TV Review – The Good Doctor (2017-18)

The Good Doctor first aired in September, 2017 as an adaption of the award-winning South Korean series of the same name. Since then, the American series has fast become one of the most popular TV shows of 2018. And now, with the release of series two a year later, David Shore’s hospital drama seems more beloved than ever before.

The clinching point of The Good Doctor is its protagonist, Shaun Murphy. Magnificently performed by Freddie Highmore, the young, academic surgeon is also on the autistic spectrum. As with any disability or impairment, there’s a fine line that comes with portraying a diagnosed character on screen. A balance of realism and drama is needed; addressing the condition without letting it take over as the only defining trait. Afterall, people with autism are still people, with individual personalities. Taking this into consideration, both Shore and Highmore execute Shaun’s character with a sensitivity and grace that’s none short of admirable.

As Shaun remains the core of entire storyline, allowing a three-dimensional character that is both adorable and liable to make mistakes (his condition never excuses for harmful behaviour, as it should be) is key. Shaun melts my heart in every episode, with his innocence and optimism drawing audiences back again and again. A continuity is achieved The Good Doctors quality (and unfortunate minor downfalls) from the first to second season. Thus, my experience and opinions do not vary for Shore’s newest season.

Though I enjoyed the show immensely, binging through the first season and impatiently awaiting the second, there are a few pitfalls that can’t be ignored. Being an American hospital drama, there are certain formats and conventions that can become easily repetitive. We know every medical case- and to that end every episode, will have a generic happy ending. When the heart-monitor beeps erratically in the theatre room, we lack the intended feeling of tension. Simply because I know they will survive, more often than not. Though David Shore’s risky approach to using an Autistic protagonist paid off well, the other characters and general structure of the show can sometimes be cliché.

Left: Nicholas Gonzalez, Right: Freddie Highmore

Predictability, in my opinion, plays a major factor in the strength of a narrative. Don’t get me wrong- the storylines are eventful and plot twists do sometimes occur. But there is that stereotypical American idealism that transcends Shaun’s gentle optimism and verge on tiresome. All of this, though a shame, luckily does not dampen the viewing experience too much. Particularly to an audience member less inclined to analyse the threads of filmmaking. The attitude cast over the new series is heart-warming, even if social allegories can be laid on a little thick at times.

The fact I hit the Next Episode button more times than is probably healthy speaks volumes on the shows ability to capture an audience. Relationships between audience and character are secured pretty quickly, whether that’s one of love or hate. The real moments of suspense, for me, surrounded Shaun’s character in moments of stress and difficulty. Rather than on the operating table. Clear messages are drawn and, for once, there is a refreshingly diverse cast list. We sympathize with Shaun, infuriated when prejudice faces him, whilst paralleling plotlines engage us to a reasonable degree.

An intelligent exploration of the human condition, season two of David Shores The Good Doctor is no less entertaining the first. Enough to stand out against all over TV medical dramas, social issues are handled beautifully by the cast. I would say if you haven’t started binging yet, it’s time to get that popcorn popping. And prepare yourself for a cliff hanger finale…

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