The fourth season of Atypical is a heart-warming farewell
In the fourth and final season of this charming comedy/drama series about an autistic teen (now young man), the Gardner family embraces new beginnings as storylines are neatened to allow us to bid them farewell with a tiny tear and a wave of the hanky, and wish them well on their way.
Get up to speed here.
Sam, played by non-autistic Keir Gilchrist, is still front and centre of the ensemble. He and best friend Zahid (Nik Dodani) move into an apartment together (a really nice one, so as an aside, you can wonder how they can afford it) but not without some challenges; living with a person, no matter how much you love them, can bring all sorts of unexpected problems.
On top of that, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Sam’s mom, is struggling to let go. She’s always been a helicopter parent, and her lesson is to learn to curb that – something she’s been trying to do since Season 1. Just wait until she finds out Sam is planning to go to Antarctica – alone – to work with his beloved penguins. This arc runs throughout the season, with numerous ups and downs.
Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), easily the most likeable character, is in line for a track scholarship to UCLA so she’s training, training, training and not much else, leading her to do some soul searching and question if it’s really worth it. In Sam’s sister’s personal life, she and girlfriend Izzie (Fivel Stewart) are positively blooming with new love but Casey still has to find the right way and moment to come out to her father Doug (Michael Rappaport), who is literally the last one to know.
Paige (Jenna Boyd) is still around as Sam’s girlfriend, and you have to admire how she deals with him and what most of us with little understanding would perceive as his outright rudeness coupled with lack of boundaries and socially inappropriate behaviour. There’s much to take away from Atypical in terms of patience and empathy.
At work, Paige is dressed as a potato before being promoted to management, but she also has to do some deep introspection and decide whether this is the career for her.
Zahid faces a health crisis, and through these experiences, Sam does a bit of emotional evolution himself, realising he can care about the feelings of others, especially those close to him.
The supporting cast in Sam’s peer group at college contribute to side-scenes throughout, giving insight into the condition. All the characters are played by individuals with the developmental disorder, and were introduced in Season 2 after criticism of how autistic characters were portrayed.
“There’s a commonly used phrase when talking about autism spectrum disorder (ASD): If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. That’s because no two people are alike, so it’s little wonder that while some aspects of Sam – played by non-autistic actor Keir Gilchrist – strike a chord with some, others just can’t relate,” says ABC News, Australia.
“Netflix’s sitcom about an autistic teenager’s road to independence reaches its final season, dealing with big themes in a way that is sweet but not saccharine,” says The Guardian. “As it has progressed through the seasons, it has gained an emotional maturity and a new level of depth and warmth.”
The conclusion of Atypical is a quick and fulfilling weekend binge, and although on the surface it looks like just another series, there are meaningful takeaways if you dig a little deeper.