Atypical season four review – hearty autism comedy matures | Television
Atypical is aptly named in more than one way. The Netflix show has the look of an ordinary American sitcom, with half-hour episodes, and chronicles the trials and tribulations of a nuclear family. However, over the seasons, he gained emotional maturity and a new level of depth and warmth. It tells the story of Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), a teenage boy with autism who begins to explore what it might mean to be independent from his family, who all face their own issues while trying to figure out the world from there. from his perspective.
He skilfully spins his many plates. This is its fourth and final season, and there have been adventures, breakups, coming-out stories, and lots of penguin conversations. Now Sam has moved out of the family home and lives with his best friend Zahid, a stoner whose casual approach conflicts with some of Sam’s more rigid routines. Zahid forgets to pay his bills and enjoys buying in bulk. At one point, he sits on a throne of toilet rolls, which would have been obscene in April 2020; in these well-stocked times, the toilet roll has become a punchline again.
Living with roommates is a life lesson that many young people need to learn, whether they have autism or not; some of us still shudder at the memory of attempts to color-code a cleaning “spin” that is quickly abandoned in a horror show of crispy pans and clogged caps. As well as figuring out how to coexist peacefully with Zahid – who develops more serious issues himself later in the series – Sam tries to keep up with his college work, which is more difficult than he thought. These seemingly mundane concerns lead to intelligent meditations on ambition and accomplishment, what it means to discover one’s purpose, and how much it takes to sacrifice to get there.
Elsewhere in the Gardner house, Sam’s sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) is now dating her best friend Izzie and trying to find out if and how she fits into the private school she attends thanks to a sports scholarship. . Her ambitions have always been to find her way to another scholarship at a good university, and she is, as one character puts it, “very fast”; the problem is that it is crumbling under the weight of everyone’s expectations. While her mother, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is thrilled with this new relationship, Doug (Michael Rappaport) is far from enamored of it and the drama it brings to his daughter’s life.
Neither Doug nor Elsa are in a strong position to judge, however, as both are still recovering from betrayals of some sort, whether recent or historical. This is where Atypical really excels. It reminds me of watching the My So-Called Life drama as a teenager in the 90s, and deciding that parenting stories were boring distractions, then revisiting the show as an adult and being amazed at the richness and poignantness of these adult scenes. Here, too, the lives and dilemmas of parents are poignant. Doug experiences shock and grief, but is unable to talk about it, just as he was unable to cope with Sam’s needs when Sam was a small child. Izzie’s mother is a free spirit of tarot reading who adores Casey but neglects the needs of her own daughter. Elsa is instinctively angry, but the show traces this back to her own mother, who at an older age became a role model parent. There are almost always layers upon layers, and that’s deceptively smart.
While the series deals with big themes – it deals with cancer, death, disappointment and dementia – it treats them with lightness and tenderness. Sam’s college friends, mostly played by disabled actors, provide much of the comedic relief, and the decision to focus on them more this time around is a smart one. Tal Anderson’s Sid, in particular, really makes sense. Each episode asks its characters to learn something about themselves and the world, which they inevitably do, and the resolution is invariably healthy. In almost any other show I would find this seriousness unbearable, but that says a lot about Atypical’s charm that he feels good and sweet, but never sweet. I think it’s because it sounds totally anticynical, and that lack of cynicism is rare and charming.
Not all storylines reach high marks, and there is a definite feeling, as the season progresses, that Atypical is ending, having taken his course and said what he had to say. But it’s a beautiful show, celebrating difference, adaptability and an open approach to life. In the sometimes stagnant world of half-hour sitcoms, that’s itself refreshing.