Netflix recently released season 4 of “Atypical” and there is a lot to unpack in this comedic and heartfelt series that centers around Sam Gardner’s (Keir Gilchrist) experience as a young man with autism. Despite major popularity and a recent award for Seal of Authentic Representation from The Ruderman Family Foundation, season 4 will be the last season of “Atypical.”
We’ve come to love the quirky characters many of which made a comeback this season. Of course we have Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Doug Gardner (Michael Rapaport), Sam’s beloved, overbearing parents. We also get to dive more into Casey’s (Brigette Lundy-Paine) experience of finding her identity, while juggling her relationship with Izzie (Fivel Stewart) and the pressures of earning a track scholarship to UCLA. We have some other familiar faces that get more air time this time around, such as Sam’s friends he made in season 3, Sidney (Tal Anderson) and Jasper (Dominique Brown).
“Atypical” has received some scrutiny in the past for casting a neurotypical actor as Sam, which is ironic due to the title of the series being “Atypical.” Representation matters, down to the actor’s personal experience, so it’s backhanded to include representation only halfway. Some fans of the show have expressed that they felt his character wasn’t a proper representation of those with autism, as his behavior and characteristics are a little off. Other’s have defended the series by saying every person has their own unique experience, so technically Sam’s character does display proper representation. At the end of the day, only somebody with the lived experience can portray Sam’s character accurately.
Since the backlash, the series has casted actors who have lived the experience of having autism, such as Tal Anderson who plays Sidney, or Sid for short. What’s more is that Anderson has stated before that she never saw herself on tv growing up, so to be casted in a role where she can be herself and give other little girls alike a chance to feel seen, is a major accomplishment in her book. With that said, Anderson’s character is phenomenal. She’s blunt, hilarious and a motivator. We see her consistently handing out the honest truth and pushing Sam to be a better version of himself. I think we all need a little bit of Sid in our lives.
Back in season 3, we were left off with Sam tackling college life, from making deadlines to dealing with merciless professors. Just when Sam seems to be maneuvering his way through these obstacles, he’s hit with a sad reality of most first year students: academic probation. In an attempt to find his true passion, Sam impulsively decides to take on a risky adventure and once Sam’s mind is made up, there is no stopping him.
At this point, I would like to give an honorable mention to Paige (Jenna Boyd) for her outgoing nature, on-point outfits and patience with Sam. It’s never easy to find someone who just gets you and for Sam, that person is Paige. She knows how to talk to him, how to maneuver his emotions and overall, just is a fantastic friend and partner to him. Paige’s support throughout the show is honestly inspirational. We all can learn from Paige; her sincerity doesn’t go unnoticed.
This season brings us even more drama with Casey and Izzie’s relationship. The two have had a rocky relationship from the start, with secrecy, individual struggles and questioning. As we know from past seasons, Izzie wasn’t as open about her sexuality and Casey more so just went with the flow. In this season, Izzie has found her people in a GSA (gay-straight alliance) group at school and is more comfortable expressing herself, whereas Casey struggles to find where she fits in due to not being able to relate to those in the group as much as she thought. She also hasn’t come out about her relationship with Izzie to her dad, Doug, in fear of how he’ll view her.
It’s important to add both perspectives of Izzie and Casey because coming out doesn’t always look or feel how it should and for Casey, this reigns true. Though Izzie was able to sort herself out a lot quicker, Casey silently battles her inner demons and often looks to running track as her escape. Track used to be an outlet for Casey but now seems like a chore with all the pressure being placed on her, from her dad especially. There’s a sense of disconnect between Casey and Doug throughout this season and though Casey doesn’t outright express her emotions, her pain screams through her silence. It’s not hard to feel her loneliness and emptiness, while everybody around her acts like everything is fine.
“Atypical” will be dearly missed. We’ve watched all of the characters grow into their roles and never missing a beat with the entertainment aspect. This series has given us comedy, romance, drama and even anxiousness while eagerly waiting for each season’s release. The actors of the series have problem-solved the series’s cancellation; Brigette announced on her Instagram page that there’s a petition for a Cazzie (Casey and Izzie) spin-off where fans can sign, in hope’s Netflix will approve the show. If you’re a fan and wish to see the two make a comeback, you can sign the petition here. Only a few more signatures until the petition reaches its goal.
“Atypical” is available to stream on Netflix.
By Mia Godorov