The Good Doctor: Season 2 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Shaun after Carly accepted going out with him.
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Season 2 of The Good Doctor leans on the personal, and sometimes professional, growing pain of its characters as organizational changes happen.


Network
ABC, CTV
Creator(s) David Shore
Genre(s) Drama
Good If You Like Medical Dramas

Office Politics

Characters With A High Level of Stubbornness

Complicated Romances

Isn’t For You If You Feel Ensemble Dramas Should Equally Focus On All Cast Members

Need Awe-Inspiring Romance

Don’t Like Drama, Sometimes, For The Sake Of Drama

Noted Cast
Shaun Freddie Highmore
Dr. Glassman Richard Schiff
Dr. Han Daniel Dae Kim
Claire Antonia Thomas
Dr. Melendez Nicholas Gonzalez
Dr. Lim Christina Chang
Dr. Park Will Yun Lee
Morgan Fiona Gubelmann
Maddie Holly Taylor
Dr. Andrews Hill Harper
Tyler Dan Byrd
Lana Vered Blonstein
Ravi Alex Plank
Carly Jasika Nicole
Lea Paige Spara
Allegra Tamlyn Tomita
Debbie Sheila Kelley

Summary

Despite Shaun’s mistake in the last season, and now Dr. Glassman dedicating himself to cancer treatments, he survives. Mind you, it was a hard few months for he continued to struggle with his bedside manner, but in the face of an interim Chief of Surgery, Dr. Han, there is a constant reminder that there are trade-offs with Shaun. Yes, his bedside manner needs to be improved, still, but his knowledge of medical text, procedures, and theories have saved more patients than patients he has upset.

Yet, he isn’t alone in dealing with personal challenges. Claire gets criticized for not being aggressive enough in her review, and when she does a 180, she gets reprimanded for it. Leaving her in flux between wanting to assert herself yet dealing with men like Dr. Melendez who feel the way she does it is disrespectful. Ultimately leaving her deciding to just settle back in her old ways since, clearly, that is the only way she can do her job in peace.

As for the rest? Dr. Glassman finds himself consistently dealing with his pride and learning to allow Shaun, amongst others, to not only worry and be there physically for him but also help. Dr. Lim and Dr. Melendez, while competing for Chief of Surgery, also begin a love affair but whether it is true love or convenience is up for questioning. Which, when it comes to Dr. Park’s attempts to mend things with his family in Arizona the same could be asked. Is he seeking what’s familiar for something new would be difficult to achieve? Then, when it comes to Morgan, well, arguably she takes up the time Jared once had. But, she is written to the point of sometimes competing with Claire and Lea to the point of seeming like the female lead of the show.

But, even as the residents compete for the one full-time position on staff, and Dr. Lim and Melendez try to prove themselves capable and deserving of the Chief of Surgery, there is a reminder they have formed a family. One which doesn’t too often see each other outside of work, voluntarily, but when Shaun is in trouble, many go to bat for him. As always, when Shaun needs advice, Claire is his go to. Heck, Morgan even grows closer to Dr. Park and Claire despite her attitude.

Thus leaving us with a strong reminder that no matter what happens, what the residents learn will stay with them as much as the relationships they built.

Highlights

Maddie’s Arc

Maddie forcing Dr. Glassman to talk about what happened the night she died.
Maddie: This has got to happen, Daddy. You know it.

Maddie, Dr. Glassman’s deceased daughter, is a scar that has never healed and with Jessica gone, and Shaun likely never meeting her, it means Dr. Glassman has no one to reminisce with. Making his delusions of seeing her necessary for his growth. After all, part of what has arguably stunted Dr. Glassman personally was this loss that likely led him to work even more and then dote on Shaun as some form of a replacement. Which, as we saw, in time, became a bit of a crutch. For without a personal life, without a daughter, he relied on Shaun to fill up his spare time with his needs.

So, to move on, focus on himself, especially his health, he needed to – not let Maddie go but let go of the guilt he had taken on for not being there for her. Leading to a tear fest for Dr. Glassman as well as viewers.

Dr. Glassman Being Forced To Trust Again

But perhaps the biggest thing to come from Dr. Glassman dealing with his Maddie issues was him learning to trust again. For with Maddie’s death also came him eventually losing his wife and becoming single. Thus furthering Dr. Glassman’s isolation and keeping people at arm’s length. Arguably, even Shaun was kept close enough to be watched but never close enough to feel Dr. Glassman’s warmth.

Thus leading to issues like when Dr. Glassman was seeing Debbie and being cool with keeping things casual but hating the idea of her, or anyone really, seeing him weak. Likely due to how no one was really there when Maddie died or pushed how it wasn’t his fault. Making the idea of being vulnerable hard not just because of his male ego, but having a serious issue with burdening anyone with his emotions. Since, so it seems, no one either took his side or was there for him when things got so hard he decided it would be better to seal his feelings away.

The Rise of Morgan

Morgan doing yoga after a long day spent with Claire.

In many ways, you can see Morgan as a sort of reflection of Dr. Glassman. At least in terms of him opening up this season. For while still a very curt young woman, who often rubs people the wrong way, the shell she has built over time cracks a bit and she lets people in. Mind you, she takes some steps back towards her more gruff side by the end of the season, but let’s take into consideration her journey to that point.

Like Claire, Morgan’s critique dealt with how Dr. Andrews wanted her to be the opposite of what came naturally to her. That she had to be more team focused than presenting, as an individual, what her worth was. So, little by little, she opened up both at work and outside of work. She went drinking with Dr. Park, helped Claire, partly by force, when her mother came to town and claimed she was being abused. Heck, she also tried to give tough love to Shaun rather than be so blunt you’d question if she had a form of autism.

Tyler x Morgan

Yet, the major thing which forced you to either love Morgan or admit you’d never like her is the guest appearance of a character named Tyler. Someone who came out of nowhere but was a paramedic who had a crush on Morgan. Now, when it comes to Morgan and Claire, while we hear or see their friends, for the most part, both seem fairly isolated. Thus making Tyler’s crush look somewhat forced – at first.

Tyler (Dan Byrd) in a hospital bed talking to Morgan.
Tyler (Dan Byrd)

However, if Morgan putting herself out there with Claire and Dr. Park were to be considered her peeking over her wall, Tyler put a hole in it. Thus pushing you to feel for a character who may have often seemed antagonistic, if not an outright bully, yet pushing you to see the human side of her. For it is because of her attempts to heed Dr. Andrews criticism, and Tyler that you realize Morgan, like Dr. Glassman, was perhaps fearful of what could happen if someone knew the truth. What a person would do if they knew the full story and how that could personally affect them.

Pushing the idea Morgan doesn’t enjoy being hurtful and conniving. It’s just for a long time the only person who had Morgan in their best interest was Morgan. So being part of a team, not being a vehement competitor, it became foreign to her. Making her time with Claire, Shaun, and the others, a re-education. On top of her learning about medicine.

Shaun Asks Someone Out!

In season 1, episode 4, we got the sense that Shaun was never that good with girls. They didn’t have much of an interest in him, and when he pursued them, it didn’t turn out well. Yet, with two people like him, Lana and Ravi, in episode 13 of this season, finding each other, having sex, maybe having feelings for one another, we’re reminded why representation is essential.

For it did seem Shaun may have thought love and beyond just wasn’t going to happen for him. Yeah, Lea kissed him, and he had a crush on her but, perhaps in a nicer way than when he was a kid, he got rejected. So he instead tried to be a welcomed third wheel than a spare just waiting for his shot.

Dr. Carly Lever (Jasika Nicole) dealing with Shaun.
Dr. Carly Lever (Jasika Nicole)

However, with seeing Lana and Ravi, he built the courage to ask someone out. And rather than it be Lea and him getting rejected, Claire and that leading to an odd moment, or some random person, the re-introduced Carly, who we barely saw for most of the season, he asks out. Mind you, he goes to her house, that he somehow knew the address of, and he is a bit awkward. Yet, with her saying yes means Shaun reaching a new milestone and likely, for many a socially awkward or autistic viewer, pushing the idea if those three, Shaun, Lana, and Ravi could do it, why can’t I?

Low Points

Allegra Became An Afterthought Again

Allegra has had little to no development since the show began. We know she is in a power position at the hospital, but that is where her story begins and ends. The rich donor she was smitten by? We don’t see him. Any hint of a personal life? Nothing is said. She strictly appears when something is going wrong or to advise Dr. Andrews, and that’s it.

Did We Forget About Claire?

Claire is almost treated in the same way. While one of the original cast members, arguably one of the hooks of the show, it seemed Morgan stole most of her thunder. Making it so with Jared gone, her #MeToo storyline abruptly ending, and her Dr. Melendez head butting fizzling out, she just became a smiling face, a listening ear, and the occasional advocate who’d run to a manager’s office because she or Shaun figured something out.

Claire being pressured by Dr. Andrews to make nice with Dr. Melendez.
Claire: I have nothing to say.

In fact, to show you how bad it got, when her mom had an issue, and Morgan came to help, Morgan pretty much swallowed Claire whole and eclipsed her. Pushing the idea it isn’t because Claire isn’t as aggressive or doesn’t have presence, but the investment is waning. So it almost seems like the reigns of the female lead were being passed in one of the saddest ways possible.

Outside of Shaun and Dr. Glassman, We Still Don’t Know A Huge Amount About Most Characters’ Past

One could argue this show is an ensemble since, while Shaun is a large focus, he isn’t in each and every scene. However, when it comes to building up other characters, the show is inconsistent. For example, Dr. Melendez has a sister with special needs who we see him visit only one time. Dr. Lim, Claire, and Morgan’s friends are either mentioned or seen, but only one time and never again. Heck, even for those we saw on a semi-regular basis, like Dr. Andrews’ wife, they become ghostly this season.

Making it so while there is no denying there is growth for many of the named characters, if not more so we’re clued in on their future, their pasts remain vague and made up of tidbits. The kind which, even with the twice a season reminds, could easily be forgotten.

The Quarantine Storyline, And Medical Board Investigation Which Followed

Shaun, in a fetal position, on the floor.

While still a hit, the ratings of season 2 of The Good Doctor, if not more so the number of viewers, are below the season finale of season 1. Information like that often leads to what can feel like desperate acts. Specifically, we can look at the quarantine storyline, which presented the possibility of Dr. Lim dying, and the follow up medical board investigation. An issue which, thanks to Dr. Han, stopped being a problem thanks to some good old blackmail. Making any mistakes made null and void, and Dr. Park’s part in it, which included entering a quarantined area, just ignored altogether.

And lest we forget, part of what caused the medical board to be involved was a representative from the government. Not one of the patients or their family saying something, but the government filing complaints, showing footage of Shaun in the fettle position, and things of that nature. All gone thanks to Dr. Han threatening members of the board as if that’s perfectly legal within itself.

On The Fence

Dr. Andrews’ Early On Criticism Dying Off Mid-Season

With Dr. Andrews being the president of the hospital, a major decision maker in who gets hired, it makes his review eventually lacking meaning a bit two-sided. On the one hand, who hasn’t had a review, changed for a few months, realize no one is taken notice, and reverted back to your old ways? Yet, at the same time, considering the passage of time isn’t really noted much on the show, it’s hard to say if Claire going from aggressive to her hold self took place in a month, half a year, or what. Leading you to wonder was the review angle, like so many storylines, dropped or handled how work criticism often is dealt with in the real world?

Dr. Han

Dr. Han rejecting Shaun's request to go back to Surgery.

Here is the thing, Shaun has found a bit of a cocoon which has largely shielded him from criticism. Plus, with him at a teaching hospital, he also has the excuse of him learning on the job as he should be. Yet, the benefit of Dr. Han, to a point, was he pushed Shaun in ways others have gotten complacent about. Sort of in a “That’s just how Shaun is” and that’s that. So with Dr. Han taking note of Shaun’s bedside manner, moving him to pathology, and even firing him at one point, arguably Shaun was reminded that his actions won’t be universally accepted. It’s not about people adapting to him, he has to adapt to other people.

Now, let me be honest, I appreciated Dr. Han more so because of the theory he was trying to challenge Shaun over the opinion he was meant just to stir the pot. Yet, there is no denying that Dr. Han, whether he might have been on the spectrum, as noted by a commentator named Judy in episodes 17 and 18, or was just a temporary villain, didn’t shake the show for the better. If, at the very least, by doing two things: The first was forcing Shaun to be less complacent and the second thing was showing viewers how discrimination against those with autism works. For when it came to Shaun being fired, in retrospect, it felt like a setup. All so Shaun wouldn’t have the ability to sue since Dr. Han would have had just cause.

How Relationships Are Written

When it comes to relationships on this show, most don’t have that butterfly in your stomach, OTP, or the type of appeal which makes you envious. Whether it was Jessica and Dr. Melendez in season one, or Jared and Claire also in season 1, the show has treated relationships as more of an obligation than something it really wants fans to invest in. That continued in season 2 but got slightly better.

In terms of getting better, we saw how they could quickly and easily cook something up through Morgan and Tyler. Also, Debbie and Dr. Glassman, while they had rough moments, made for a believable and likable couple. One which was more than the woman being a means to push Dr. Glassman’s growth.

Dr. Lim and Melendez making out.

However, when it came to Dr. Lim and Melendez? It felt like two characters being put together so that someone new wouldn’t have to be introduced. Which, as seen with Dr. Park, by presenting his ex-wife, didn’t take too well. Yet, between really investing in the personal lives of these characters, especially their past, or slapping them with a love interest, it seems what could allow more resources to Shaun and Dr. Glassman was chosen.

Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)

What might be a growing issue for The Good Doctor is it neglects the majority of its cast and makes it so, even those there since episode one, seem stunted after 30 some odd episodes. Which isn’t to downplay Shaun clearly being the main focus of the series, but the more we see Claire, Allegra, and others, the more this feels like an ensemble show which favors one character highly. Thus leaving the others often on the bench, sometimes in what feels like bit parts, unless Shaun needs them.

Hence the mixed label. Season 2, through Morgan, shows each character could be built to compete with Shaun, make every character seem like they truly have a life, aspirations, and trauma they are getting past. However, that isn’t consistently happening. Instead, we are given short and quick reminders like friends popping up for one sole episode. Family members also, for one episode, appearing and then rarely being spoken of ever again. Except in the case of Dr. Park.

Leaving us with a show which has what feels like a large cast, many who have been on the show since the beginning, and yet it is like they just showed up. Then, to make matters worse, only a select few intrigue the writers enough to write something good for them and the rest are either paired up or written for out of obligation. Thus bringing the showdown little by little.

Morgan justifying what she said to Shaun.
Morgan: I’m being honest, which is better than nice.

Has Another Season Been Confirmed?

Yes

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