Among the flood of new shows released each fall, few manage to last for more than a few seasons, and even fewer still manage to achieve instant success. Achieving both of these goals can put a show on the path to greatness, and ABC’s hit new medical drama “The Good Doctor” looks poised to do just that. The title of the show refers to the prestigious San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital’s newest staff member: autistic surgical resident Dr. Shaun Murphy. Murphy, a quirky and socially awkward young doctor with savant syndrome, is inspired to become a surgeon after suffering a series of family tragedies as a teen. Although there are many medical shows on the air with similar plot features, Dr. Murphy’s autism presents unique challenges and scenarios which often serve to drive the plot forward. Although the show primarily revolves around Shaun, various other characters, from colleagues to neighbors, impact Shaun’s life in unique ways.
Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore)
Although his autism diagnosis often raises questions with regard to his competency as a surgeon, Shaun’s extraordinary intelligence and wealth of medical knowledge allow the young resident to prove his abilities time and time again, even if his bedside manner leaves something to be desired. Shaun’s best friend and greatest advocate is renowned neurosurgeon and San Jose St. Bonaventure president Dr. Aaron Glassman. In my opinion, Shaun serves as an excellent focal point for the rest of the show, as his autism provides a compelling plot device while also meaning that the show’s writers are not forced to include Shaun in a romantic relationship, allowing viewers to focus on the medical aspects of the show.
Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez)
As an attending physician and surgeon at St. Bonaventure, Dr. Melendez instructs and oversees a team of surgical residents which includes Dr. Shaun Murphy, Dr. Claire Brown, and Dr. Jared Kalu. As he frequently expresses to Dr. Glassman, Dr. Melendez has misgivings about having an autistic surgeon on his team. When Shaun joins Dr. Melendez for his first surgery at St. Bonaventure, he tells the young resident to get used to holding the suction tube, as that is all he will ever be good for. However, as the season progresses, Dr. Melendez begins to value and appreciate Shaun’s abilities and contributions to the team, at one point telling Claire, who had just returned from a chaotic stint in the hospital’s trauma ward, that she could improve if she learned to think more, but not entirely, like Shaun. Dr. Melendez is arguably “The Good Doctor’”s most important character, as he serves to personify the hesitancy displayed by Shaun’s colleagues in his first days of residency, as well as the ways in which their attitudes begin to change as they start to better appreciate Shaun’s abilities and value to the hospital.
Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff)
As president of San Jose St. Bonaventure, Dr. Aaron Glassman holds considerable power and thus has significant influence on the actions of the other characters. However, perhaps his most important role in the series is as Shaun’s greatest advocate, friend, and mentor. Glassman, who met Shaun under tragic circumstances when he was a boy, took the teen under his wing and helped to foster his interest in medicine. Now, Dr. Glassman serves as a father figure to the young surgeon, and is one of the few characters who is able to see Shaun’s autism as a benefit rather than a hinderance.
Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas)
Dr. Browne‘s relationship with Shaun got off to a rocky start in the pilot, as she is initially very dismissive towards him and adopts a condescending tone not unlike the one used by Dr. Melendez. In the succeeding episodes, however, Claire begins to understand Shaun and Is one of the only characters who truly tries to befriend and make connections with him, often defending his actions in front of her superiors. Despite their uneasy first meeting, Dr. Browne takes Shaun under her wing and helps to prove Shaun’s worth to Dr. Melendez and others who doubt him.
Dr. Jared Kalu (Chuku Modu)
The third member of Dr. Melendez’s team of residents, Dr. Jared Kalu, is quite different from many of The Good Doctor’s other characters, possessing several characteristics which set him apart from his colleagues. Born into a wealthy British family, Dr. Kalu cannot relate to the traumatic childhood events experienced by Claire and Shaun, but he still must deal with his own inner demons as he goes about his work. Though Jared’s character provides some interesting contrast to the experiences and personalities of the other characters, his lack of interaction with Shaun makes me question whether his inclusion in the show, especially in such a prominent role, was even necessary at all.
BY RYAN MONTAGNA