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Atypical Season 4 Ending & Sam’s Antarctica Trip Explained


Netflix’s Atypical came to a close with the season 4 finale; here’s the series’ ending explained. For four seasons, teen Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist) has navigated high school, dating, college, and more on the autism spectrum in Netflix’s Atypical. The season 4 finale ending saw a satisfying end to Sam’s journey and left his friends and family with happy endings as well.

As he had surprised himself and made it to college, Sam’s focus in Atypical season 4 is about what comes next. Eventually, he realizes what his purpose is, which is going to Antarctica to study penguins. He initially intends to go with a college program, but for various reasons, it gets canceled. So in an unusually independent move, he decides to go on his own. Atypical season 4 ends with characters such as Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), Sam’s parents, Zahid, Paige, and Evan making similar big and positive steps forward.

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Atypical season 4 is all about the never-ending journey of self-discovery. The conclusion to every character’s story in the Netflix show supports that theme. Here’s a look at everything that happens in Atypical‘s ending.

The Status of Doug and Elsa’s Marriage Explained

Elsa and Doug Garnder Atypical

Ever since her affair in season 1, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Doug’s (Michael Rapaport) marriage has been in a difficult spot. In season 2, Doug would barely look at her. As this continued into season 3, Elsa suggested that they separate. But after Doug realized that he didn’t want to lose Elsa, the couple reconciled. For the first time in the entire series, Doug and Elsa’s marriage is in a good place in Atypical season 4. The strength of their marriage allows the couple to help each other through some difficult times. Namely, the death of Chuck’s best friend and Elsa’s mother’s declining health.

Earlier in Atypical, Doug and Elsa would’ve tackled problems like this on their own. In season 1, Elsa felt she was losing her identity in her role as a mother. Instead of talking to Doug, she had an affair with a local bartender. After the fallout of the affair, Doug took on the majority of parental responsibilities in season 2. He was so stressed that it pushed him to have a panic attack. They nearly lost their health and family because they were so out of sync. But with these two, Atypical shows an honest and real portrayal of marriage. They hit a rocky patch but did the work to strengthen their marriage. Season 4 ended with Doug and Elsa dreaming of the quiet life they’ll have together once both kids are out of the house. It’s a moment that wouldn’t have seemed possible for the couple earlier in Atypical but, just like their son, they’ve made an effort to work on their own personal growth, both together and apart.

Why Sam Had to Go to Antarctica 

Sam at the aquarium penguins Atypical

Penguins act as Sam’s muse for the entirety of Atypical. Initially, they’re just his favorite animal that he enjoys drawing. That eventually inspires him to pursue art in college, where he realizes he can use his passion for penguins and skill as an artist to help the species. In season 4, he learns that there is a colony of penguins in Antarctica that is in danger of going extinct. He makes it his mission to travel to Antarctica, study that colony, and draw them in order to capture their essence. But when the college trip is canceled, Sam realized that he doesn’t want to wait. So he makes the decision to take an official leave of absence from school to visit the colony as soon as possible. Despite some considerable setbacks, Sam doesn’t let that deter him from following his passion.

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This is a huge step forward in Sam’s character development. In season 1, getting a girlfriend seemed like an impossible task. He thought his autism would make it impossible to understand the social cues that come with dating. But he surprised himself and found Paige. Sam continued to find new ways to assert his independence in the canceled Netflix show — he got into college, moved out on his own, and learned to drive. But going on a trip to Antarctica takes that to a whole new level. It’s something that Sam, in earlier seasons, wouldn’t have been brave enough to do. It proves that, despite what Sam has been told and read, and more significantly, what he’s been told, his autism isn’t a setback. He still has the same capabilities to constantly grow and learn like everyone else, he may just need a few different tools to accomplish it.

Where Everyone Else Ended Up

Atypical Season 4 cast

Everyone else in Sam’s life got their own happy ending as well. Here’s a look at how the stories of Sam’s other friends and family members concluded.

Casey — The track career and sexual identity of Casey, Sam’s younger sister, were major plot points over the course of Atypical‘s four seasons. Casey’s relationship with Izzie helped her to realize that she is bisexual. She and Izzie happily remained a couple at the end of Atypical. While she’s realized that running is not everything, both she and Izzie have been in contact with a scout from UCLA’s track team and hope to attend after graduation. Atypical season 4 is the happiest Casey has seemed in the entire series, predicting a peaceful future for her.

Paige — In season 3, Paige dropped out of college and returned home. She eventually got a job with Habitat for Humanity in Georgia. As that meant she would be halfway around the country, she and Sam decided to break up in order to pursue their own interests. While they leave the door open to reconciling, the odds are that it won’t happen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Paige. Her time with Sam allowed her to let go of her type A, controlling tendencies. Instead of spending her time obsessing about her grades, she learned to let go. She’ll likely find success with Habitat for Humanity and be happier for it.

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Zahid — Sam’s best friend and roommate had the darkest storyline in Atypical season 4. Zahid gets diagnosed with testicular cancer, but it’s treatable with surgery. His cancer causes him to reevaluate some of his choices, which prompts him to pursue an honest relationship with a woman for the first time. For the first time in his life, Zahid is making a real effort to grow up and mature on an emotional level.

Evan — After showing interest earlier in the series, Evan officially pursues a career as an EMT, often shadowing Doug. Since they’re working together, the two form a sweet bond. While he may not be dating Casey anymore, he’ll likely remain in the Gardners’ lives while finding a more truthful, better path for himself.

The Real Meaning of Atypical’s Ending

Sam in Atypical sitting on the couch

Atypical‘s ending proves that life is a never-ending journey of self-discovery with plenty of surprises along the way. Sam never imagined that he would find the independence to plan a trip and travel to Antarctica with his dad, just as Paige never expected to drop out of college. But, though their lives took unexpected turns, in the end, it all worked out for the best for every character in the Netflix TV show. Every character’s story in Atypical is left on a positive yet open-ended note, indicating their futures are up to them. Whether it’s a neurotypical person or someone on the spectrum, anyone has the power to change their lives, even in small ways. They just need a loving support system and to be met with understanding.

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Benvenisti Eyal

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