Can’t Miss Episode of the Week: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’ Takes a Big Swing
Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back every Saturday to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
How do you tell an adult man that he might be autistic? That’s how the Thursday, May 27 episode of Freeform’s offbeat comedy Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, “California Sphinx Moth,” kicks off. The series follows Nicholas (series creator Josh Thomas), an eccentric gay man who moves from Australia to LA to be a guardian to his two teenage half-sisters, one of whom is autistic, after their father dies. And while the thrust of the show has always been that the younger sister Matilda (Kayla Cromer) is the autistic one in the family, fans have been wondering since the series premiere in January 2020 if Nicholas might be autistic as well. There was so much speculation that after Season 1 aired, Thomas decided to explore the possibility that he, himself, might be autistic.
The fact of the matter is, that if you assume that Nicholas is autistic, much of his behavior and decisions suddenly make a lot more sense. This is exemplified best in the previous episode’s final scene when Nicholas’s boyfriend Alex (Adam Faison) breaks up with him. It’s not exactly a surprise to viewers. Alex’s frustration with Nicholas has been building all season long, as Nicholas is not very considerate in their relationship, and tends to get very defensive when called out on it.
But news that there’s trouble in their relationship is a surprise to Nicholas. As he explains, he’s been trying very hard to show Alex how much he loves him, and thought he was succeeding. This episode picks up right where the last one left off, and it’s Suze (Maria Bamford), Matilda’s now-fiance Drea’s (Lillian Carrier) mother, who finds Nicholas post-breakup and immediately diagnoses the problem. There’s no great way to drop a bombshell like “It’s starting to look more and more likely that you are autistic,” but if there is, it’s the way Suze does it, with an empathic anecdote about how Drea, who is also autistic, has trouble communicating her emotions. Nicholas loves Alex, he just doesn’t always know how to show it, or pick up on the correct social cues and expectations for how to behave in a relationship. His brain works differently.
At first, Nicholas thinks she’s crazy, as does younger sister Genevieve (Maeve Press), but once they ruminate on it, they realize there might be something to what Suze is saying, and so they do what Thomas did in real life when he first decided to discover whether he could be autistic. While Matilda runs around planning her impending nuptials, Nicholas and Gen sit quietly among the chaos, going through online assessments. It’s a sweet and sensitive treatment of a serious moment, something this show excels at.
Between Seasons 1 and 2, Thomas got his answer: an official diagnosis of autism, and so, since much of Thomas’s work tends to be autobiographical (see his beloved Australian series Please Like Me), the question became how they were going to work it into the show (as was laid out in this wonderful New Yorker profile on Thomas).
At the end of the episode, Nicholas sits down with Matilda and tells her that he thinks he’s autistic. She’s incredulous in the beginning, and even a little bit angry — “It’s very offensive when people who aren’t diagnosed pretend they’re autistic to get away with their bad behavior,” she says — but once Nicholas explains how much effort he has to put into the basic things that come naturally to everyone else each day, she understands. The episode ends with Nicholas sitting in a waiting room for an appointment to be evaluated. We will likely get an official diagnosis in the Season 2 finale next week.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is a series where people can be their weirdest selves and be both loved and accepted for it, where weighty topics can be made funny and relatable, and that’s especially true in this momentous episode. The show has been a trailblazer from the beginning with Cromer as the first autistic actor to play an autistic lead on an American series. Now, Thomas is the second. You don’t see that on TV every day.
Other observations that we thought made this episode stand out:
- Suze and Toby’s (Richard Kind) friendship with Nicholas is adorable. They really get him, and as his only adult friends, he needs that.
- Alex has been living with Nicholas and his family throughout quarantine, but he reveals that Nicholas never even gave him so much as a drawer to put his stuff in. It’s proof to Alex that Nicholas is a bad boyfriend, but we know that it’s actually because Nicholas is autistic and needs things like this spelled out for him.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Thursdays, 10/9c, Freeform