- BOTTOM LINE: A predictable but largely memorable family drama
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
The season three of the sitcom Atypical navigates through the trials and tribulations of the Gardner’s family, through the eyes of Sam, an 18-year-old autistic child. Elsa and Dough, the parents of Sam and Casey Gardner are going through a rough patch in their marital life, and are on the verge of separation. Casey is yet to come to terms with her bisexual identity and thinks twice about revealing the truth to her wayward boyfriend Evan. Sam, meanwhile, is in his quest for more independence while also realising the importance of companionship after he joins grad-school. His world isn’t complete without his sister, best buddy Zahid and newfound romantic interest Paige.
One doubts if any actor would have been so much in the shoes of a character like Sam Gardner than Keir Gilchrist. The young actor shows the same comfort in essaying the role alike the other two seasons. His body language is an asset to the role, his expressional range is wide and there’s the right cinematic exaggeration to his portrayal to intrigue the viewer. Brigette Lundy-Paine as his sister Casey, camouflaging her ambiguities with her happy-go-lucky self, has an on-screen charm that’s hard to ignore.
Michael Rapaport and Jennifer Jason Leigh are quite a natural as a screen couple. Their glances are deep, the maturity in their demeanour shows and latter portrays her broken inner self so effectively that you truly resonate with her pain and conflicts. Nik Dodani as Zahid is the witty sidekick to the lead character that tries to liven the proceedings with his hyper-normal behaviour and he gets probably the best fleshed-out arc among his three-season appearances.
Fivel Stewart as Izzie has a brief yet a complex role, to which she does justice. Jenna Boyd is an energy ball who keeps up the spirits of the series and her equation with Sam is a delight to watch – the two are weird in their ways and are yet perfect for each other. Graham Rogers as Even is sincere while he lasts, reflecting the pain of a child who didn’t get his due of love from his parents and whose career is in real need of a direction.
The best part about Atypical across all the three seasons is its immensely watchable quality. The characters in the series are incredibly well rounded, have an identity of their own, aren’t shamed for their choices. The conversations are quite slice-of-life, humourous and sensitive at the same time. It addresses the messiness of our everyday lives, our inability to take critical decisions in the need of the hour and captures the essence of family life very well. Though the series is predominantly revolving around the life of an autistic child, the portrayal is normalised enough and also doesn’t undermine the difficulties of those going through the condition.
Every critical situation in the series is underlined by comparison with the life and activities of penguins in Antarctica (whose existence fascinates the protagonist). Though the situations may not be anything out-of-the-world, their treatment is very affecting. An autistic boy finds it difficult to match up to the regimen of graduation life but pushes his limits to survive the tricky phase. He’s caught between telling the larger truth to the boss of a gadget store (where he works parttime) and staying in the good books of his best friend but does the former. He’s learning to convey his point to those who necessarily mock him. He becomes the rock in his girlfriend’s life at a time she needs it the most. The creator Robia Rashid celebrates the little moments with such subtlety.
The series addresses the concerns of all of its characters on a holistic level and not of the primary character alone. The universality in it is unmissable. It doesn’t only mirror the anxieties of parents raising an autistic child but also focuses on the joys that a couple misses while becoming too busy in their jobs and trying to get the parenting aspect right. A sibling tries her best to be the protective sister to her naive brother, while also going through the motions with her sexuality. An undetermined boy from a dysfunctional family is trying to figure out his strengths while working at a pizza store. A young counsellor is trying hard to be the single parent of a just-born child. A depressed teenage girl doesn’t know what to do next when all her career plans go down crashing. The friendship, the teenage angst and confusion, the relationships are the soul of the story.
The flow of Atypical is very seamless and organic. Every narrative device, conflict fits into the picture so comfortably. While the narrative is flavourful, there are no cheap gimmicks in the storytelling too. The impact the series has on you is largely dependent on the backstories of its characters and that’s one reason this season might not work for viewers as a mere standalone viewing. On the flip side, the writers could have avoided the block surrounding Doug’s friendship with another woman as a possible cause for the rupture of his marriage. The subplot feels like a forced attempt to drive the basis behind an inevitable divorce.
It feels doubtful if the series would have another season and even if it does, would it be half as effective? Most characters in the series have found the purpose in their lives by now and there’s barely any new ground to achieve. Unless there’s a miraculous twist that turns the series on its head, another season doesn’t seem a possibility.
Music and Other Departments?
Not many series have managed to be this effective as a musical in context with the story. The music takes the story forward in many ways. The cinematography is simple, to-the-point and fits with the narrative like a glue. The editing deserved more sharpness this time around as the makers get too indulgent while establishing and re-establishing characters. The writing is among the best in the web space, it’s slightly old fashioned and straightforward – but that’s a good reason why it works too.
Highlights several issues relevant to this generation
Doesn’t quite work as a standalone season
The characters are re-established beyond necessity
An air of predictability
Will You Recommend It?
Atypical Season 3 Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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