Finding Community in Season 2 of Atypical

Christ and Pop Culture | 1/11/2019 | Val Dunham
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When the Netflix original series Atypical premiered in the summer of 2017, I was skeptical. Too often shows that feature autistic characters perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes or otherwise exploit autism tropes for cheap emotional appeal. However, I was quickly and happily surprised when the mini-series used Sam—the show’s main character—and his autism not to paint him as atypical, but rather to draw out the atypicality of the human condition—particularly the manner in which human beings love (and sometimes fail to love) one another.

Season 2 picked up right where season 1 left off, both in plot and theme. Season 1 suffered in the first few episodes as the show found its feet, but season 2 contains no such lag. In fact, my two chief complaints with season 1 were quickly addressed in the show’s sophomore outing; season 2’s humor was more frequently derived from the experiences of characters other than Sam, and several episodes featured actually autistic people.

Power - Community - Refrain - Spaces - Points

Although the redeeming power of community has become a nearly trite refrain among Christian spaces, Atypical points to the price community demands.

The show’s plot resumes at more or less the same place it left off—Elsa and Doug, Sam’s parents, attempt to put their family back together after Elsa’s extramarital affair was revealed in the final episode of season 1. Casey, Sam’s younger sister, prepares to attend a prestigious private school on a track scholarship, and Sam puts his search for a girlfriend on the back burner as he turns his sights toward weightier goals: graduating high school and attending a four-year college.

Sam - Pursuit - College - Acceptance - Chord

Sam’s pursuit of college acceptance struck a better chord with me than his quest to find a girlfriend. While most teenagers strive to fit into a romantic relationship, the fact that Sam is autistic adds an undeniable inflection to these aspirations—it implies that Sam...
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