I was a big fan of Atypical‘s pilot, but I had no idea I would grow to love the show this much by the end of its first season.
It would have been far too easy for the show to be an over-the-top cartoon, but Atypical tackles the story of an 18-year old boy with autism in a very thoughtful manner. It respects the subject manner and its individual characters every step of the way. In fact, this debut season is perfectly plotted. Across eight episodes, the show delivers a clear narrative with believable character development and not a single bit of filler in sight. I love short seasons because they allow shows to bypass superfluous subplots and concentrate on what matters, and Atypical does this with flying colors. By the end of the year, every character ends up in a different place than they were in the pilot.
I raved about Keir Gilchrist’s performance as Sam Gardner in the pilot, but his work throughout the rest of the season is even more impressive. Sam doesn’t smile much, but Gilchrist still conveys a world of emotions through the tiniest looks and gestures. In addition, Sam’s brutal honesty is a hoot; he’s predictably inappropriate (without meaning to be), and it’s just so refreshing to hear a character speak his mind so often. Honestly we could all stand to be a little more like Sam – the world would be a much more honest place.
And really the greatest thing about this show is that it highlights a disability while still managing to be an empowering story. It’s not just Sam that’s inspiring, it’s his devoted mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh somewhat grew on me by the finale), his sarcastic and overprotective sister (Brigette Lundy-Paine is the show’s secret weapon), and his insecure but caring father (how can you not like Michael Rappaport?). I love this family, and I can’t wait to spend more time with them in season two.
An extremely lovable coming-of-age dramedy that’s easy to watch and narratively satisfying. Highly recommended.