One of Netflix's best family comedies returns on Friday. Atypical Season 3 will pick up seconds after Season 2 left off with Sam (Keir Gilchrist) having just told Paige (Jenna Boyd) that he loves her and Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) officially realizing she's got more-than-friendly feelings for Izzie (Fivel Stewart).
The new season will be an exercise in growth for the Gardner family and the start of a new chapter as Sam heads off to college. A new adventure means new challenges for Sam, as he tries to adapt to his new environment. Just like everyone else, Sam wants to seize the opportunity to reinvent himself in college, but that's not as easy he would hope given that registering for classes, dealing with cafeteria food, and tougher classes pushes him to the edge.
Of course, Sam's troubles seem small compared to those of Casey, who must grapple with her newly evolving feelings and figure out what they mean for her relationship with Evan (Graham Rogers). Dating in high school is hard, but coming out when you're already dating someone you thought was perfect is a nightmare.
TV Guide visited the set of Atypical this summer to talk to the cast and creator Robia Rashid about what the new season means for Sam, Casey, and their friends. Here are eight things we can tease about what's to come for the Gardners and Co. in Season 3!
1. The theme of the season is success.
The first season of Atypical was about Sam finding love, and Season 2 was about him establishing independence. The third season will be more about Sam looking toward the future after he finds out that four out of five college students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) don't graduate from college.
"Season 3 is sort of about success, like what does success mean?" Rashid explained. "[Sam] wants to be successful, not just in college, but also in his relationship. And a lot of times with ASD -- but also I think with 19-year-olds in general -- it can be tricky to split your focus. That's going to be a big focus in Season 3; how does he balance his relationship with Paige, and school, his friendship with Zahid, and his job, and everything else in his life?"
2. Sam is going to struggle with identifying as autistic at college.
Sam has not been ashamed to say he has ASD in the past, but going to college means he doesn't have to lead with his diagnosis. He's determined to figure out how college works without relying on the resources he tried to become independent from in Season 2. But even with all of the preparation in the world, it won't be as easy as he thinks.
"Sam's struggling with whether or not he wants to identify as having autism and possibly whether he wants to get help from disability services that are available at most universities," Gilchrist told us. "I think he really, desperately, doesn't want to have to do that, or have to do it any different than anyone else. ... He knows the chances of someone with autism graduating are very low and if he's going to graduate, he's pretty sure he wants to do it on his own. But that may change as the season goes alone."
3. Paige and Sam will struggle with being long-distance.
Aside from the giant L-bomb that Sam dropped at the end of Season 2, Sam and Paige must figure out how their relationship works long-distance. Not being around each other constantly is going to be a challenge, but if there's any couple that's up for it, it's these two.
"[Distance] has been challenging for [Paige], for sure. Because her way of making sure the relationship stays close is just like appearing randomly and making sure she stays in his face constantly, and that's a little harder to do from far away," Boyd weighed in. "She finds ways, but it's a little bit harder for her to just stay present in his life at all times."
4. Sam and Zahid will be tested.
While Sam and Paige may find a way to deal with the stresses of college, another important relationship in Sam's life may suffer. Sam and Zahid (Nik Dodani) are going to face their first big obstacle in Season 3, which could make things awkward at their shared place of work, Techtropolis.
"Their friendship is tested a bit now that they're both out in the real world, both trying to achieve their goals as adults," Gilchrist teased. "I love working with Nik, so that's something I'm really excited about getting into."
5. Izzie isn't the only hurdle for Casey and Evan in Season 3.
Obviously, Sam isn't the only one struggling with his friendships and relationships. Casey's love triangle will take up a lot of focus in Season 3, but it turns out her feelings for Izzie are not the only thing that's going to complicate her relationship with Evan.
"I think that [Evan] is a real homebody. I think home is really important to him, staying around their area in New England. And maybe that he's not as career-driven as most millennials. He's just happy with hanging out and working at a pizza shop. He's content," Rogers said. "That's got to be a hurdle they have to get through, or not get through, in order to move on."
Lundy-Paine did little to ease our fears about this upcoming schism between Casey and Evan. "[Casey] definitely wants to leave. She's always wanted to leave Connecticut. She's always wanted to get away from her mom and everything in the family," Lundy-Paine explained. "I think she's just trying to get through."
6. Casey has a tough decision ahead of her.
The sparks between Casey and Izzie were undeniable in Season 2, but that doesn't change the fact that Evan has been pretty stellar, as far as boyfriends go. Both Evan and Izzie bring something valuable to the table when it comes to Casey's happiness. Lundy-Paine revealed that Casey's decision won't be made based on who is the better person, but who is the better person for Casey.
"I think as good as Evan is, it doesn't affect the ultimate decision. I feel like she just has to be with the person that's right for her, whoever that turns out being," they teased. "We got two really good candidates on our hands. So whichever one it is, I think it'll just be because of the person Casey is, not the person they are."
7. There will be more of an emphasis on Ernest Shackleton than penguins.
One of the greatest things about Atypical is the show's top-notch penguin content. While TV Guide can assure you Season 3 won't be lacking in penguins, we can also confirm that Sam's overarching metaphor for the season is going to focus more on his favorite explorer than his favorite flightless birds.
"Ernest Shackleton has been, I think, more of his focus this year, and explorers and stuff like that," Gilchrist explained. "But you know, there's always going to be penguins on the show."
Atypical Season 3 premieres Friday, Nov. 1 on Netflix.