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The Role Star: Atypical Review!!!!!!*

*And some format changes…

From now on, The Role Star can exist in the form of a written review. Let’s face it; the video version just wasn’t going to get done. I have failed. …And I’m sorry.

So, without ANY further interruption… OOOOOOOHHHH, shiny…

FOCUS, JON!!!! *claps hands*

Today, we’ll FINALLY take a look at the first two seasons of Atypical.

Season 1: The Horror…

Zahid and his influence over Sam

I mean, I get it… Every person needs a friend like every protagonist needs a down-to-earth confidant to keep perspective over the series of events unfolding throughout the show. And, in case you were wondering, I hope you’ll be as disappointed as I was to find that Zahid is not that down-to-earth confidant.

I absolutely hated Zahid this season. Not only is he giving spectacularly bad dating advice, but he’s keenly aware that he’s giving spectacularly bad dating advice… or even just spectacularly bad advice. Period. A strip club?! Are you serious?! Would they even let a high schooler in like that? *No, really. I have no idea. I’ve never been.*

I know Zahid means well. He only wants to help Sam with his social life, but how oblivious does Sam have to be to not notice how deep that rabbit hole goes… or loyal to not care that Zahid’s handing him some pretty tall boots?

Sam and Paige

Paige is too good for Sam this season. Nominate the girl for sainthood. It’s not like Sam really understands the relationship he’s committed himself to. And she’s with him by his side through all of it despite that!

…At least, up until he tells her he doesn’t love her in front of her entire family at the dinner table.

He keeps a list of pros and cons of dating her; she convinces the entire PTO AND school board to make the Snowball dance sensory friendly. That’s… love? No, actually. That’s… pretty messed up. Girl, you deserve much better treatment than that from anyone you date.

Like, Netflix made Sam to be a jack-ass for the sake of being a jack-ass. But it’s okay because he’s supposed to be autistic.

There are so many things wrong with that statement. If you still need help finding them, then welcome to The Aspie Dialogues! Feel free to poke around until you become a decent human being.

And speaking of being a decent human being…

Sam and Julia -or- How I Stopped Caring About Ethical Patient/Therapist Obligations and Became a Flaming Ball of Conflicts of Interest

Yeah, no. …With a capital NO. Sam’s plot line, here, is just… NO. I’m not even going to dignify this with a response.

Moving right along…

Where’s the Autism in the Show ABOUT Autism?

Hello… Any autistics home?

This was supposed to be a show about autism, right? So, why does it feel like Netflix forgot to bring the actual autism?

Instead of Sam and his diagnosis driving the action and the plot, it feels more like he’s reacting to everybody else’s plot lines. And what kind of school district only has one — count ’em, ONE — diagnosed student in the entire school?

I think Netflix forgot the most important part of a show about autism… Three guesses what that might be…

It’s like they used Sam’s autism as an excuse to make the most unlikable main character they could think of.

It’s like Pinocchio telling Geppetto he wants to be a real boy, and Geppetto just dismisses him while reading the evening newspaper.

“That’s nice, son. Sure you do… Kids today, I tell ya…”

If you’re going to make a show about autism, at least do the community the decency of committing to it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Role Stars

Season 2: The Fix-ening…

Improvements Over Season 1

For Season 2, I love how much of the feedback Netflix took to heart from Season 1!

The characters, now established, have room to grow. Sam’s perspective now runs the show. He joins a support group and starts making connections with other students like him. But the best part of all? Get ready for this…

They fixed Zahid.

That’s right. Zahid now has a method to his madness, however flawed it still may be… We see him start to mature, and for as much as he inspires Sam, Sam inspires him to do right by himself and go for his dreams.

So, okay… There’s that thing about the lying, but Sam took that way too literally.

It becomes so much clearer why Sam and Zahid are friends.

Doug… Just… Doug…

Okay, so it’s great that Doug’s starting to connect with other parents. In one case, he and Elsa reconnect with the parents of another student who scammed Sam out of $700. After enduring half of a season of tension between the two, it was nice seeing Doug start to forgive Elsa for the affair with Nick.

What wasn’t so nice was Doug’s obsession with Nick and getting even. Please don’t be that guy who has an affair to get back at his wife. Even if Elsa misunderstands it as such, I don’t want another season of what is essentially the same plot line from Season 2, this year. Can we agree to that much, Netflix?

Casey ❤️ Izzie?

Tread carefully, Netflix… This is not a plot line to go into haphazardly… I wonder… what’s the prevalence of autism in the LGBT+ community? Can someone in the comments answer that for me?

That Law Enforcement Plot Line…

Wow… We’re just going for it, this season. Aren’t we?

As accurate as that plot line was, I really advise caution to Netflix going forward. This is an opportunity to start bridging the Great Schism of Autism.

Deep in my gut, I feel like this is going to end up on one side or the other with zero middle-ground. Law enforcement is a polarized topic in any community. Again, Netflix… Tread carefully.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Role Stars

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

Sam and Paige

I didn’t like them as a couple for much of this season, but in the time since it started streaming, I feel like their relationship has grown on me. I want to see more of that dynamic in Season 3.

Elsa, the Ice Queen?

Everybody just comes down hard on Elsa in Season 2, and they just refuse to let up. Maybe, if we had seen more of Elsa’s lies and manipulations throughout the series, it might be pseudo-justified, but… I just don’t have the capacity to suspend disbelief over this.

She seems like she’s putting in an honest effort to make amends for her actions during Season 1, but nobody’s even hearing her out.

Just let me be perfectly honest, here. She was a real ice queen throughout Season 1. But the way everybody treats her during Season 2 seems a bit disproportionate and harsh.

Please Let Sam Grow Awareness

I really want Sam to grow as a character, and as a person, as the show progresses. Season 2 Sam seems like he’s forgotten every lesson he’d learned from Season 1’s events.

Let me be the first to say this: The college plot lines going forward are going to try Sam to the core. I know this from experience. Believe me. It’s about to get real for Sam.

Wishlist for Season 3:

  • I want to see Sam and Paige attempt a long-distance relationship. This would be a very interesting angle to explore for the benefit of the autism community.
  • Can we see more of Sam-O-Vision™, please? The first-person perspectives we get from Sam’s point-of-view are unique and could be better utilized (read: do this more) throughout the series. We’re often shown the daily lives of autistics as a general audience, but we never really get to experience what it looks and sounds like to the actual autistics. Sam-O-Vision™ is a potential game-changer and can give Atypical a distinctive look and feel if executed properly.
  • Will Zahid actually go to nursing school? As the brother-in-law of a registered nurse in Ohio, I’ll be watching this developing plot line closely.

Cumulative Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Role Stars

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Gut Reactions

Gut Reaction: Atypical

This is a new segment, in which I reveal my first impressions of a neurodiversity-related book, show, music, or video-game that I have just come across. For all intents and purposes, a “show” will be defined as a movie, TV series, or web series.

In order to qualify, I can only have seen no more than two episodes of a show, or in the event the show is a movie, this has to have been my first time having ever seen the show. I cannot have read more than 50 pages of a book, played more than one hour of a video-game, nor can I have listened to more than three songs on an album or have listened to a song more than ten times.


Today, we’re going to take a look at Netflix’s new series, Atypical.

Oh, boy! Here we go again…

Is it appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode? Because I feel it’s totally appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode.

The pilot episode. I’m only one episode in, and I’m already bracing myself for what I’m terrified this is:

Atypical: The Movie!

Now don’t get me wrong! I like Adam just as much as I want to like Atypical. I just don’t honestly believe for a second that we are all this robotic. Hell, I’d venture to say that a vast majority of us aren’t this robotic.

Sure, many of us do like things in a particular arrangement, and some of us can be what my family refers to as “stunad” at times (Why hello, Captain Clueless! When did you get here?), but that’s a far cry from saying things like, “I can see your bra. It’s purple.” That is a direct quote from very near the beginning of the entire series, and it came from our ND protagonist, Sam.

*slow clap* Well done, Sam. You’ve successfully set back everything NTs perceive about us by almost ten years.

No, really! Adam says something similar in the 2009 film, Adam.

Oh, Adam… I know social skills aren’t your thing, but holy damn, man!

The thing is…

I can’t tell what Netflix is going for with his characterization. It’s clear they wanted to hit us over the head with the “Sam has an ASD” card, and I’d be okay with that if the characteristics weren’t so overplayed in ways that we’ve already seen a million ways before.

That said, I saw in a YouTube clip that there will be a couple moments where we, the viewer, see what Sam experiences in the exact way he sees it.

Bright, blinding lights? Check. Loud voices drowned out by loud background noises? Check. Extreme focus on exactly what we presume to be Sam’s field of vision? Check. That’s what we need more of. It helps us personally connect with Sam on an experiential level as viewers.

What we don’t need are the awkward, creepy smiling cliché, the over-emphasis on his obsession with penguins and Antarctica (We get it: that’s your  focal topic of interest), and we certainly don’t need a Spectrumite love story that’s been done before in 2009 with Adam. In 2017, we’re craving something new with our portrayals of neurodiversity.

Like I said, it’s clear that Netflix wants us to know Sam has an ASD, but then all the other characters parade across the screen like caricatures of the people who exist and support him in his life.

Someday, I’ll be a REAL supporting cast member…

This leaves Sam in the odd position of being the only character in the show with any semblance of true personality. Which I find odd, considering how hard the show wants you to believe he doesn’t have one.

Can we make a directing decision and stick with it, please? If there’s one thing Spectrumites love, it’s consistency. I’m getting distracted just trying to pin this kid down. Watching this episode was exhausting! We’ll see how I feel after Episode 8, but from early reviews that I’ve read, the prognosis doesn’t seem too great. Like I said, we’ll see.

I could go on about Sam’s mother’s reticence to step back and give Sam the necessary room to grow, but I think I’ll save that for the actual review.

So everything said and considered (I’m going to address the Antarctic penguin in the room), did I enjoy this episode?

Yes, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Every time somebody tries to make a show about a Spectrumite, it rarely focuses on the ASD or the Spectrumite attempting to adapt to it. Here, it’s like they’re trying very hard to focus on Sam and his ASD, but they can’t think of an engaging enough premise to build the rest of the show around in order to keep the focus on these things.

You can expect the full review some time after I’ve finished watching the entire season.

Until then, I’m the Role Star. Because sometimes, a Role Model just doesn’t get the job done…