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Not since Anne has a show grab ahold of me with its lead and made me cry to the point of realizing I need to drink more water. That is what The Good Doctor may do to you.
Creator: David Shore
Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is a high-functioning autistic person. Somewhat similar to Sam from Atypical. The main difference being, Shaun is a savant. He has perfect recall and spatial intelligence which makes it so when this child named Adam (Orlando Lucas) is in an accident, he finds the most minor thing which saves the boy’s life.
Perhaps leading to the question: Why would Shaun want to become a surgeon? Well, the answer would be his brother Steve (Dylan Kingwell), the one person who really looked out for Shaun when they were kids. For, you see, Shaun’s father was abusive and his mother didn’t really fight him to have him back down. Thus leaving Steve to be the only one who pursued giving Shaun normalcy. That is, until an accident happened.
Thus leading to Shaun, with much help from Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), getting through med school and now being a doctor. One which wishes to become a surgeon. However, being that Dr. Glassman and another gentleman named Dr. Marcus Andrew (Hill Harper) are at odds, because Marcus wants Dr. Glassman’s job, it seems Shaun will have to be on his Ps and Qs if he plans to stay at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.
You show someone respect because you respect them, or because you’re afraid of them.
[…] thankfully there’s a cure for youth and stupidity: Time and experience.
Letting things get personal is how we make it matter.
Though one could argue Freddie Highmore handles his characters in a similar fashion, at least if you take note his penchant of the socially awkward, there is something about Shaun that hits hardest than past roles. Similar to an early Norman Bates, of Bates Motel, there is this vulnerability and innocence. The kind which, paired with Shaun’s autism, one may say create a quickly made road to inspire sympathy. Especially as you combine the autism, the abuse from Shaun’s father, abandonment by his mom, and what happens to Steve.
Yet, Highmore finds a way to keep Shaun’s backstory from seeming cheap. Likely because he has played many characters like this before, he knows how to create layers to make a cheap and rushed road seem like an adventure. Of which, the special effects of us seeing Shaun calculate things helps immensely. That alongside the younger version of Shaun (played by Graham Verchere) being displayed alongside his brother Steve.
The combination of those things make it so, as Highmore fights to save Adam’s life, has to justify his hiring to the hospital’s board of directors, or even with his interactions with the main cast, he is able to bring a slew of emotions out of you. His perseverance to save Adam, which includes stealing a knife from the TSA and trying to sneak into the hospital after being kicked out, it makes you want to root for him. Listening to Dr. Glassman advocate for him and other high-functioning autistic people, alongside seeing the journey Shaun has had to get into the room, it brings tears out of you. Then, to wrap it all up, Shaun shows us that as much of a sob story he has, he also can be a bit rude and weird. Thus giving you the sense this isn’t some feel-good story but one in which there is an effort to craft a realistic person.
Dr. Aaron Glassman
As just noted, Dr. Glassman plays an advocate for Shaun and while we have seen many go to bat for the lead character, the passion Schiff brings is intense. To the point where, when he says the line:
Letting things get personal is how we make it matter.
You are lead to believe that is why what he says affects you. This isn’t just another job where he is playing someone’s mentor, advocate, and father figure. He is pushing the idea that the diagnosis of being autistic doesn’t mean someone is invalid. That they are fully capable of having lives, just as those who haven’t been tested or diagnosed, but the stigma is the only thing holding them back. Which was rather touching. Especially for it didn’t sound, or was presented, like some speech that was simply lines to say. Again, there is this certain oomph shown that makes you envious of Shaun having Dr. Glassman in a way.
For the sake of comparisons, I’d say, Dr. Glassman, based on how he takes chances and protects some of his underlings, reminds me a little bit of Jacqueline from The Bold Type.
I’ll admit, the way Steve is handled could perhaps lead some to roll their eyes – if they are heartless. As for me, there is something about the way Steve treated his brother which just got me all emotional. Be it him running away with Shaun, giving him that plastic surgical tool, which Shaun has on him still in modern times, or just this vibe of genuine love. All of which comes from a young actor who may not have the most extensive resume, but definitely seems like he will be one to watch.
For I truly believe, this possibly one episode feature is more than a brick in the foundation for Highmore as Shaun but perhaps an entire wall. Hell, maybe the entire foundation since, before Dr. Glassman, likely Steve was the only one who showed Shaun kindness and really tried to adapt and understand him. So while Shaun shows himself a bit cautious and maybe even a little critical of people, the memory of Steve might have made it so his optimism didn’t die during childhood.
The Pettiness of Marcus
If Marcus was just worried about malpractice suits and things of that nature, I’d be fine with his character. However, with him gunning for Dr. Glassman’s job and seeming like he has beef with other board members, it makes him a villain. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of petty villains on TV. Especially the kind who feel slighted because they didn’t get this job or that job, because someone is more liked than them, and etc.
So here is hoping Marcus becomes more than the one aiming at the target on Dr. Glassman’s back. Be it through bolstering why he was a quality candidate to be president of the hospital or giving us his backstory.
On The Fence
Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas)
Between Misfits and Sunshine of Leith, I find myself admiring Ms. Thomas. Making it so her playing a young Black doctor tickles me. Yet, between her sex-lationship with Jared (Chuku Modu) and a possible friendship with Shaun, I get the slight vibes she is like a watered down main character. Something which is a good and bad thing. Good in the sense you get this vibe there is so much to come with the character. Yet, also bad for there is always the chance she stays in this “So much potential” stage and doesn’t evolve into a female lead type of role. Something that seems strongly possible for there is a sense that eventually it is going to become about Shaun and Dr. Glassman featuring everyone else in lesser roles.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
As noted in the opening, outside of Anne, or Anne with an E, I haven’t found myself getting so emotional over a character I just met. Though, unlike Anne, it wasn’t just our lead. Steve got me in my feelings, Dr. Glassman, and I think if the show doesn’t just drop an autistic person into your usual network drama storylines, the rest of the characters could have the same effect.
Which is why I’m rating The Good Doctor positive and am so tempted to label this recommended (I’ll wait until the season is over). For while there is still work to be done to make it so every actor has a chance to shine, and not feel like a trope, the fact it has the ability to inspire tears, ugly cries, on the first episode is something. Especially for those like me who watch so much media that you build up a tolerance. One which sometimes makes it so difficult to get lost in a moment because you’ve seen said moment done dozens, hundreds, if not maybe thousands of times before.