Season 3 of Atypical shows the kind of consistency most shows can’t maintain, but that isn’t without one negative thing still being done.
|Elsa||Jennifer Jason Leigh|
|Megan||Angel Laketa Moore|
|Gretchen||Allie Rae Treharne|
|Elsa’s Mom||Jenny O’Hara|
Sam’s College Experience
Consistency and growth are the two major terms that have to be used when talking about Atypical and especially Sam. But on top of these two terms, there is also a need to give a nod to the show fighting against the preconceived notions of its characters and sometimes even its audience. For example, Sam being in college, one which doesn’t cater to those with ASD, at all, could set a precedent in a multitude of ways. For those with autism, even though Gilchrist isn’t autistic, there is still this character acting as a guide to the experience. An experience that also informs those who are atypical so that they can be more empathetic rather than possibly watch someone like Sam struggle and do nothing.
But on top of Sam being seen, what also matters is him asking for her. For we see him struggle to try and reinvent himself and see the challenges in doing so. Making him breaking down and realizing, if he is going to make it, he will need services, important. Now, does the show go deep into the various services and let us see them in action? Not really. But knowing something or someone exists is sometimes more important than seeing them in action. Especially since experiences can vary.
While tough guy Casey is always a sight to see and love, it is when Casey gets emotional that you really get to see Lundy-Paine’s talent as an actress. Specifically, the scenes where we see her struggling with her emotions towards Izzie and Evan, and there is also one when Sam discovers she is queer, and you can see him act as the litmus test of what’s to come. For you can never really know how someone will react until you give them the opportunity to do so. Making Sam accepting her such a touching moment.
But, in general, what you have to appreciate about Lundy-Paine is that she is often the funniest person on this show yet also the most vulnerable. I mean, take Casey’s breakup with Evan. Seeing her allow Elsa to console her is a big thing, for Casey wants to be the complete opposite of Elsa in nearly anyway humanly possible. So seeing them embrace? How could you not get teary-eyed? And, generally speaking, when it comes to getting that emotional, Casey is usually a catalyst.
Evan’s Small Town Boy Attitude
Though we have to acknowledge one of the reasons Evan didn’t want to leave and venture wherever Casey wanted to was his sister and mom, you have to appreciate the idea that not needing to see the world was in there as well. That’s important for there is always this idea of moving to the city, finding ways to become rich, and these dreams that, once you hit your mid to late 20s, can break you. With Evan, on the other hand, he seemed genuinely happy just to have a job he likes, his best gal, and a car that may act up, but generally works.
That small-town vibe is just rare, and you have to love someone not necessarily ashamed of it. Not to imply him becoming an EMT was meant to counter that idea, but more so expand the dream. For, like Doug, he could still remain in town but find a job that won’t rely on him working forever to either inherit the business or possibly use what he learned to start his own. Casey pushing him seemed to mix and eventually respect him not wanting to go to college, or change his life too much, yet give him room to expect more out of himself and see there are multiple ways to become successful.
Elsa Showing Signs of Growth
Elsa doesn’t necessarily take leaps and bounds this season, but she preps for it. As it becomes clear Doug may not come around, she brings up separation, looks into college, and preps for life after Doug. Those baby steps may not seem like a big deal for some, but with her dedicating her life to Doug, Sam, and Casey, when she allows, Elsa thinking about herself and putting her future before others, that’s a big deal.
Granted, in the end, she ends up back with Doug, but that doesn’t mean things will be paused again. After all, Casey is a junior talking about moving halfway across the country, and with Sam possibly moving out, that means she will have a lot of me-time. That and time to really pick up where she and Doug left off before having children.
The beautiful thing about Paige is that she seems like that character who never got her just due from the shows you watched growing up. She’s that overachieving nerd that, as high strong as she is, there is something so human about her you can’t help but grow attached.
In season 3, that becomes especially true, for we see Paige struggle in ways we haven’t before. Her not fitting in at her dream school, dropping out, shifting gears, and losing a sense of who she is, it made her human in ways her connection with Sam never did. Which is important. The fact Paige evolved with Sam not really being involved in that. Instead, it was all her with the encouragement of Casey and Elsa.
Which does leave the fact we didn’t see her parents a bit of a disappointment but isn’t a big enough deal to shift this to an “On The Fence” topic.
Doug & Elsa’s Path
Admittedly, there were times I just wanted them to end things. Doug, once he learned the mindset which allowed Elsa to cheat, it seemed like he wanted to reproduce that with Megan so Elsa could know how he felt. But, thanks to Casey’s track meet, they finally had the type of conversation they couldn’t in couples therapy. One which allowed them both to understand the root of their issues and find some kind of solution. And while, yes, two seasons waiting for that seemed a bit long, but it is also realistic. For being cheated on is not something you can easily recover from.
But shout out to the show for having the woman cheat and the man taking her back. Usually, it is the other way around.
The Handling Of Gretchen
Like with Nate in the last season, Gretchen isn’t allowed any form of complexity. Well, at first it seemed like she could. Her challenging Sam to understand he is capable of debate made her appear like a welcomed new character. One who didn’t just roll with the punches and also was forcing Zahid to grow up.
However, in time, she disappeared, and all we saw is the effect she had on Zahid off-screen. Thus making her someone we’re supposed to hate despite having qualities that could have made her one of the more interesting characters on the show.
On The Fence
Zahid Going To Nursing School
For most of the show, Zahid has primarily operated as Sam’s best friend and an Indian version of the Black best friend trope. But, between meeting his parents in season two and us being told he went to nursing school this season, there was a push for him becoming something more. Sadly, this was never seen. Like his relationship with Gretchen, we were mostly told what was going on and barely saw a thing. Making it so, as much as you want to praise this development, you feel cheated by not getting to see it.
Not Getting To Really Know Elsa’s Mom
At least 3 times, we see Elsa’s mom, but she probably doesn’t get to say more than one or two paragraphs throughout the whole season. That seemed like a missed opportunity considering the role she played in Elsa’s life, and how she formed as a person, alongside her influence on Doug and Elsa’s relationship. So to see her solely as this quiet, apologetic woman, one who sometimes seems like she has early-stage Alzheimer’s, at best it seems like the show is setting up stuff to explore in season 4. At worse? Possibly more could have been planned but was later cut.
Fivel Stewart has the charisma and look of a lead, and it makes the fact she is treated like most love interest on this show a damn shame. Especially in regards to not really digging into Izzie getting comfortable with her sexuality and what that would mean when it comes to her family. For like with Paige, despite what Izzie is going through, we don’t see one sibling, her mother, or grandparent. Her life pretty much revolves around Casey.
On top of that, the way the love triangle is handled is a bit irritating as well just because it creates a situation for Casey to cheat. Which, I know, with Casey cheating it brings her closer to understanding Elsa. However, even with Casey recovering things with Evan, considering how emotional and conscious Casey has been trying to do, you’d think the transition could have been smoother and made it so Casey and Izzie wouldn’t have a blemish on their start.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
Honestly, all that can be asked of Atypical is to do more with its supporting characters. Make the girlfriends or boyfriends of our leads have lives outside of their partners that we actually get to see! For while they are all talented enough to convey what is going on, whether it is Zahid, Paige, and especially Izzie, they deserve to have their moment in the sun rather than being a planet revolving around someone else.
Outside of that, as with every season, things are moving forward at a good pace, and with the main characters, you’ll cry, laugh, cheer, and find peace as the season comes to an end. So here is hoping Netflix doesn’t drag its feet on renewing this for a fourth season. Heck, maybe a fifth as well.