This article contains spoilers for Season 2 of Atypical.
Season two of Atypical opens with the superimpose “2004”, showing Sam looking overwhelmed at a girl’s birthday party while everyone is singing happy birthday. He then proceeds to cover his ears and scream. Flash forward to his parents arguing about whether his tantrums are not are something to be concerned about. Doug says that every kid throws tantrums once in a while, but Elsa thinks there is more behind it, and there is. Later on in that year, Sam gets diagnosed with autism. Season two mainly tackles Sam taking part in a new peer group led by his high school counselor. But in between all of that, Casey is adjusting to Clayton Prep, Doug and Elsa are trying to mend their relationship, and Julia (Sam’s former therapist) is learning to accept her pregnancy.
The main theme throughout this season of the show is learning to adjust to change and accept it and not to run away.
The writing for the show is impeccable, you can tell that the writers know how teenagers actually talk. Usually, movies or TV shows with high schoolers make them sound like forty-year-olds desperately trying to sound like a teen. The characters don’t feel too flawed or too perfect, they feel like normal people. Sam isn’t one-dimensional. He’s not just that character with autism. He has interests and a personality and is well rounded.
Throughout the season, every character has major blunders but they aren’t villainized. As Sam, Doug and Casey are adjusting to their new family dynamic because of Elsa’s past mistakes, the tension is believable. Doors are slammed. Characters react in ways that make sense. Trust is shattered. Dialogue during these moments is raw and unfiltered. Doug expresses his coldness towards Elsa by saying, “You threw a grenade into our lives.” Later on in the season, the two attempt co-parenting and the script captures the struggle and awkwardness of it all, specifically with how Doug takes charge of dealing with Sam’s autism.
Sam’s voiceover leads and paces the story throughout every episode, just like the first season.
Narration is a very tricky tool because it can easily feel like someone is telling the story instead of enhancing it. Atypical makes sure to show and not tell, with Sam giving necessary commentary about the situations at hand and tying everything up at the end. During this, he usually speaks in metaphors that go with the episode’s overall theme.
The creator, writer, and executive producer of Atypical– Robia Rashid has other great projects attached to her name such as How I Met Your Mother and The Goldbergs, for which she has also helped produce. Both of those shows were sitcoms on major television networks, and Atypical stands out in her body of work because it’s a Netflix original coming-of-age tale. While this show does have many comedic moments, (most coming from Sam’s best friend and coworker Zahid, played by Nik Dodani) I feel like most of the show is more coming-of-age centric and is different than most of Rashid’s catalogue.
None of the acting throughout Atypical seems forced, Keir Gilchrist stays consistent with Sam’s mannerisms and doesn’t overreact during emotionally demanding scenes. Brigette Lundy-Paine embodies Casey Gardner as a candid and defensive younger sister, never being afraid to call out Elsa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh captures the overbearing but caring mother very well, constantly making sure everything is okay with everyone multiple times before feeling any sense of relief. Michael Rapaport plays the strong but sometimes distant father, Doug, who is now the head of the house. Rapaport’s facial expressions show disdain, making the audience wary about what happens next, especially between Doug and Elsa.
Atypical is an outstanding coming-of-age comedy that handles characters with autism very well, not making them one-dimensional. The show flawlessly transitions into its many different subplots for each character without getting too messy or excessive. Everything and everyone has a purpose in the show, big or small, and most loose ends are tied up in the final episode. I’m just hoping there’s a season three!
Season two of Atypical can be streamed on Netflix right now.
Featured Image via Netflix