Atypical: An eye-opening glimpse into life ‘on the spectrum’
Whilst being a heart-warming, coming of age TV series revolving around the life of a teenage boy and his family, Atypical delves into the realities of Autism in a way no other TV show has done before. Through comedy and wit, the show accurately allows us to observe the world through the innocent eyes of a teenager on the autism spectrum, Sam Gardner, making us proud of his triumphs and sympathetic with his downfalls during his journey to finding romance and independence.
Season One primarily revolves around introducing Sam as an intelligent teenager, who lacks an understanding of social cues and takes every situation very literally, simultaneously inducing humour and awareness of the entailments of autism. Sam’s quest to find himself a girlfriend is both charming and tastefully humorous, though his attempts in the dating world often wither down to awkward encounters with women. He treats dating like a school project, viewing it as a formulaic, strategic process. He is misled by his best friend Zahid to create a rulebook on how to communicate with girls, which he, much to our entertainment, applies to every single girl he meets. His lack of understanding for social norms becomes particularly apparent through his inability to comprehend the boundaries between him and his therapist Julia, whom he develops a crush on and strives to destroy her current relationship with her boyfriend.
Alongside Sam’s romantic escapades, the creator of the show Robia Rashid ensures that Sam’s family are provided with a narrative, demonstrating the daily struggles and successes they have in supporting Sam, particularly paying attention to the hardships the Gardner family endured immediately preceding his diagnosis as a child and initiating a dishonest mentality within their family. Therefore, despite his different way of viewing the world, Sam’s refreshingly truthful presentation of himself throughout the series draws attention to the problems ‘neurotypicals’ often guiltlessly dismiss such as dishonesty. Sam’s condition extends beyond a mere neurobehavioral condition, to allow him to serve as the moral compass of the show. With his overt honesty and literal approach to situations, Sam is puzzled by this and questions his family as to why they continuously lie. Over the course of the two seasons, his immediate family members eventually come to the realisation that they should be more like Sam with his pure perspective of the world, particularly after Sam verbally and publicly condemns his mother as ‘the biggest liar he knows.’ This illuminating perspective of how a ‘neurotypical’ world can become so corrupt with injustice, lies and selfishness is evidently critiqued by Rashid, through juxtaposing the untainted, innocence of Sam with the tainted world he lives in.
Much to our dismay, the Season Two finale left Atypical viewers with many probing questions and shocking cliffhangers. Given its popularity and praise for representing people with autism, Atypical was renewed in October 2018, and it is believed that it will continue directly from where the second season ended.
With Sam’s continuously growing independence and maturity, Season Three is already set up for an engaging, moving storyline.