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“Atypical” Season 4 is a Realistic View Into Mental Health and Family Drama

Atypical tells the coming of age story of Sam Gardner; a teen on the spectrum, who battles social experiences, relationships, and family drama. Surrounding Sam is his mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his father Doug (Michael Rapaport), and his sister Casey (Bridgette Lundy-Paine). Here’s the scoop on season 4 of Atypical!


Zahid visits Sam while Sam hides in the   bathtub. atypical

Season 4 of Atypical begins with Sam’s move to his new apartment which he shares with Zahid. His family shows their concern for their son breaking out into the real world for the first time. Doug inspects Sam’s new home and implies that he will keep up the home improvements around the place. Sam’s emotions are minimal, as he is more excited and proud than anything.

Sam and Zahid’s first nights together in the new apartment leave much to be desired for Sam. He quickly finds that he hates living with Zahid. At his childhood home, Sam hid in his bedroom closet when he was upset. At the new apartment, he video chats Elsa from the bathtub as his new comfort place.

Big Dreams

Elsa chats with Sam.
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Soon, Sam discovers his calling to travel to Antarctica. He wishes to visit and study the penguins that he has always admired in pictures and drawings. Sam announces to the family that he will be traveling to Antarctica. Trip planning causes much angst for Sam as he researches the safest and cheapest ways to travel to and live in Antarctica. Multiple times, outside forces get in the way of Sam’s plans.

Sam’s big idea takes a toll on the rest of the Gardner family. Elsa is concerned for the safety and well-being of her oldest child. Doug is excited for Sam and impressed by his son’s bravery. Casey cracks jokes and makes fun of her brother’s big ideas, but is secretly happy for him.

Throughout the entirety of the series, Elsa’s motherly instincts about caring for Sam are spot on. She is consistently offering help to him with any struggle he faces. Even while facing her own battles in her marriage to Doug and her relationship with her mother Lillian (Jenny O’Hara), her love knows no bounds.

Sam’s excitement over his planning for his big trip is infectious. His joyful interactions with friends and family; the way his face lights up when he talks about his trip is so pure. While Sam is legally of adult age, his condition causes him to behave more childlike. This causes concern among many for Sam’s maturity and ability to perform this daunting task on his own.

Complex Relationships

Casey prepares to run at a track meet. atypical
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Alongside the storyline of Sam’s Antarctica preparations, Season 4 also showcases Casey’s struggle with mental health. After coming out to her family and confirming her official relationship with her classmate Izzie (Fivel Stewart), Casey’s priorities skew. She often finds herself working to mend her relationship with Izzie after falling outs. Doug voices his opinion, implying that Izzie is not good for Casey. He believes Casey has rearranged her priorities, putting Izzie in front of school and track. Casey denies the allegation.

All of the drama with Izzie, Doug, and UCLA recruitment causes Casey to freeze at the start of a run. She panics over the UCLA Track recruiter that is in attendance. All of the runners take off; Casey sits still in her position before standing, turning around, and walking off the track. This is a pivotal moment in both her track career and the realization that her college preparations have been weighing on her.

Casey’s Point of View

While the first three seasons focused closely on Sam’s endeavors, seeing another side of Casey is anticipated by Season 4. She was always the uplifting, charismatic, and comically driven sister. It’s easy to assume that she has less to complain about in comparison to her brother’s condition.

Season 4 continued to impress with its harsh realities and realistic family drama. We have all come to care for Sam and those around him. By the end of Season 4, we find ourselves satisfied with everything we understand his future to be.

Watch Atypical on Netflix now!

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