REVIEW: ‘Atypical’ Season 3 Has Superb Writing That Carries The Show Forward

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With the dozens of original shows and movies that premiere each month, it’s almost impossible to watch them all. Netflix continuously ups the scale in terms of how much content is available on its site. Even though there’s a lot to choose from, it’s even better when people discover something on the site to watch completely on there own. That was my process in finding out about Atypical back when it only had one season. I was skeptic about this show getting another season, especially since I didn’t see a lot of people on and off social media talk about it. Fast forward two years later and the show just aired its third season and gained a huge following throughout the years.

The third season of Atypical follows Sam (Keir Gilchrist) as he prepares for his first year of college. However, he quickly discovers how difficult college is while being on the autism spectrum. His best friend Zahid (Nik Dodani) decides to go to nursing school and looks to Sam for support. Doug (Michael Rapaport) is still trying to come to terms with Elsa’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) affair in season one. Sam’s younger sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), feels conflicted about her relationship with Evan (Graham Rogers) and the fact that she’s developing feelings for Izzie (Fivel Stewart).

Sam is thrust into a new world as soon as the season begins. Going to college as a freshman is already stressful enough, but being on the spectrum adds a whole new level of issues. For one, there’s an episode in which he focuses on a statistic that says that one out of five college students with autism don’t graduate from college. This consumes him for the entire episode and ends up having an effect on his class registration. However, he comes back from this after telling his loved ones that he doesn’t want to be one of those four that don’t graduate. This shows that he struggles but is determined to do as much as he can to graduate from college. Though the show has moved on from showing the episodes that Sam has because of his autism. implementing struggles like this demonstrates that the show didn’t completely ignore it .

Having gone through the college process and triumphed over my own obstacles, I related to some of the struggles that Sam, Zahid, and Paige (Jenna Boyd) went through this season. Paige had a rough time fitting in and adapting to this new environment, which was something that she never had to go through in high school. It’s relatable because it was written in such an authentic way. There’s a specific episode where she makes all her friends back home, including Sam, attend a dinner party just so that she wouldn’t feel alone. This sense of loneliness after moving away from a place you’ve been used to for such a long time is something that many freshmen and transfer college students face every year. From the perspective of a viewer, it reassured me that I wasn’t the only one experiencing struggles as a college student.

Elsa and Doug’s marriage has had its fair share of problems since the start of the show. With Elsa’s affair clouding Doug’s mind, he started to become much closer to Megan (Angel Laketa Moore). The way Atypical took this turmoil between Doug and Elsa was handled well. On one hand, Doug struggles to get over what happen and find a way to forgive Elsa. On the other, it would be much more simple to just walk away and start something new with Megan. Meanwhile, Elsa just wants Doug to forgive her but she can’t seem to understand how to make this happen. It’s a while before they make this realization in the show, but their journey to this point is an integral part of the show. Nothing is made simple for either of these characters, which shows me that the writers truly care for them.

Things can get complicated whenever a show has a central character coming to terms with their sexuality. All signs were pointing to Casey and Izzie holding hands as just something that would be quickly handed during the first episode. However, I was glad to see that it would just progress throughout the season rather than there being a definitive conclusion so early. The confusion that these feelings cause Casey was handled well. Izzie and Evan are two people that she cares for and doesn’t want to lose. Even though I don’t particularly care for Evan, the show found a way for me to empathize with him and the effect that Casey has on his life. The ultimate decision that Casey makes was quite surprising, but it never felt rushed or completely out of place. I’m eager to see what effect this has on the overall show if it gets a fourth season.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching the third season of Atypical. It did make me question some aspects of the new season, especially the love triangle and Sara Gilbert being cast as Sam’s Ethics teacher. I was excited to hear that she was going to be a part of the show but I expected her to have a larger role this season. However, every other aspect flowed really well. It had its comedic moments, especially with Zahid, but it also had those moments of true emotion. Even if you haven’t watched the show, I highly recommend checking out the last few minutes of the sixth episode, “The Essence of a Penguin.” It perfectly captures who Sam is as a person while also showing the superb writing that carries the show forward.

Atypical season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8.5/10 Penguin Colonies