“The Good Doctor” captures the imagination with it’s superhero-like main character, wrenches our hearts with a pang that has somewhat disappeared from most TV shows, all the while causing us to laugh while tears roll down our cheeks.
Created by David Shore, “The Good Doctor”, starring Freddie Highmore who most will know from his roles in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” remake and “Bates Motel”, is a new captivating medical-drama airing on ABC. Freddie Highmore once again shows his diverse acting skills by playing a resident surgeon, Dr. Shawn Murphy, who was diagnosed with autism. Not only does Dr. Murphy struggle with autism, but he also has savant syndrome. Both of these diagnoses join to create a character we are unsure of yet root for at the same time.
We start out the show with Dr. Murphy moving to become a resident surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. However, before he can be added to the team of residents he has to “prove” himself. Some of the Committee at the hospital are against hiring a surgeon who has autism. They believe his autism will keep him from communicating and performing his duties to the standard they require. I will not give away whether he is able to prove himself to them, but just to give you a better understanding of his autism, I will give you some examples of his peculiar traits.
One of the very first of these autistic traits can be heard in the way Dr. Murphy speaks. He uses very short sentences that are not so much monotone as they are robotic. When he speaks he is intelligent and to the point. He does not understand sarcasm and so his responses to it are entertaining. He also takes longer to respond to questions which makes the watcher feel uneasy knowing that he needs to hurry with his responses especially when someone’s life may be on the line.
Dr. Murphy also is not well with social skills. For example, he does not understand flirting and equates the flipping of a girl’s hair to possibly being a sign of ringworm. He doesn’t usually hold a conversation with others and can be very blunt and logical in his responses. When it comes to patients he doesn’t really understand fear or how to comfort. He will bluntly state what his diagnosis of the patient is and not realize they are panicked now. Because he cannot lie, he does not know how to make his patients feel better when the truth is not what they want to hear. So at times he resorts to using another resident surgeon to lie for him.
Another one of his peculiar traits is that he uses the alarm on his phone for his morning routine. His alarm does not just wake him up, his alarm tells him when to do his exercises, when to brush his teeth, when to get dressed and when to eat. While we see his autistic tendencies, we also see his savant syndrome working. His savant syndrome allows him to see things that others cannot see. For example, he can see the vessels and muscles and all the parts that a kidney is made of. He can also see how to surgically remove the problem and where to make the first cut.
In addition, his savant syndrome allows him to remember loads of information that “normal” people could not contain. He can remember all he’s studied and can recall the exact procedure for different symptoms. This gift gives him a sort of MacGyver-like feel when he is required to perform a procedure without all of the usual medical equipment. His memory and his outside of the box thinking enables him to find different solutions to a seemingly unsolvable problem.
Throughout the show the watcher is given flashbacks of Dr. Murphy’s life as a child which better help us understand why he responds to certain situations in certain ways. I will not give away what these flashbacks entail because they are the source for all that you will be watching. However, I will say, These flashbacks are enlightening and entertaining as well as tear-jerking.
Overall, “The Good Doctor” breaks down the stereotypes attached to autism and allows us to see that we are no different. We too react to situations that trigger us from things that have happened in our pasts. We too wonder about what others true intentions are and if they actually say what they mean. We want others to listen to us and try to get to know us and see us as human. Dr. Murphy gives us an honest character and makes us think about the words we say and take the time to respond in the right way. So, if you’re looking for a new fresh show to watch that has dynamic characters with a meaningful plot you should check out “The Good Doctor”.