[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Doctor” finale, “More.”]
It seemed that Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) was wrong to encourage his mentor Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) to get a second opinion, because the new diagnosis for inoperable brain cancer was even bleaker than the first — giving him an even shorter window to live. But this is “The Good Doctor,” the ABC medical series in which a doctor with autism and savant syndrome can see solutions where others can’t. After a brilliant brainwave in which Shaun posits that the hospital could go through Glassman’s nose for a third diagnosis, it turns out that he actually has a different brain cancer that could be treated.
Creator David Shore, who had adapted the series from the Korean drama format, spoke to IndieWire about Murphy’s neighbors, bringing in new characters, what to expect in Season 2, and how Glassman was never going to die… in the finale, anyway.
“To be honest, people seem to die on TV way more than they die in real life,” he said. “For your regular characters, it seems to be the go-to place. But Glassman’s not out of the woods, and I think it’s much more realistic and much more interesting and a greater storytelling opportunity to explore that journey of being sick.
“This is show about medicine, and we have guest stars come in and get sick and get better and whatever,” he said. “How do our people deal with that? How is Dr. Glassman going to deal with his illness going forward? How is Dr. Murphy going to deal with a sick mentor? What is that going to do to their relationship? What challenges is that going to present? I want to fully explore that.”
Despite Glassman’s continued struggles with his health, Shore sees this ending in keeping with the overall optimism of the show.
“My intention was, ‘There is hope. He might get better but he might not. There is hope,’” he said. “Certainly hope was a theme through the episode between Glassman and Murphy, and I want to carry that forward.”
Although Glassman remains alive, the finale does include a cliffhanger, albeit a more unusual one. Murphy’s fate at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital is left hanging after he makes a major error during surgery that could have cost a patient his life. Although Murphy is instrumental in figuring out an innovative way to fix his near-fatal error, that may not be enough. His fellow doctors certainly seemed split about whether to report him or not.
When Glassman first recommended that the hospital board bring on Murphy, he did it by putting his own job on the line. He promised that his protege would be nothing short of excellent, and if that proved to be untrue, Glassman would resign as president of the hospital, which would leave the door open for the ambitious Dr. Marcus Andrews (Hill Harper) to possibly take his place.
Despite what’s at stake, the last scene of the finale is of Murphy and Glassman entering Andrews’ office, presumably to come clean about Murphy’s mistake.
“Shaun is a moral, ethical person and I believe even though he didn’t appear to be paying attention in those debates, I think he fully was,” said Shore. “He semi-quotes Dr. Park and Dr. Kalu. I think he was listening and recognizing that this is what he has to do, and Shaun does was he has to do. Shaun’s an honorable person.”
Murphy’s journey through Season 1 has been an education for both viewers and for him. The more experiences a person with autism has, the better they are equipped to deal with social interactions as a neurotypical person would. The biggest breakthrough for him in the finale is to acknowledge love for his mentor and hug him, which is a departure since he doesn’t normally like touching in a social sense. Add that to his list of milestones that he’s reached throughout the season.
“He’s going through the same journey that we all do just in his own way, and there are little moments in his life that mean nothing to neurotypical people, that mean the world to him,” said Shore. “I think because we’ve grown to love him, we will feel that way as well.
“When he has his kiss, when Lea hugs him, there were a whole bunch of them through the season, tiny little moments,” he added. “We want to continue to take that forward, step-by-step as Shaun develops and learns more and more about coping in the world and the challenges he faces with the obstacles to overcome. And as Shaun is closer and closer to so many things that we all want.”
Speaking of Lea (Paige Spara), Murphy’s former neighbor is still sorely missed ever since they went on their fateful road trip that gave him his many firsts – first time driving, first tequila shot, first karaoke experience, and first kiss. But that trip gave her the clarity she needed to quit her job and move back home to pursue her dream of restoring vintage cars.
“Lea’s going to be back. I can tell you that,” said Shore. “She’s fantastic. She has a spark and an energy that is really wonderful to watch. If you place him in a ‘relationship’ with any woman, people want that for him. We want him to find a relationship. We want him to find love. It’s got to be with the right woman. It’s got to be with the right person who understands him and accepts him and for sure doesn’t pity him, recognizes all that he is and we got that from Lea almost straight away, I think.”
Unfortunately, when Lea moved out, the new neighbor Kenny (Chris D’Elia) moved in and proceeded to take advantage of Murphy’s generosity under the guise of what turned out to be a one-sided friendship.
“It was important that we have a contrast in that neighboring apartment,” said Shore. “I want to see if Shaun copes with everything. He had a fantastic neighbor at the start of the season. How’s he going to cope with a neighbor who’s significantly less good, but who has strengths as well and has attractions as well? Kenny is fun. We’re attracted to fun people, so that’s why we wanted to go with that.”
As of this interview, Shore was “not sure” if Kenny would be returning next season.
Kenny wasn’t the only new character that rubbed viewers the wrong way this season. The ambitious and unsentimental Dr. Morgan Reznik (Fiona Gublmann) often shocked her fellow surgeons with her ruthless tactics.
“I think the more people with different points of view we can place in Dr. Murphy’s life, the more opportunities there are for him to ask that question of why, in an innocent non-judgmental way, and for him to learn from them,” said Shore. “She’s got, shall we say, a more selfish point of view … There are certain lines she won’t cross because she actually has a good moral center, I believe in spite of that way she should behave, and the way she does behave. But she is selfish and not trusting, and I think that’s interesting to contrast Dr. Murphy with that, who is never judgmental. Even when he sees things that seem outrageous to him, his reaction’s not, ‘That’s outrageous,’ his reaction is, ‘Why did you do that?’ It’s genuine.”
Dr. Alex Park (Will Yun Lee) also joined the team midseason, and his take on situations is less rosy. He was a police officer for 15 years before deciding to switch to medicine.
“There’s a cynicism there,” said Shore. “He has seen the worst of people, and I think he doesn’t want to believe in the worst in people and is looking for a new start. I think that’s very apparent here, but I think in his core, that comes more naturally to him, the cynicism. That is what is consistent with what he has seen in his life and it’s difficult to fight against that.”