The Good Doctor: Season 1 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Title card for The Good Doctor
33.33% (1)

The Good Doctor starts strong but as you get used to the tear-jerking patients and moments of the hospital staff, you begin to see flaws which can use some patching up.


Network
ABC
CreatorDavid Shore
Noted Cast
ShaunFreddie Highmore
Dr. GlassmanRichard Schiff
Dr. AndrewsHill Harper
Dr. MelendezNicholas Gonzalez
JaredChuku Modu
ClaireAntonia Thomas
MorganFiona Gubelmann
LeaPaige Spara
Dr. Alex ParkWill Yun Lee
Steve/ EvanDylan Kingwell
Dr. CoyleEric Winter
JessicaBeau Garrett
AllegraTamlyn Tomita
Dr. LimChristina Chang
Dr. MohanCatherine Lough Haggquist

Summary

The Good Doctor primarily is about pushing the idea that a person with autism, like Dr. Shaun Murphy, with patience and hard work, could be as adept of a doctor as anyone on any medical staff. However, just him getting the job is met with challenges as seemingly few, outside of his mentor and paternal figure, Dr. Glassman, are willing to wholeheartedly endorse his hiring. That is, until a deal is placed with the head of surgery, Dr. Andrews, where if Shaun messes up, it means Dr. Glassman resigns and Shaun is fired.

But, despite a very passionate beginning, things eventually settle down. However, that doesn’t mean things get boring. The show dedicates a lot of its time, especially in the first half of the show, to crafting tear-jerking moments between the patients and hospital staff. Especially since many of the staff have backgrounds which are with sob stories. Shaun, for example, had an abusive father and ran away with his brother, Steve, who died. Dr. Glassman lost his daughter during her teen years. Claire, who is one of Shaun’s peers under Dr. Melendez, had a neglectful mother who would steal from her. Jared, Claire’s boyfriend for part of the first season, and someone else under Dr. Melendez, while born into wealth, spent the majority of his time alone and without the love and care of his parents.

And pretty much, outside of Morgan, a resident we don’t meet until nearly the end of the show, everyone has some sort of background which inspires various levels of sympathy. Though, don’t take what has been said thus far to imply everything is doom, gloom, and the need for tissues. There are happy moments like when Shaun gets close to his neighbor Lea, the show contains a #MeToo storyline for Claire dealing with a sexually aggressive doctor, and of course there are the vast arrays of patients who may all be in the hospital for an unfortunate reason, but a good portion of the time are upbeat or hopeful.

Thus giving us a show which may heavily focus on how people with autism can do anything, but also it branches out. While it pushes the idea people with autism can become doctors, get a girlfriend, or enjoy life, it also presents the lesser seen bits of working in a hospital. Be it the technology used for surgeries, legal aspects of running a hospital, as well as the difficulties of managing your own emotions and that of a person completely reliant on your for comfort or survival. The Good Doctor presents Shaun as its beacon and he helps shed enough light on things not related to what others may see as his struggle to give you an entertaining experience worth watching.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • To give you an idea of how old everyone else, Jared is 28
  • It has been 13 years since Dr. Glassman’s daughter, Addy, died. Seemingly, something Addy and Jessica did is what led to Addy’s death. The specifics aren’t mentioned.
  • Melendez had a sister who was disabled and because they were poor, they couldn’t afford her medication. Leaving her often to suffer. He barely talks about her but does note she was his inspiration to become a doctor.
  • Alex Park is 45 and was a cop for 15 years before becoming a doctor.
  • Glassman is half Jewish.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. So what happened with Allegra dating that donor?
  2. What is going on with Dr. Melendez’s family now?
  3. Where are Shaun’s parents? Are they alive, have they ever sought him out? Maybe at least the mom?

Note: Some of the topics below came from the recap/ review of the first half of the show. They have been modified to address what has happened since then.

Highlights

Dylan Kingwell as Steve & Evan

The Good Doctor Season 1 Episode 1 Burnt Food [Series Premiere] - Steve (Dylan Kingwell)
Steve (Dylan Kingwell)

Though only referred to, not seen, in the second half of the season, Steve, played by Dylan Kingwell, was a welcome and dominating force in the first half. Especially in terms of Kingwell who, as noted in the first half review of the show, makes you wish one of the patients, also played by Kingwell, Evan, would have become a reoccurring role. For you can see Shaun could not only use a friend but also someone like his brother again for guidance.

The Trauma & Difficulties of Being a Doctor

When you hear about being a doctor, especially as a kid, as one of the careers to look into, what is never talked about is the trauma involved. On a regular basis, your diagnosis, you performing even the most standard procedure, even you hesitating to gather your thoughts, that could mean life or death. Then, on top of that, there are all the legal issues involved. Your failure could cost the hospital thousands if not millions. Meaning people could lose their jobs. Not just you, but a multitude of people.

On top of that, what is never factored in there is you working with people who, in your personal opinion, may deserve to die. Yes, they are sick or injured, but they are a nazi. Oh, no one deserves to be shot, but you are a terrorist (there wasn’t a terrorist in the season, that is just an example) or were in the mob. And having to put personal feelings aside and treat that patient like any other one, imagine how difficult that is. Especially if you are a woman dealing with a chauvinist or a person of color dealing with a racist – if not both!

Making the fact the show had a therapist, or psychologist in the form of Dr. Mohan, in the first half of the season, very interesting. Especially, with Claire’s storyline dealing with a mistake that leaves her shaken. To the point of wondering, how devastating would it be that you made it through medical school and after experiencing your first death, you realize a lot of those years, if not all, were for nothing? You can’t do it anymore.

The Evolution of Dr. Melendez and Dr. Andrews

Dr. Melendez conveying that Shaun doesn't belong at the hospital and he is trying to show both Shaun and Dr. Glassman that.

One of the things I feared early on was that Dr. Andrews, and Dr. Melendez in extension, would craft themselves as some kind of villains. Not in terms of sabotaging Shaun so that Dr. Andrews could become president, but just be bigots who consistently try to keep Shaun out of their hair and without getting a proper education. Thankfully, after maybe a few episodes, that wasn’t the case. Though it was done cautiously, Shaun was allowed to do procedures, was repeatedly taught how to improve his bedside manner, and was treated equally, even favorably when it came to a diagnosis, when it came to his work.

Heck, they even complimented him and when you see Shaun’s smile when he realizes he won them over, it may bring a tear to your eye. Even as Dr. Andrews seems to pull a 180 during the season finale.

A Look Into Modern Medicine & Running A Hospital

It was very interesting to see what goes into keeping a hospital running. Whether it is doing certain things for wealthy donors, the technology behind doing surgeries, 3D printed body parts, or else the legal aspect. Which wasn’t a big part of the show but when it did come into play, it presented a few storylines which were very interesting.

The Loneliness of Autism

Shaun saying that he needs a friend.

Throughout the series I found myself thinking about Atypical or Claws which also feature a person with autism. One thing which makes Shaun stand out is that he doesn’t have the same community as Dean in Claws or Sam in Atypical. He is largely forced to be independent and for most of the season, the only person he has to spend time with outside of work is Dr. Glassman. Someone who, to atone for how he was as a father to his daughter, becomes so overbearing Shaun needs him to step away. Thus making him even more isolated.

Yet, with Lea, there is some reprieve but once she moves away, then it shows the dark side of being a person with high functioning autism. Yes, you can be independent but with you not fully understanding certain social cues, it leads to people like Kevin taking advantage of you. Making it so you not only have to handle your own neurosis caused by autism but also hope this person will not only not take advantage of you but also be willing to work with you as you both adapt to each other.

Sexism In The Workplace

As noted, one of Claire’s major storylines dealt with sexual harassment, but sexism, in general, is littered throughout the show. Especially within the first half. Some of it isn’t so much an HR issue, like Claire getting too familiar with Dr. Lim and questioning her authority openly – something she’d sure as hell wouldn’t do to Dr. Melendez. But, with showing how Claire was willing to treat Dr. Lim, we see how there are levels to sexism. You got small stuff like Dr. Lim being disrespected, Claire not being given credit by Dr. Melendez for an idea, then, of course, there is Claire and Dr. Coyle.

With the news of assault and harassment being a headline nearly daily, that storyline had such importance. For it really did cover, in a multitude of ways, why women don’t come forward – even if it wasn’t a case of rape. Since, in the long run, they’ll suffer almost as much, if not more, than the accuser. Think about it: the investigation will mean multiple people getting involved, all of which who either have to act as witnesses or people who determine whether the victim is telling the truth, exaggerating, lying, or something in between.

Then, of course, there are people like Jared. Those without authority but brush off the notion something is up when confided in. Yet, when it became a big deal, then they are suddenly believers and try to compensate. But it goes deeper than simply not feeling like your truth is valid. There are also the repercussions for speaking out. As shown, a lot of the major players in the hospital are men and that would mean, if Dr. Coyle was found guilty of misconduct, it puts the rest of the doctors on notice. Which could be a problem in terms of mentorship.

The Good Doctor Season 1 Episode 10 Sacrifice [Mid-Season Finale] - Claire

Not because Dr. Lim isn’t a valuable asset, but throughout the season it is shown that while she may have a job, she isn’t necessarily on track to be promoted. The decision makers are nearly all men who might be uncomfortable getting too close to Claire after going public. If only because they may think giving her a hug, complimenting her, or anything which sounds too friendly, could be taken the wrong way.

Which, I know, sounds paranoid and the thought should be, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” However, talking about where the line is doesn’t happen in the workplace and office politics. What is talked about is who stays or goes, or who gets fulfilling assignments – the kind which affects the first decision to make. So weigh your options. You could report a doctor who has been with the hospital for years, seems rather beloved, and deal with all the nonsense that will follow reporting him, or just hope pushing him away, staying out of his line of sight, and avoiding him, could remedy the situation. That is assuming he isn’t an outright rapist who doesn’t corner you and assault you.

Morgan

As noted in this previously linked Deadline article, Morgan’s arc was only meant to be for 5 episodes and from there an option for season 2 is on the table. Where we left Morgan has made it where she could easily continue or, with all the favoritism geared towards Shaun, look for somewhere else to work. Perhaps the east coast. Yet, while Dr. Andrews move for power in the finale could be seen as villainous, let’s be real, there is likely going to be a compromise. So the show needs Morgan to call BS or at least keep Shaun on his toes.

For one of the growing problems I foresee on the show is they are going beyond the idea of teamwork and are now placating Shaun. No one else is really trying to challenge him anymore. Dr. Melendez has adapted, as has Dr. Andrews to a point, but Morgan hasn’t taken pity on Shaun or sees him as some inspirational figure to be protected. She is the only one who treats Shaun just as she would anyone else and that is really needed for this show. So here is hoping she returns for season 2.

Low Points

The Dr. Coyle/ Sexual Harassment Story That Got Dropped

When it comes to characters having storylines that don’t involve Shaun, they were all pretty weak. You have the end of Dr. Melendez and Jessica’s engagement, Jared and Claire’s relationship, Dr. Andrews trying to have kids and Allegra trying to date. However, one promising storyline was Claire and the sexual harassment storyline. As noted, it was timely, seem well thought out, and yet it suddenly ended as Claire was looking for other people to come out again Dr. Coyle. The show completely drops the storyline as if the actor who played Dr. Coyle got death threats and they had to stop for his safety. That is how abrupt that storyline ends.

Shaun Taking a Road Trip Got Swept Under The Rug – Episode 12

Shaun ready to go on a road trip with Lea

 

One of the things which may nag you, until Morgan comes along, is Shaun is given a whole lot of chances to screw up. Be it his bedside manner or just completely taking off without saying anything to anyone, Shaun doesn’t really experience repercussions for his actions. He even, arguably, gets someone shot earlier in the season but nothing comes of it.

But what makes things worse is us Dr. Glassman gets involved and lies for Shaun, is caught in the lie, and despite Dr. Melendez making a stink about it, Dr. Andrews doesn’t use that opportunity to strike. Even when Shaun talks about quitting, nothing happens despite how basically Shaun handed Dr. Andrews all he needs to get the presidency. Which you could say he wanted to earn rather than get through a dirty method, but if that was the case he wouldn’t, in the season finale, note to Allegra the minutes with Dr. Goldman’s promise to resign if Shaun wasn’t exemplary.

Lack of Storylines For Cast

As noted, outside of Claire, for a short period, no one but Shaun really got a meaty storyline. Some like Allegra and Jessica just appeared when needed to enhance a patient’s storyline. Heck, Allegra gets a one episode story about having an interest in a rich donor and that gets 0 follow up. Jessica, once she isn’t with Dr. Melendez anymore, she becomes a ghost. Which for her character was terrible since it was often hard to remember her name since, outside of knowing she is the hospital’s legal counsel, there isn’t really anything else noteworthy about her as a person.

But, in general, outside of the sob story everyone has, which gets brought up every now and then, we don’t see them really move forward. Which for some, like Jared, when he gets fired for assaulting Dr. Coyle, makes you hope he gets cut so maybe someone could use his time effectively. Yet, the only thing which happens is we may get one or two extra details about someone’s past, or in the case of Claire her mom shows up, and that’s it.

Which becomes a bit frustrating in the second half for, as noted below, the luster of the patients wears off as they don’t have stories or personalities which pop as high as in the first half. Plus, they become less their own people and more means to push Shaun’s storyline about how lonely he is and perhaps why. And while I get Freddie Highmore is the lead actor, when you see situations like Claire’s where as soon as her storyline gets good it just gets dropped, it is hard to now become agitated.

On The Fence

Balancing of Victories and Defeats

Recognizing that there can’t be too many defeats, as in deaths or maiming, because then the hospital gets sued, people get fired, or there will be no hospital, miracle solutions do get old after a while. And I think that is part of the reason the show loses steam in the second half for while people still die, it’s not the ones you invest a huge amount of hope and cross your fingers for. The ones who linger are the ones who ended up living.

Pushing the thought of how can the show not fall into a pattern yet also maintain the idea these doctors are good at their jobs? Can that be done?

The Patients of the 2nd half of the season

 

Shaun asking Quinn what it is like to be a girl?Outside of Quinn, in episode 14, and the difficulties of treating a trans patient, as well as Hunter, who had the opportunity to walk after being paralyzed for years, there weren’t those, one after another, memorable characters. Yes, some were adorable like Star in episode 15, but after what felt like a culmination in the form of Bobby in episode 10, things felt like they were going downhill. To the point where there no longer were any hopes for follow-ups and when Celeste showed up, there is almost this feeling of, “Out of all the patients you picked her?”

The End Of The Season

The season doesn’t necessarily end with the best of cliffhangers. It’s one which feels necessary so the show doesn’t end a place of complacency, yet it feels like you can easily predict the show’s next move. The likelihood of Shaun being fired isn’t likely because he is the lead, his patient didn’t die, and more than likely Dr. Andrews will get to experience being president because Dr. Glassman will be going through surgery and chemotherapy. So there is no reason to not give a reprimanding and move on.

Plus, let’s not forget how good Shaun looks for the hospital, PR wise. Money is always a lurking figure and firing Shaun can equal lost potential revenue. Much less, even though Shaun wouldn’t sue, the potential for a discrimination case surely would scare off Allegra, even though Jessica knows Shaun confessed despite her counsel and of his own free will.

Thus giving the idea that we’ll be in for, Shaun being on probation and Dr. Glassman staying on long enough for insurance to pay for his procedure then a pleasant retirement and dignified retirement.

Lea’s Exit

 

Lea telling Shaun he'll never be happy if he constantly lives in fearLea’s exist was very bittersweet. On one hand, she helped shift the show to be about more than hospital matters and got Shaun to open up a bit. Plus, unlike Claire, there wasn’t any idea that her being a love interest would happen just because. There was something natural to them getting close and it really helped build the idea of when Dr. Glassman gets his cancer news, Shaun really can’t afford him because he truly would have nothing. Steve is gone, Lea is halfway across the country so if Glassman died, it would mean Shaun would have no one looking out for him, no one volunteering to spend time with him, and the only connection to who he was before he was a doctor being gone.

So Much Medical Jargon In The 2nd Half

In the first half of the show, things were kept in laymen’s terms. We didn’t get too deep into the jargon and, in fact, like when we heard about 3D printing bones and using tilapia skins for burn victims, the possibilities of what medical professionals could do was cool. However, towards the end of the season, acronyms began flying about and you started to need subtitles to look up what the hell they were saying. Which sort of takes you out of the experience a bit. Yes, it may seem more realistic for well-trained doctors to use jargon, especially considering how Morgan brought a competition aspect to the show, forcing everyone to show off, but it presents another issue a lot of shows featuring professions like doctors, lawyers, and cops have to deal with – how do you balance procedure and terminology with entertainment?

In the first half this seems done well but then there is a weird shift. Pushing me to wonder, when the show was officially seen as a hit, who got involved and started messing with the formula?

Overall: Positive (Watch This)

If it wasn’t for the fact the last 8 episodes didn’t maintain the ante of the first 10, I would have no qualms about marking this as recommended. However, as noted in the last line of the last topic, it is like someone started to mess with the formula. With that, the patients no longer felt as noteworthy, the storylines for everyone but Shaun became drastically inconsistent, if they got a story at all, and it does leave you wondering what season 2 maybe like?

So, in many ways, this label is more about what we saw in the first half of the show, hopefully, returning vs. what we got in the 2nd half. For the 2nd half started to make me understand why many critics weren’t digging the show.

Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Per Deadline: Yup, with a max of 18 episodes – per Freddie Highmore’s contract. Though, all things considered, depending on how his contract is, maybe they can have a few episodes without him and go beyond 18.

Additional News

Lea, Dr. Lim, Morgan, and Dr. Park have become series regulars and Jared will not be returning for season 2. Bummer. (Source: Deadline)

Episode List

Episode 1
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.
Episode 2
Between Shaun’s bedside manner, learning to let things go, and lacking a real mentor, there is some struggle. Yet, as Steve’s influence continues to affect Shaun, the memories of his brother help push him to do what he believes is right.
Episode 3
While we are left with the unfortunate lesson that you can’t win them all, there is a rebuttal in there about still, at the very least, trying.
Episode 4
As Dr. Andrews takes more to Shaun, Dr. Melendez finds himself part of another procedure with legal repercussions.
Episode 5
There is a child who looks like Steve in the hospital. As you can imagine, that means you need to prepare your tissues.
Episode 6
What begins as an episode showing our favorite residents rise to the occasion leaves them all with hard lessons to learn.
Episode 7
For the first time, Shaun encounters another autistic person and with that comes mixed feelings. Meanwhile, Jared opens up about his life and Claire is forced to show vulnerability in a rather uncomfortable way.
Episode 8
Being the bigger person, admitting you are wrong, and dealing with guilt are the focus of the episode. And not just in terms of everyone’s profession but personal life as well.
Episode 9
With a mistake which could lead to a lawsuit and another a child’s death, it seems more people might be visiting Dr. Mohan – alongside Jessica.
Episode 10
Shaun finally seems to succumb to the pressure he is under but not because of the work. Rather, it is because of Dr. Glassman.
Episode 11
Conjoined twins set up an episode about separating from your past to discover a more fulfilling future.
Episode 12
Jessica finally is given some oomph and, for the first time, we experience patients for more than one episode.
Episode 13
As Shaun, annoyingly, points out the obvious and shows his own bias, Claire decides to pursue Dr. Coyle being properly punished.
Episode 14
A new resident seemingly will act as some sort of villain for the show and alongside her introduction is that of what trans youth go through. Especially in terms of medical issues.
Episode 15
Shaun gains invaluable lessons from Morgan, unexpected kindness from Dr. Andrews, and poor Claire experiences a moment she didn’t see coming.
Episode 16
2nd chances at happiness are a big thing this episode. Especially in regards to Shaun’s friend Kenny and the arrival of Claire’s mom. But, of course, not everyone deserves a 2nd shot.
Episode 17
The upside of a situation is what everyone is trying to find but, as you can figure out, not everyone can end the episode happy. Much less satisfied.
Episode 18
Setting aside the life or death situation of Dr. Glassman, Shaun creates a problem that may give him and Dr. Glassman something bigger to worry about.

How Would You Rate This?

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About Amari Sali 3365 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.

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