What exactly does it mean to be normal? This is the question that Netflix’s new show Atypical attempts to answer. However, through the course of the first season viewers see that really nobody is normal—and for us at Valley, that’s something to embrace.
Charming, witty, and heartfelt, Atypical follows the life of 18-year-old Sam, who is on the autism spectrum. To kick the season off, Sam declares to his therapist that he wants to start dating. This rattles his family, especially his overprotective mom, and they question whether or not Sam can even have a happy dating life since he is on the spectrum.
Between falling for his therapist, Julia, and having his first “practice girlfriend,” Paige, Sam’s life changes before his family’s eyes and they realize that he is growing up. They eventually come to terms with the fact that everyone gets their heart broken at some point in their life and they cannot protect Sam from everything.
Sam’s family members do some growing up of their own in the season as well. His dad embraces having a relationship with Sam for the first time and the two bond over the dating world. Their relationship is just the right amount of awkward, which makes it feel incredibly authentic. In fact, the story arc between father and son is probably the most heartwarming part of the season.
Sam’s sister, Casey, is recruited by a prep school for her athletic abilities and begins to wonder what life would be like for herself without the burden of going to school with Sam. Viewers see she is fiercely protective of her brother, but is often sidelined by her parents because of him.
On the other hand, Sam’s mom has quite the mid life crisis because she feels like her life has been dominated by taking care of her family and not herself. She begins to have an affair with the and make reckless decisions throughout the season, which makes her a difficult character to like when watching her mistakes.
The show at its core is a complex but quirky and loveable interpretation of what it’s like to have an autistic sibling, child, or friend. Like any other TV show, Atypical has received its share of criticism. Some reviewers claim it is far too predictable or even offensive to its audience and people on the spectrum, which is absolutely true at times. That being said, the show has already been renewed by Netflix for a second season, which is a quick turn around in the world of television. The show definitely has some fine tuning to do for its season two, but it marks a step in the right direction for representation on television.
Watch season one of Atypical now on Netflix and tweet @ValleyMag to let us know what you think!