Charming, endearing and delightfully wholesome! That’s the story of Atypical – a series that never really garnered an immense online presence, but one that stuck to its guns and delivered four fun, comedic and emotionally impactful seasons of TV. This final season focuses on the Gardner family as a whole and the big decisions they each need to make regarding their futures, especially Sam – who is on the cusp of embracing true independence.
The charm of the series, moreso in this final season, is its ability to give each character a sense of purpose and an arc that drives them forward through each episode. From the opening episode, it’s clear that this entire season has been written with the sole purpose of bringing every character’s series-long journey to a close. It has a clear goal and it never loses focus of that. Every episode, save for a brief lull throughout episode 5, manages to make the most of every minute – always ensuring that someone’s narrative is being furthered or something is being set up to be explored later on. For this reason, the season moves by at lightning pace. It’s so fun, wholesome, uplifting and enjoyable that you could roll through the entire season and wonder why it felt so short. These multiple storytelling avenues are also brilliantly intertwined. It’s not enough to just have the individual narratives without tying them together, otherwise it would feel more like a collection of vignettes as oppose to a cohesive series.
Getting through this season can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Each season before this has had the difficult task of balancing the more silly/comedic moments and the more serious/emotionally poignant scenes, and that’s no different here. That tonal balance is key to the identity of the show, and it flips back and forth from scene to scene with complete ease. Every character experiences drastic highs and lows along the way, creating plenty of fun moments, but also plenty of times where you really feel for them. There’s a definite attachment between character and audience that has grown over the seasons – and they honour that in this season by leaving essentially no stone left unturned.
Themes and messages have always been a big part of this series. It’s always felt like you could learn something from this series, whether it be about family, friendship, love or life, and that’s continued here. There’s a tad of social commentary and some brief exploration of social norms and issues that are present in today’s society – but it’s all weaved in very well and remains entertaining.
For the final time, I need to commend Keir Gilchrist for his truly impeccable performance as Sam. For someone who isn’t on the autism spectrum to portray someone who is in such a way that doesn’t come across as comical, and instead is almost flawlessly convincing, that must take a great deal of understanding and commitment to the role. The fact that none of his work here has been Emmy-nominated is a crime because he is an incredible lead. Everything from the delivery of his dialogue to the tiny mannerisms he puts into the performance is orchestrated perfectly, to the point where he never once deviates from character – not even for a second.
Then you’ve got the performances around Keir, who are all brilliant in their own ways. I’ll start with Michael Rapaport and Jennifer Jason Leigh who, together, share this on-screen bond which elevates the relationship between their characters immensely. Once again, Jennifer has the least to do in this season in terms of her own character’s arc. There’s definitely something there, but her role is moreso that she contributes to the arcs of the rest of her on-screen family. For that reason, its their combined performance that I found the most intriguing – something about the journey this couple has been on through the previous seasons elevated their scenes here. Brigette Lundy-Paine and Fivel Stewart are, once again, a highlight of the season when they’re together. Their chemistry leaps off the screen and their overall arc makes for some of the more dramatic content of the season.
I have to say, I wasn’t a massive fan of Nik Dodani’s Zahid in this season. The character has a neat little arc that does pay off in the end, but it felt like he was a little too out of place compared to previous seasons. Nothing against the performance of course, just that the writing felt a little off there. Lastly, Jenna Boyd’s performance as Paige is like the light shining over the entire season. She elevates Sam’s journey and shares great chemistry alongside Keir, while also getting us invested in her journey. She brings tonnes of positivity and the series would not have been the same without her. I must also highlight the increased representation of actors on the spectrum in this season with the extended presence of both Domonique Brown and Tal Anderson. It’s a brilliant touch and both of them do a great job in their respective scenes.
In the end, this is a great final season and very fitting way to close out each character’s respective narrative – going out on a definitive high. It’s funny, charming, emotional and effortlessly wholesome, really bringing a mix of emotions that ups the enjoyment factor and make the episodes fly by. It’s one of those rare shows where each season built off the last and got progressively better – a feat that isn’t achieved often. This season really does encapsulate everything we love about Atypical and is sure to hit home with fans who’ve loved the seasons before it.