Series creator Robia Rashid previously worked on ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ (Courtesy of Netflix)
“Atypical” is breaking out into the Netflix world as a more progressive approach to television. This comedy style drama features Keir Gilchrist as an autistic high schooler named Sam, who is navigating his way through his senior year and the harsh world of dating.
The show stands out in terms of representing the world of autism. However, the show falls a little short in showing the true struggles of autism. Throughout the show, Sam is bothered by loud noises, too many zippers on his jacket and weird textures. Yet he is able to effectively express his anger and feelings towards these issues. Sam is slowly learning how to navigate the real world on his own which most autistic people struggle with.
“Atypical” stands out within its own moments of ups and downs. Through all the madness of high school, Sam is able to provide a more light-hearted perspective. His strange behavior allows him to shine as a character more relatable to the audience. He tries his best to be independent by holding a steady job, for example. He even has a girlfriend named Paige. His struggles allow him to stand out and act as an inspiration to the audience.
But just how realistic is his demeanor? In real life it is much harder for someone with autism to obtain a job, let alone a girlfriend; especially considering Paige does not have autism. Sure he has his quirks like many others with autism, but he also has a much easier life so to speak. Sam is very honest and tends to blurt out what he is thinking, regardless if it will hurt the person. Oddly enough, that really is his biggest flaw and hardest struggle.
Through his struggle with autism the real problem is uncovered: his family is falling apart.
His sister struggles with her own identity of choosing what is right for her versus what is best for Sam. Sam’s mother seems to have a much harder time coping than most. She is very unsure of herself and how to help Sam. She turns to an affair, thinking it will solve her problems but in fact it only creates a much bigger problem for herself. Sam’s father is very confused. He wants nothing more than a close relationship with Sam, but fails to create one. He is unsure of how to cope with his autism or how to talk to Sam correctly. The dramatic aspect of the show is a way to emphasize the serious effects of autism on a family as a whole while still keeping the audience hooked.
Overall, the show puts emphasis on the basic struggles of autism, but fails to dig deeper. The show is funny, but also serious in ways unexpected. The aspect of a failing marriage creates a somber tone to the show instead of a comical sense that the show is trying to achieve. The show is struggling to achieve its intended purpose of representing autism correctly, but the acting and characters throughout are relatable nonetheless. Sam’s characteristics and his desire to do “normal” things are inspirational. Should a second season premiere the show could really stand a chance and shine and better represent the world of autism.
Final Grade: B