Atypical returns to Netflix for its third season off the back of a strong second season, and this time focuses on Sam (Keir Gilchrist) adjusting to college life and all of the scary changes that come from it.
What really brings this show to life is the ensemble of characters. Even though there are supporting characters, no one really feels like one as they all have an arc that ties together their story over the course of the season. It gives value to every scene and makes sure certain characters and storylines don’t feel like filler. It comes down to clever writing and the show’s ability to create a vested interest in not only Sam’s life but the lives of his entire family and the figures in his life. The 10-episode season flies by, and regardless of who the story was following, it remained entertaining. There might have been the occasional dip in some character arcs but nothing so extreme that it makes a noticeable impact on the show’s quality.
The story shines for its touching themes and how it handles some quite important and insightful topics with a dramatic eye and a deft touch of comedy. It’s this amalgamation of stories that all have their highs and lows but in the end, everyone grows from their experiences, no matter how bad they may be. So, I feel like there’s something in this series for everyone to learn or be reminded; basically that things can suck sometimes and it can be tough to push through certain scenarios, but in the end it’s all about growth, and whether things work out in long run or not, it’s important to think about the positives along the way. I feel like the messages like that, on top of the entertainment factor, are what craft this show into such a worthwhile watch.
The writing is one thing, but the performances are fantastic across the board and the chemistry between the lead cast makes the Gardner family feel real, a quality that really elevates the show. The on-screen bond shared between Keir Gilchrist, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Michael Rapaport and Jennifer Jason Leigh is seemingly unbreakable. Every conversation between them is focused on building character and moving the story forward even if it’s comedic-based. It really makes every scene thoroughly engaging once you’re aware you care about all of the characters. I will say, similar to what I said about the last season, Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn’t have the strongest character arc. She definitely has an arc and Jennifer is definitely strong in the role, but it’s more of a reactionary arc where her story is the only one that is directed almost exclusively by what’s going on around her. She stands out in her relationships with other characters but on her own her story doesn’t carry a substantial amount of weight.
The lead performance from Keir Gilchrist is undoubtedly the single greatest thing about this show. He embodies the character of Sam right down to the smallest mannerisms in his dialogue and visual performance, and as much as this is an ensemble piece, the essence of the show is really derived from his performance. The fact that, in one way or another, everything going on in everyone’s lives ties back to his character gives the series that focus it needs to really be enjoyable, as without focus this whole thing could become quite messy. I loved Brigette Lundy-Paine’s (Casey) arc more-so this season than the last, mainly due to the chemistry she shares with Fivel Stewart (Izzie) and how their relationship develops. There may be some frustrations that come with the character but her performance really captures the essence of what Casey values and the struggles she’s experiencing.
Jenna Boyd, who returns as Paige, really makes a special impact on the season, especially in the latter half. The role her character plays in Sam’s life makes her an integral part of the story, and she’s a ray of sunshine hovering over the entire series. I really enjoyed her character the most of all of the non-Gardner characters, and her performance and dialogue delivery really elevates the show both in terms of emotion and comedy. Amy Okuda also returns this season as Julia and I feel like her character really doesn’t need to be here. Her arc with Sam has ended so her presence in the show feels more forced than natural. It’s nothing on her performance, I quite like her character, but she doesn’t have much, if anything, to do in this season.
In the end, Atypical retains the same charm and emotionally engaging storytelling that has worked for it so far to deliver a strong third season. Strong performances, a focused story and great chemistry amongst the cast make this series as enjoyable and moving as it is thought provoking and emotional. As long as the series can retain its focused story, sense of originality and nice touch of comedy I could easily take another 3 seasons of this.