Though flawed, Netflix show ‘Atypical’ is still good enough to binge


Photo from Netflix, used with permission under fair use.

“Atypical” sticks true to its title as it portrays autism in a way viewers who have little understanding of the chromosomal disorder will comprehend.

This Netflix comedy attempts to stray from autism cliches but still maintain enough variety to avoid being stereotypical. “Atypical” follows Sam (Keir Gilchrist), a high schooler on the autism spectrum, dealing with daily life. But while the show revolves around Sam, his family and especially the mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) have difficulties with their lives just as Sam does.

Elsa and her struggles to be the perfect mom have an undertone of OCD, but she fails to make her character relatable. The casting decision for Leigh to be Elsa was sub par, in my opinion, as most scenes with her are cringey and her acting decisions are some that viewers would not champion. Her character overall was not a favorable one, but the dislike of a characters personality does not deem the show bad.

Sam was cast brilliantly, as his acting as an average teenager still maintains the perception of the world from somebody on the autism spectrum. Netflix’s decision to place Sam in high school makes him relatable to the viewers, as he has to deal with the same struggles all teenagers do but incorporates the increased difficulties he has to overcome being autistic. The contrast of his sister’s struggles and Sam’s struggles heighten the overarching theme of the show, that autism does not prevent progress, but rather makes the process a bit more difficult.

But, one fault of the show is Sam’s family. His family acts as if Sam’s autism is a new discovery, despite them knowing it all his life. Netflix probably did this to allow the failures of the family as comedic, but it ends up causing some lapses in the plot. These lapses include his father’s inability to come to terms with his son having autism, which doesn’t make sense considering that he has had 18 years to process it.

The father, Doug (Michael Rapaport) is ignorant to his son’s difficulties, and his acting choices make it unsure to the audience of whether or not the ignorance was intended. The director’s choice to have him as uneducated makes him disliked, as he doesn’t understand Sam and has had all of Sam’s life to learn about it.

Overall, “Atypical” is well worth watching, as you gain knowledge about autism but also become emotionally connected with Sam as he makes his way through high school.