‘Atypical’ season two defies representation conventions with spectacular results

Michael Rapaport attends the 2018 PaleyFest Fall TV Previews "Atypical" at The Paley Center for Media on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Netflix released the second season of “Atypical” earlier this month to overwhelmingly positive reviews, with an 83 percent critic rating and an audience score of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Atypical” follows Sam, an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, throughout his senior year of high school and chronicles his search for love, identity and independence.

Picking up after season one, season two deals with Sam’s final year of high school, including navigating the college application process, finding a new therapist and graduation, all on top of his parents’ decision to separate temporarily.

While these experiences are not unheard of, they are rarely told from the perspective of someone on the spectrum. But the creators of “Atypical” went even further. On top of creating a lead character who is on the spectrum--which is great in and of itself--they also cast real people with autism to portray characters in Sam’s support group.

Just as it’s important for there to be accurate representation of women and communities of color in media, people on the spectrum also deserve the same level of representation.

The show continues to beg the question: What does it mean to be normal?

This question doesn’t just apply to Sam and people on the spectrum either. While season two still focuses heavily on Sam’s autism during his senior year of high school and college application process, season two also highlights his family’s individual experiences.

Much of season two also follows Casey, Sam’s younger sister, as she makes the transition to a rich prep school on a track scholarship. Right off the bat, the team captain Izzie is rude to her and lies to their coach, saying that Casey tripped her on the track when she really just fell trying to keep up with her.

But, this turns out to be have been for the best. It takes the coach locking them in her office for them to learn that they actually have a lot in common and get along really well. They quickly become close friends.

Here’s where things get spoiler-y.

In the season finale, Casey and Izzie almost kiss but they’re interrupted by Sam and Casey’s

mom Elsa. They made it gay, and it was a fantastic choice.

They’re making it out to be this big revelation out of nowhere. Throughout the season, they kept on getting closer and so it’s no surprise that feelings arise. Still, they’re both shy and unsure about what to do with their feelings for each other, but they’re testing things out anyway, which is an aspect of LGBT stories that aren’t represented often in media.

Whether Casey and Izzie realize they’re lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or some other identity, this development is one that further challenges what it means to be normal.

Even Doug, Sam and Casey’s father, undergoes a lot of character development that challenges norms of masculinity in the wake of Elsa’s affair. He’s emotionally wrecked, but not in the loud way that’s often seen as a ‘strong male’ reaction. Instead, his emotions are quietly raw, which is so different from how they started off in season one.

While “Atypical” has not been confirmed for season three, I can’t wait to see what Sam’s college experience looks like, what happens with Cassie and Izzie’s relationship and if Elsa and Doug figure out their marriage. I trust that the creators of “Atypical” will continue to chip away at societal norms and make another impactful season.

Rating 5/5


Alex Taylor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexis.taylor@uconn.edu.