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by GEVEVA NATAL
A young autistic surgeon battles stereotypes and prejudices from his patients and coworkers in “The Good Doctor”.
The popular ABC-TV show is about Shawn Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, who is most known for his work in “Bates Motel” as Norman Bates. Highmore is an outstanding actor, praised by colleagues,who is fluent in French, and a graduate of the University of Cambridge. It comes as no surprise that Highmore successfully portrays a character who copes with autism.
Murphy is a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome. Murphy moves from his isolated town to the big city to work at San Jose Hospital, which is a training hospital for new surgeons.
The first episode kicks off with a dramatic twist that proves the talent of Dr. Murphy, who witnesses an accident at an airport. The person who had the accident needs help fast, and Murphy makes a contraption out of a borrowed knife that he got from TSA, a straw, and a bottle of booze. The contraption saves a boy’s life and shows the talents of Murphy. Despite his autism, his differences make him successful.
Murphy uses his photographic memory and intense evaluation skills in every surgical situation. His autism is accurately portrayed to the best of Highmore’s ability. There is no certain way that an autistic person will act. But the robotic speech, detachment from society, and blunt way of speaking are common traits that Highmore portrays wonderfully.
Despite Murphy’s amazing abilities, when getting the job he is forced to prove himself first. The board in charge of the hospital is hesitant to risk their reputation on him because of the baggage he brings and the risks that face the hospital if Murphy were to mess up. So his friend, Dr. Aaron Glassman, president of San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, played by Richard Schiff, puts his job on the line. He promises that if Murphy messes up or proves to be less than exceptional, he will resign as president.
Glassman is an old friend of Murphy, and later audience sees that he was the one to help Murphy after his brother died. There are flashbacks to explain Murphy’s past, which is littered with traumatizing events, including his bunny dying by his father, living in a bus with his brother after they left their home, and his brother ultimately dying.
His brother, Steve Murphy, played by Dylan Kingwell, dies when he falls off at a train when playing hide and seek with the other children. When he falls and Murphy sees him die, it was the end of his world, and a devastating loss that he never forgets. However, sad as it maybe, it is revealed in later episodes that Murphy became a doctor because he didn’t know what to do when his brother was bleeding out.
When he gets the job, Murphy meets his new coworkers who soon become family. That is, until Season Two, when they must compete to keep their spots at San Jose. Through trial and
error, the residents at the hospital save as many lives as possible. Murphy shows his dedication to saving patients when he goes above and beyond protocol.
In many instances, Murphy takes it upon himself to fix a problem no one believes is there. In one episode, he shows up at a patient’s house in the middle of the night because he believes that there is something terribly wrong when no one else thought so, and he was right. He saves the patient’s life, and through this he finally starts earning some respect from his colleagues and mentors.
Just because he doesn’t understand feelings very well doesn’t make him any less of a surgeon. Each character slowly comes to believe in Murphy and respect his abilities as a surgeon. Slowly but surely, the casts does an amazing job of realistically reacting to the strange things that Murphy does or doesn’t do.
Murphy is still human, and he makes a mistake that almost cost the life of a young man. The man lived despite Murphy’s mistake in surgery, but Murphy doesn’t want to lie. He chooses to tell the truth, despite the consequence of Glassman losing his job, because it is protocol. Murphy knows his obligations and duty to the job are the most important thing to him. He doesn’t do this to hurt his longtime friend, but to be true to the hospital and himself because he made a mistake and wants to own up to that.
Along with saving lives and making mistakes, there are typical personal problems from each of the characters, such as the romance of Dr. Clair Brown, played by Antonia Thomas, the personal struggles of Dr. Marcus Andrews, played by Hill Harper, or the very big problem faced by Glassman.
At the end of the first season, Dr. Glassman receives terrible news, and there is a cliffhanger. At the start of the second season he has options, but the stakes are high. Being a surgeon himself, he is hesitant to let anyone else do the procedure. He tells Murphy, who in his own way, is heart stricken. Murphy doesn’t want him to die and stresses out trying to find a solution. On top of that stress, Murphy’s Season One love interest returns.
Lea, played by Paige Spara, returns after hurting Murphy by leaving him to go home with her brother. She returns in the second episode, which ends on a cliff hanger with Glassman on the surgical table and Lea being told to leave.
Throughout Season One, we see that Murphy has to deal with being his own person. His biggest problem is not being able to understand people on a deeper level. However, he surpasses expectations and grows as an individual to become a semi-independent person.
The show’s fanbase is smitten with Highmore because of his abilities as an actor and cute face, making it a popular show on television.
I love that the show is about something different. It has realistic problem solving. I rarely see shows that accurately portray a person on the autism spectrum. He is more than what society says he should be, which is particularly inspiring.
This inclusive show accurately portrays a person beating the odds and succeeding in his dreams despite his obstacles. I love the odd, quirky couple of Murphy and Lea. Even though they are different, they make it work by being understanding, especially on Lea’s part. However, the autism isn’t focused on with their relationship. It’s cute and funny, and it fits in a dysfunctional way that is different from other relationships on screen. It seems more realistic.
The show is awesome, from the highs of Murphy’s successes to the lows of his failures, I feel it each time. I love the way he is, because the show includes this side of him as he tries to understand normal behavior, such as smiling. He went around smiling at people to see their reactions. It was the funniest, craziest, and cutest thing I have seen that definitely made me smile.
Murphy brings the show together with his different traits that differentiate from other hospital shows. I will continue to watch new episodes and I give “The Good Doctor” a 10/10
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