Thoughts on The Good Doctor, Season 1

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April is Autism Awareness Month. As such, I wanted to follow up on my thoughts on The Good Doctor. I also want to give a shout out to Steve from the Youtube channel Tostemac. He is currently doing a series of reviews for each of the episodes on The Good Doctor and I highly recommend them as Steve is someone who also has autism and gives some great perspectives.

Some spoilers ahead!

The second half of The Good Doctor introduced a lot of new characters. Sadly, Lea left after Islands, Part 2. It totally sucks because I wanted to see Shaun explore his new relationship on top of his work. Instead, she goes off to Hershey, Pennsylvania to work with her brother in repairing cars. Soon after Lea leaves, Shaun has a new neighbor named Kenny. I was willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt because he was nice to Shaun, but unfortunately, his criminal past and the way he acted in the finale have taken away my good faith in him.

Speaking of characters I hate, the show also introduces a couple new residents. Doctor Morgan Reznick, whom I not-so-affectionately call “Doctor Barbie” has become the new Hate Sink/Scrappy for the way she fakes nice to patients, but acts mean, manipulative, and cutthroat to basically everyone else, especially Claire. She also dismisses Doctor Kalu as she doesn’t think he’ll get a permanent job at the hospital and sometimes gives bad advice to both him and Shaun.

I call Morgan “Doctor Barbie” because she’s blonde and fake. There’s a way to write Jerkass Doctor characters and still make them likeable. Doctor Cox and his ex-wife Jordan from Scrubs are great examples of this. (I’m not counting Dr. Kelso because he’s basically a Designated Villain.) Dr. Cox is a total jerk to everyone, but it shows that he really does care about people underneath it all. He loves his kids and he even loves JD, but he will never willingly say it out loud to JD’s face. Jordan is self-centered, but her advice is always honest and she’s even affectionate at times. Doctor Morgan has yet to show any depth or any instances where she has to face responsibility for her mistakes. IF she comes back for Season 2, I want to see her undergoing a trial with major stakes because right now, she’s all privilege and no sympathy.

Doctor Alex Park also joins the residents as an ex-cop. I definitely like him, but he almost feels like he should be on another medical drama, like  Chicago Med.  He’s cynical, especially when it comes to anyone with a criminal background. I get that as a cop he’s probably seen the worst of humanity on a daily basis, but doctors aren’t supposed to be judgmental and, you know, most people prefer to use the whole “innocent until proven guilty” mindset. Then again, I consider myself to be an idealist, so it might just be my personal bias.

Doctor Kalu is one character who’s changed the most out of all the residents. After attacking a lecherous doctor in the locker room for harassing Claire,  he gets fired, but gets re-hired by threatening to sue the hospital. His relationship with Claire goes down the drain by “Heartfelt,” but he starts dating someone new towards the end of the season. It’s also shown that he’s looking for other places to work, as it’s very unlikely that he’ll have a permanent job in San Jose. I’m also glad that he’s trusting Shaun and stands up for him when the situation calls for it.

Poor Doctor Claire had a lot to deal with this season. Not only was she harassed by a doctor, but she has to deal with the cutthroat Doctor Morgan and her mother, who is clearly a moocher. In spite of all this, though, she’s still a wonderful character and a great friend for Shaun. I’m still not on the Claire/Shaun ship, though, because there are more moments that tease an interest in Doctor Melendez, who has broken up with his fiancee.

I think Doctor Melendez has really grown on me. He begins to trust Shaun a lot more and he’s shown to be a very fair-minded doctor. He doesn’t get much personal development in the second half beyond the fact that his relationship with Jessica has ended. It’s also implied that Jessica and Glassman were friends in the past, but it’s never given any detail as to how. Based on the finale, I think Jessica knew Glassman’s deceased daughter, but I wish that their friendship was explained more.

The jury is still out on Doctor Andrews. Although he was helpful to Shaun, helping him socialize with others during the fundraiser in “Heartfelt,” he’s still gunning for Glassman’s job in the finale. It’s also shown that he and his wife are trying to have kids, but he has low motility. He’s also mad at Kalu for playing the race card in his attempt at suing the hospital, but I still side with Kalu.

As far as the plots for individual episodes go, I liked some episodes more than others. “Seven Reasons” and “She” are a bit too political for my taste as I don’t believe for a second that Shaun would presume a Muslim patient to be a terrorist just because she was handling chemicals. I get that the patient was lying, but Shaun is way too smart to presume something so extreme. The situation with “She” is also too dicey a subject for me to talk about here.

I liked the episodes “Heartfelt,” “Pain,” and “Smile” more because Shaun gets to interact with patients who either inspire him to change or just connect with him in a sweet way. For example: the patient in “Heartfelt” inspires Shaun to be courageous enough to socialize at the hospital fundraiser. The patient of the week in “Smile” is my favorite, though, because Shaun is reasonable and honest with her and he ends up making her laugh.

I kinda wish some things relating to autism were explored more. The patient of the week in “Pain,” a man who is wheelchair-bound from a spinal cord injury, asked Shaun about if he would hypothetically try out something that would cure autism. That question never gets answered or discussed again. The guy has good intentions, but the problem with that line of thinking is that unlike a spinal cord injury, autism isn’t something that needs to be treated or cured.

I’ve compared autism to having a brain that’s programmed differently, similar to how Macs and Linuxes have different programming than a PC. People with autism need to learn how to better interact with neurotypicals, but there’s nothing short of a frickin lobotomy that will make an autistic person “normal.” You can’t bleach it out of them.

So overall, the first season of The Good Doctor was a great start. And I look forward to Season 2. I hope that the supporting cast gets more development and that the episodes get a little less political. Still, I recommend this show to people on the autism spectrum and for those who want to understand autism. It’s definitely a series that can open up some much-needed discussions.

Thoughts on The Good Doctor (so far) From Someone With Asperger’s

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The reactions from the autism community in regards to ABC’s latest hit series The Good Doctor are divisive at best. As someone who was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I want to give my own two cents on this show.

I don’t usually watch medical dramas. The only medical-themed show I ever watched was Scrubs and one episode of House. So no, I’m not gonna compare this show to House. Sorry, Hugh Laurie fans.

What I will say is that I think the character of Shaun is a great positive portrayal of someone on the autism spectrum. And while I understand that the character of Shaun Murphy might be better portrayed by someone who is actually on the autism spectrum, I have to give props to Freddie Highmore for all the work he does into making Shaun Murphy into a believable person and less like Rain Man. In the first episode, I immediately related to the last scene, when Shaun asked his colleague, Claire, about when exactly she was lying to him since her behavior towards him changed from not trusting him to trying to be his friend.

I think this show has a great supporting cast as well. Dr. Glassman is great as the well-meaning mentor and “father figure” to Shaun, but his approach is a bit too “helicopter parent.” Dr. Andrews is so far my least favorite character. His ambitions are clear, but he’s inconsiderate and unrealistic in the way he looks at Shaun, especially in the most recent episode. I’m not saying that Shaun should get any special treatment, but given that Shaun doesn’t drive and that recently, he had a very public mental breakdown, some leeway should be given for his frequent tardies and his recent absence.

Dr. Claire Brown reminds me a lot of Carla from Scrubs. Half the internet ships her with Shaun, but I see her as more of a sister-type, trying to understand Shaun without talking down to him. The reason I don’t ship Shaun with Claire is because Claire is already sleeping with Dr. Kalu and is attracted to Dr. Melendez. Speaking of, these two doctors are honestly the more realistic types of ally/antagonists compared to Dr. Andrews. Dr. Melendez is a jerk, but it’s mostly because he’s task-oriented and focused on getting the job done as best as he can. Dr. Kalu is the opportunist “renegade” who isn’t afraid to think outside the box, but he can be a bit too headstrong and he’s not always a good friend to Shaun.

One character who does turn out to be a good friend for Shaun is Lea, the girl next door. (Side note: Dear writers, do any of you own a gaming system? The meet cute could’ve worked if she was playing XBox and needed double As. Please keep that in mind, thank you very much.) Aside from Claire, Lea is the only major character who doesn’t talk down to Shaun or acts like a helicopter parent. Whether she’s the best influence is up for debate, given the most recent episode, but daredevil driving antics aside, I like her. She treats Shaun like any other normal human being, challenging him and actually listening to him, but in a way that he feels comfortable with.

Back to Shaun, though. I love that he is open to learning about social interaction. I love that he can handle himself when it comes to surgery and handling chaotic situations like an emergency room triage (see episode “Not Fake”). His best moments with patient interaction can be seen in “Point Three Percent,” “22 Steps,” and “Sacrifice.” The emotional meltdown he had in “Sacrifice” was also very realistic.

If you’re wondering, by the way, why Shaun can handle an emergency room triage, with all the sirens and voices talking over each other, but not handle trying to stand up to Glassman about going to therapy, it’s my personal theory that Shaun is INTP. He can compartmentalize stuff that happens to him, but it also includes not talking about what he wants outside of simple, material things. Granted, the meltdown is partially Glassman’s fault because instead of just trusting that Shaun handled the attempted robbbery, he keeps trying to find people who can take care of Shaun. It’s well-meant, but inconsiderate.

There are some things about Shaun that surprise me, however. I’m surprised that Shaun has never met someone with autism aside from himself. Granted, I had the privilege of going to a support group with other people on the autism spectrum.

What I can’t imagine, however, is that Shaun never really listened to music. It would be believable if he doesn’t like mainstream music, but I can’t imagine that Dr. Glassman didn’t look into the connection between music therapy and autism if he was really set on helping Shaun out. I do buy, however, that Shaun remembers things by smell. Sensory awareness is very much tied to having autism, especially tying memories to certain things. For me, I remember visual stuff: books I read, various movies/tv shows/web videos I watched. I’m glad that Lea introduced music into Shaun’s life.

The most recent episode, by the way, was awesome as it was crazy. The impulsive road trip, along with the bit of reckless driving and subsequent drinking, would probably scare any parent, but resonates with anyone who just wanted to get away from it all during a bad time. I know I’ve had that desire in the past to just go somewhere after something bad happened. I’ll admit that the driving part was definitely dangerous, but I’m just glad nobody got hurt. Mostly, I’m glad that Shaun finally found someone he could love. Lea might be a bit of the “manic pixie dream girl,” but she’s encouraging Shaun to live for himself.

I will give my overall thoughts of The Good Doctor once the first season ends. For now, I really, really like this show and can’t wait to see what happens next!