Shaun objected to a billboard that reduced him to “doctor with ASD,” only to change his mind when a child was inspired by it.
The Good Doctor Season 5 Episode 4 focused on Shaun’s need to be less rigid and more open to other ideas.
This realization was undoubtedly a good lesson, but was it the proper conclusion when it comes to the billboard Salen put up?
Shaun, Mateo, and Glassman all had a point about the way the billboard tokenized Shaun.
Salen didn’t talk to him beforehand and made a ton of assumptions about who Shaun was.
She seemed to think that because she didn’t have any accommodations for ADHD when she was growing up, all Shaun needed was space, and he’d fall in love with her idea.
The problem is that ADHD and ASD are two distinct types of neurodiversity. And more to the point, Shaun’s objection wasn’t about being ashamed of having ASD. It was about being made the spokesperson for ASD without being consulted!
Something still felt wrong about that even after Shaun warmed to the idea. It reminded me of Scrubs Season 1 Episode 8 when Turk didn’t appreciate being similarly tokenized on a billboard that he’d never consented to.
On the other hand, Shaun’s objection was rooted in the idea that no one would be inspired by the idea of a doctor having ASD.
Shaun: The billboard will inspire no one. And it has inverted my hair part which is on the wrong side.
Salen: Think of a random number between 1 and 10. Did you choose 7?
Shaun: I don’t know what you think this proves.
Salen: We are not as rational as we think. I change my decisions all the time.
Shaun: I would like you to change this one then and take down the billboard.
He’s spent the last five years trying to be seen as just as talented a doctor as his neurotypical counterparts.
So if the message here was that he needs to embrace who he is, ASD and all, rather than trying to be something he’s not, that’s a valuable, important takeaway from this story.
Still, though, Salen did reveal his diagnosis without his consent, and that’s wrong regardless of her motives. Other than Glassman, no one seemed to care much about that, and it didn’t come up at all in Shaun’s list of objections.
Medical privacy is a thing, even if your diagnosis isn’t something to be ashamed of, and I wish The Good Doctor had emphasized that more.
Shaun’s medical conundrum was more compelling than the billboard, though.
At first, the idea of having a frightened father on the medical team seemed senseless.
Salen’s idea that it was “elitist” to leave the medicine to trained professionals was silly. Doctors devote years of their lives to study and internships for a reason, and a father researching a medical condition on his own is not the same thing.
But in this case, the father was an expert on his child’s disease, so it was understandable why Salen wanted him to have more input than the average parent, even if her reasoning wasn’t entirely logical.
It also was a recipe for disaster, and Shaun’s meltdown was predictable, as was his eleventh-hour realization that Walt had a point about reducing the pressure and that the intestinal removal surgery was not necessary.
At least Andrews didn’t put the incident between Shaun and Walt into Shaun’s permanent record!
That shows growth on Andrews’ part since he was one of the people during The Good Doctor Season 1 who thought Shaun’s ASD made him a liability and didn’t want him to continue in his residency.
Still, though, Andrews should have had a plan in place before Shaun started melting down so that the hospital could prevent an embarrassing scene.
By the time Shaun was losing it, he wasn’t willing or able to walk away, so Andrews’ telling him to came too late.
Anyway, as soon as Shaun saw Walt and Holly hugging, I knew he’d come up with a different solution at the last minute.
Shaun’s running through the hospital and banging on the OR glass to get Andrews’ attention added drama, but was there any doubt he’d get there in time to stop the surgery?
I’m glad that Walt readily accepted Shaun’s idea and inclusion in the new surgical plan. After that meltdown, he would have been justified in never wanting Shaun anywhere near him or his daughter again.
And, of course, everything turned out fine. Shaun even grudgingly admitted that Walt had some excellent ideas and was a great dad! I’d call that a decisive win.
Meanwhile, the other case of the hour was more or less a vehicle for Morgan and Park to argue with each other some more. Joy.
Gina’s backstory was compelling. She’d abandoned her son because of her mental illness. She couldn’t take the anxiety, and it was ruining her ability to enjoy her life.
Mother: I can’t let you hurt yourself for me after what I did to you.
Henry: Now you care about my feelings?
Mother: I always cared.
Henry: Why did you leave?
Mother: When I first brought you home from the hospital, you wouldn’t latch and I was so overwhelmed. And that panic I felt never left me so all that energy I should have put into loving you, I put into not falling apart. Eventually I chose my own happiness. But I knew you were strong. Your father would love you in a way I just couldn’t and you would be okay.
Henry: You have no right to say I’m okay. I prayed every day when I came home from school that you would be there. And every day when you weren’t, a little part of me died. I was a little boy who loved his mother and you left me.
I wish mother and son had had more time to talk things through before she needed an immediate lung transplant. I wanted Henry to understand that his mother had an untreated mental illness that had caused a lot of pain.
The story we did get was emotional enough, especially when Henry came to the understanding that his mother wouldn’t be happy if she stayed in California to make things up to him, but it could have gone even deeper.
Morgan also made a big deal out of Gina having said she didn’t want Henry to donate part of his lung to her before Gina fell unconscious, only for nothing to happen with that.
Nothing of any import, anyway. Gina was okay with it when she woke up. The only point to that conflict was getting Morgan to confess to Park that she was taking hormone treatments so she could freeze her eggs.
While I was pleasantly surprised that Morgan admitted to being somewhat selfish and possibly not a great mother, I could care less about any baby drama with her and Park.
Stick to the medical cases, please!
And finally, Glassman, like Gina, had to learn how to be a proper “parent” to an adult Shaun. But now that Shaun doesn’t seem to need him, he’s taking to the open road. Will he be back? Will we see his adventures on the road? Will he get into an accident and end up in the hospital?
I hope we’ll get answers to that soon! Glassman is one of my favorite characters, and I hate the idea of him running away and leaving the hospital entirely in Salen’s untrained hands.
Your turn, The Good Doctor fanatics!
What did you think of Shaun’s decisions, Morgan’s revelation, or the cases of the hour?
Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.
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Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.