The second episode of Atypical is titled “A Human Female.” After watching it, I feel like I need a shower. Is this supposed to be funny? Humanizing? Because after watching this episode, instead of merely socially inept, Sam seems dangerous. Has he never read a book or watched a movie with a human relationship in it? Has he never watched his parents? Why won’t anybody in his life have a talk with him about what’s appropriate and inappropriate in relationships or about appropriate boundaries in general? I am usually pretty skeptical of social skills training programs, but damn.
‘Enticing a human female into mating takes different skills. It requires research.’
As Sam narrates how roosters attract hens for mating by putting on a display, we get a flash of Sam’s mother, Elsa, in the bar, seriously considering infidelity. We get more Discovery Channel narration from Sam as his sister waves to the boy she’s interested in. He’s come to watch her track practice. This is dehumanizing. And it’s not just Sam doing the dehumanizing. It’s the show’s writers, making deliberate choices to juxtapose Sam’s discussion of animal mating with human women.
In therapy, Sam asks his therapist, Julia, questions about herself. It’s not because he’s trying to reach out socially or grow his skills, though. It’s because he wants to have sex with Julia. She confuses this with therapeutic progress. For some reason, the writers repeatedly confuse autism with sexism. They rhyme, I guess?
Sam is upset when Julia tells him she already has a boyfriend. “When I was younger, if I got upset or stressed I would hit or bang my head, or yell. Now I use replacement behaviors instead,” Sam drones, once again sounding more like a diagnostic checklist than an actual human person. Unfailingly, Sam’s father, Doug, gives terrible advice: Be her friend and eventually maybe she’ll have sex with you. Sorry, he didn’t say the sex part. I added it.
Sam’s mother, Elsa, manages to become even more unlikeable this episode. During her autism parent support group meetup she somehow manages to make her near-infidelity with the bartender, Nick, into some failure on Sam’s part.
At Techtropolis, Zahid (Nik Dodai) does a weird dance to flirt with a woman who is at the store with her boyfriend. Sam finds this impressive for some reason. “He’s the best at girls,” Sam says admiringly, as if girls were a video game. Zahid’s character comes off as the unholy lovechild of Tom from Parks and Recreation and Howard from Big Bang theory, combining the worst aspects of each.
‘You know what? It’s my mistake. I’ll take care of it.’
‘Even the assholes get girlfriends.’
Sam tries to ask ask some popular kids about girls and they laugh at him. Somehow he doesn’t realize calling a girl a “skank” is an insult. He does realize that he is being made fun of and runs away. Then Sam goes home, pulls up his hoodie, and starts chanting penguin species. Earlier in the episode, he paces when upset. The writers seem to think it’s important to make sure Sam checks off every item of the diagnostic criteria checklist. We’ve got to make sure that every weird repetitive behavior is in there.
After sexually harassing multiple women over the last two episodes and breaking into his therapist’s house to try to get her to date him (yeah, that happened) Sam complains, “even the assholes get girlfriends.” Sam does not seem to realize that treating women like objects or prizes makes him an asshole and will not get him a girlfriend. Bizarrely, no one explains this to him. For all the talk of how autistic people need explicit instructions, the non-autistic people around him seem terrible at doing so.
- Casey’s story line continues to be the best. The plot twist about why her boyfriend got expelled was genuinely funny.
- If they’re trying to make Elsa unlikeable, they’re doing a good job of it. I am genuinely curious about if any parents of autistic kids find her sympathetic.
- “Why do you have to make everything so literal? God you suck. Find me if you don’t have anybody to eat with, OK?” Casey is a good sister and is pretty real. I appreciate that.
- I’ve done creepy stuff by accident before — So have a lot of autistic people. But breaking into someone’s house is just extra.
- How do a hairdresser and an EMT with a disabled kid have such a gigantic, immaculately clean house?
- What school has a separate office just for a track coach?
Neurotypical Bullshit (NTBS)-O-Meter
- “We’re going to Poon City and I’m the mayor.” I feel like if I was a man I’d be offended by how disgusting men are in this show. It seems unrealistic, even by Trump-era “locker room talk” standards.
So what did you think? Good, bad, or just indifferent? Can Netflix turn this around? Weigh in on the comments below.