'Atypical' Season 3 [spoiler-free] review: A well-rounded storytelling of romance, young adulthood, sexuality, and individuality
When 'Atypical' premiered a couple of years ago, it faced a ton of criticism from the special needs communities for its myopic way of looking at the life of a young man learning to live his life in a world that was not conscious of his challenges. As heartwarming as it was to see a type of character so under-represented take on our screens, we also had to acknowledge that it was problematic to not only cast neurotypical actor Keir Gilchrist - talented as he may be - as the protagonist Sam Gardner, but also to not have enough people on the spectrum in the writing room, or as other members of cast.
However, with season 2, the show evolved and we learned that Robia Rashid takes constructive criticism very seriously, having cast people in the spectrum as consultants and writers on the show. With season 3 she cements this intent to do better, and we love 'Atypical' all the more for it. Unlike the previous seasons, we see a well-rounded approach of storytelling where the focus is on Sam's education, friendships, romantic life, and everything else in between.
Season 3 begins right where season 2 finale left off, and we get the answers to all our questions right away - well, not right away, but we get a taste of the answers in the very first episode. Sam just admitted to being in love with Paige (Jenna Boyd) and as expected, they decide to move forward with a summer of romance and continue a long-distance relationship. Over the last two seasons, Paige has been depicted as over-the-top and intense, but we have seen glimpses of her love and loyalty as well, especially towards the end of the last season.
This time around, however, we see just how understanding and loving she can really be, and we can't help but fall in love with her. Another person we truly love this season and surprisingly so, is Evan (Graham Rogers), who just blows us away with how amazing a boyfriend he is, and more importantly how great a human being. He refuses to live up to society's expectations of him and makes life-changing decisions only when he is truly ready. This aspect of him stands out this season because we see Sam pursuing a lesson in individuality.
Overwhelmed by college and a host of new friends, we see Sam struggling to get a grip on things, especially because he tries to prove that he can do everything his peers can. However, he learns - with a little help from Evan and Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) - that everyone gets things done in their own way at their own time. He is more open to learning his lessons in life this season and growth since Season 1 is beautiful to watch. We see him taking risks for his friends, breaking the rules for the sake of the people he cares for, and making bad personal decisions to make the people he loves happy.
Another plus point about the show is the realistic timeline they employ to show grief, breakup, sexual awakening, questioning of sexuality, and so on. You want things to move on, but you appreciate that important topics and events aren't being glossed over. It is an overwhelmingly beautiful season and you will want to binge-watch it, not just because of the cliffhangers, but also because of the metaphorical blanket of love that the show wraps you in.
So, come November 1, don't forget to head on over to Netflix and watch the new season of 'Atypical', which we are grading a respectable A-.