Review: The Good Doctor

James Szalkie

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Disclaimer: opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any official position or policy of the Shortridge Daily Echo or of Shortridge High School

The Good Doctor, which airs Mondays at 10/9c, follows a young surgeon named Sean Murphy with autism and savant syndrome, making him a brilliant doctor. Because of his disability, he faces much prejudice at his hospital, making himself a controversial figure. I have seen seven of the episodes out currently.

So, what is autism? There are many answers to this question, and many approaches to it as a whole. It is modernly known as ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, because it is regarded as a spectrum. But if there is one thing people should know about people with autism, they are certainly not stupid.

Autism mostly affects social abilities and communication. This can mean people with ASD can have problems ranging from not understanding sarcasm, to not understanding language all together. More severe forms of autism can mean being completely non verbal, or they can not speak. Less severe forms include Aspergers syndrome (a condition which affects this writer) and can mean one can be more high functioning. Each diagnosis is individual, and falls in its own place in the spectrum.

So what should one know about people with ASD? The best thing you can offer is patience and empathy (two things people with ASD can also struggle with), and try to understand where they are living. Their world is not the same as yours, it is magnified. For example, lights and sound can overload them easily.

So how does Autism affect Sean Murphy? It means he struggles with bed side manners, the idea that doctors should have a certain courtesy around patients. He often blurts out possible diagnoses in front of patients, which frequently causes unnecessary panic. It can also mean smaller idiosyncrasies, such as not understanding patient’s reactions, or forgetting ethical requirements in his medical actions.

But what about the savant syndrome? In the first episode we are introduced to the character, he uses his genius to build a one way valve using a tube from the back of a vending machine, electrical tape, a box cutter, and two bottles of  bourbon to save a young boy’s life in the middle of an airport, just a first look at his genius. His thoughts are visualized on screen, directly out of medical text books, and use excellent animation to illustrate his process.

Sean Murphy is played by Freddy Highmore, a young actor many may recognize from the thriller series, Bates Motel (he even has the same haircut). After the series’s ending, Freddie has now filled the shoes of the troubled surgeon, a difficult role, certainly. As the student body saw in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night, portraying a character with autism can be difficult, because it involves knowing the small things about the diagnosis of the character, such as where they fall short socially, what are their triggers, things of that nature. Highmore does an amazing job of playing the role.

Supporting Sean is his mentor and advocate in the hospital, Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff), who is an almost father figure to Sean. It also helps that he is president of the hospital. By his side is his fellow residents, Dr. Brown (Antonia Thomas) and Dr. Kalu (Chukuma Modu). Dr. Brown is special, in that she treats Sean with the same ideals that are required when interacting with people who have autism: patience and empathy, which are apparently in low supply at St Bonaventure hospital. To back up the theory, his boss, Dr Melendez, who leaves Sean on suction at the beginning of the season.

Luckily for me, I have a medical expert, my dad, on hand while watching who can explain a range of hospital things, from types of surgery, to the many ways Sean is belittled. For example, in the beginning, Melendez only allows Sean to be on suction. He won’t even let him assist, only suction. But even through this, Sean is not deterred. Partially because he gives everyone around him the immediate benefit of the doubt, but also because he is a spirit who can not be broken.

I was very excited when I saw this show was created by the same creator of House, another great medical show about an ornery diagnosis genius. The show used to be on Netflix, but was taken off in April. But, I still suggest finding it, because it is funny, dramatic, and brilliant. This show has somehow managed to surpass that. One thing I will miss about House is the rounds in the clinic, where he belittled people’s lacking of medical knowledge. It never failed to be hilarious.

Sean, even though he struggles to interact with those around him, is a very likable character. this show will have you crying, laughing, smiling, and cheering for this underdog. It even made me cry, and I’ve only cried at Benjamin Button, and Marley And Me. Not much is as heartwarming as this series. It is one not to miss. The chance of one not liking this show is if you are squeamish (there are scenes with open surgery), or if you’re just plain heartless.

Based on what I’ve seen, I give this a 9/10, would totally “cry-while-laughing-because-this-show-is-so-great” again.