Netflix’s coming-of-age dramedy Atypical has returned with a second season continuing Sam’s journey of self discovery as he continues his search for love and independence.
Atypical is a beautifully charming blend of comedy, emotion, and drama as it explores what it’s like for a person with autism to come of age in today’s society. Atypical benefits from being able to explore a range of emotions and tones that shift rapidly within each episode as per the nature of its main character. Sam’s (Keir Gilchrist) journey is at the forefront of the story and it is so enthralling to watch how he deals with new and familiar situations in ways no other character can or would. He’s an endlessly loveable protagonist whose side you are on the entire time due to almost always viewing the world from his perspective. His autism in the show gives him a unique perspective on life but one that this show and specifically this season looks at in a beautiful way. There is a recurring theme of what is ‘normal’ in this season and the way this is explored through Sam’s interactions with other characters I will say is fantastic. But what makes Sam’s character that much more engaging is the performance from Keir Gilchrist which is just phenomenal. He plays the role so well and portrays a teen with autism so realistically you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking maybe it isn’t part of the character. It adds to the realism and believability of the show which all leads to better engagement. Now it may not be a perfect depiction but it’s definitely strong enough for me to buy.
It isn’t just Sam who has an engaging story and development arc through the season as all of the main cast are fighting their own personal battles and each one is interesting in their own right. Sam has the benefit of his voiceover which guides the episodes forward and gives more of an insight into his thought process but the rest of his family do still get their time to shine. His mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his father Doug (Michael Rapaport), and his sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) all have their own arcs and their all weighted pretty evenly. The family relationship and family dynamic is one of the show’s greatest strong points for me. Whether it’s just Sam and Casey, or Sam and Doug, or whether it’s the whole caboodle the back and forth interactions are hilarious, emotional, and riveting. As far as the performances go from the three of them they are great. There’s nothing too spectacular there but they bring a good amount of heart to the story and are the best when Keir Gilchrist is with them. However, Elsa’s character is one who has snippets of an interesting and engaging story that have me on her side but at the same time she’s the most frustrating character to watch. This is mainly due to some of her character’s decisions in the first and second season making her not really all that likeable. But despite being my least favourite character she has her moments that I can enjoy watching.
Outside of the main cast there are some supporting characters who stand out well above the crowd. Firstly, Zahid (Nik Dodani) is a national treasure, you never know what he’s going to say but what you do know is that whatever it is it will be straight up hilarious. A lot of the comedy comes through Zahid because almost everything the kid says got a pretty big laugh out of me. His unpredictable nature is a blessing in a show that sometimes does fall into the trap of going down a somewhat predictable route. My favourite supporting character is undoubtedly Paige played amazingly by Jenna Boyd. Her character is so full of life and always upbeat that she’s like a shining light in every scene she’s in. I would absolutely love much more of Paige if the show moves ahead with a third season. Sam’s ex-therapist Julia (Amy Okuda) returns in this season and although she had a small arc in here I don’t think this season really called for her return. She has a small handful of scenes that do fit in but the majority of her arc could have been cut out and I don’t think anything valuable would have been lost. But one thing’s for sure, Edison is the life of the party.
In the end, I very much enjoyed season 2 of Atypical maybe even a little more than the first season. I thought this season explored more of each family member’s struggles a little deeper than the last and had a few more engaging story arcs going on. The family dynamic played a strong part and I loved how it touched on the theme of ‘what is normal?’… It still has its ups and downs in terms of pacing and a couple of issues with characters outlined above but it’s overall a very strong season. There’s a tonne of emotion involved in how it follows Sam’s search for love and independence which is great. The season leaves a few characters in an interesting place that I most certainly wouldn’t be opposed to seeing continue in a third season.