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Atypical Is Awesomely Typical

I finished the two seasons of the original Netflix series Atypical. The show is a teen comedy drama about high school senior Sam (played by Keir Gilchrist) making his way through high school with the help of his close friend and tech store workmate Zahid (played by Nik Dodani), his love interest Paige (played by Jenna Boyd) and his family. Although the story focuses on how Sam, someone who is on the spectrum, differs from neurotypicals in behavior and thought process, his struggles, awkwardness and drama were relatable to any person watching the show. His friends and family try their best to help Sam fit into society and high school. However, it is ironic that Sam’s constant attempt to imitate societal norms to fit in is the exact thing that made him fit into society. I could not help but relate to Sam’s failed attempts at attracting girls, making friends or his love of Antarctic facts (who wouldn’t love penguins). The show is filled with heart warming scenes between family members, comedic scenes, and eye opening scenes about some of the struggles that people with Autism deal with.

Some of the most touching scenes are between Sam and his younger sister and track star Casey (played by Bridgette Lundy-Paine). As a track athlete myself, the inaccurate and unrealistic track and running scenes make me cringe. Her over exaggerated love-hate-mostly hate relationship with her mom can be irritating. However, those moments are easy to look past when Casey reveals her caring nature. Deterring from her relationship with her brother for a moment, Casey often shows herself as not just being a good athlete but a caring friend and girlfriend. The sudden changes in the family show her irrational, passive aggressive nature. However, despite all of he drama in her home, she finds time and ways to protect her brother. My favorite scene is the hug she gives Sam during her 16th birthday party. Her tone, her embrace, Sam’s receptiveness of the hug makes you want to call your own sibling to tell them you love them.

Although Zahid is often the comedy relief, I prefer to point out a scene involving him, Sam and a police officer. After a failed attempt of a sleepover at Zahid’s house, Sam walks home late at night in the midst of a moment of nervousness. The interaction between Sam and the officer was a reminder of some of the difficulties that people on the spectrum have. Because many professionals, particularly those in medical care and law enforcement, are not trained to recognize signs for mental disabilities, interactions can become frightening for those involved. Had Zahid not come to save the day on his trusty scooter, the interaction between Sam and the officer could have been worse.

Oddly enough, some of the most comedic scenes were the interactions between Sam’s therapist Julia (played by Amy Okuda) and him and his parents Elsa (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Doug (played by Michael Rapaport). Julia’s facial expressions throughout the show, particularly season 2, made small, random scenes funny. Despite Julia’s own romantic problems and strained relationship with Sam and his family, she often finds herself aware of Sam’s important life events. Her constant attempt to remain professional and calm despite the jarring, surprising and sometimes comical news she receives from Sam is something we all can understand.

The show does an excellent job of making sure the characters and story revolve around Sam while simultaneously giving each character a unique personality, story and depth of their own. In fact, that aspect of the show alone makes this show such an accurate depiction of life as someone on the spectrum or someone who is friends with, romantically involved with or related to someone on the spectrum. There is a character for almost everyone to love or relate to. I am excited for Season 3.

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