is this show extremely enjoyable, it is also exceptionally relatable to many. For many, the struggles that Sam goes through with college are similar as they have gone through or are going through the same experiences. He struggles with registering for classes, talking to other students and dealing with strict professors. Many college students or even high school students could connect to those issues. 

Often times, autism is inaccurately portrayed in the media. This is not the case for Atypical. While Keir Gilchrist does not actually have autism in real life, he does a sensational job of portraying a character with the disability. He made sure to act exactly like one with autism as he looked scared or anxious at moments he needed to be and connected with others in ways they would. Along with his outstanding acting, many actors with autism were cast to help the show represent the disability. The audience sees these people while Sam and them are in their therapy groups in college. Some characters in his support group are Amber (Layla Weiner) and Christopher (Anthony Jacques) who have autism in real life. Audiences have enjoyed having these people in the show in the second and third seasons as it makes the show exceptionally accurate.

Atypical reached new levels and brought the best season yet. It brings tremendous factors that all add up to it being an unforgettable show. The show has gotten better with each season and will hopefully gain another outstanding season soon. I hope everyone watches this show to enjoy it, but also to learn from it on how to interact with and understand those with autism.