‘The Good Doctor’ EPs Talk Writing a ‘Challenging’ Series Finale After Show Passed Its Original Ending

Note: The following story contains spoilers from “The Good Doctor” Season 7, Episode 10.

“The Good Doctor” made one last groundbreaking save in the ABC medical drama’s series finale on Tuesday, which executive producers called a “challenging” finale for the characters after the show moved past its originally envisioned conclusion.

Showrunner Liz Friedman and creator David Shore told TheWrap that the initial pitch for the show’s ending involved the autistic Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) becoming a father, a milestone he reached at the end of Season 6. The show moving past its original conclusion and getting to explore Shaun as a father before saying goodbye with Season 7, led to the more personal finale storyline involving the doctors of San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital working to save both the beloved Dr. Claire Browne (Anthonia Thomas) and Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff).

“His medical, diagnostic and surgical skills are so considerable that it’s a much more interesting challenge for the character to be dealing with feelings and emotions and empathy,” Friedman told TheWrap. “Having to treat patients he knows, who have personal value to him … Those are the more challenging decisions that seemed like the right place to be in [for] the finale.”

Appropriately titled “Goodbye,” the conclusion of the two-part finale followed as the doctors faced the aftermath of Claire’s collapse and Glassman’s reveal that his cancer is back — and terminal. The doctors find that Claire is suffering from an aggressive infection that they work arduously to contain, while Shaun also enlists everyone’s help to try to find a cure for Glassman once again.

Highmore praised the finale as a “fitting” end to the series, as Shaun faced a more personal dilemma with his final onscreen case. With Glassman, Shaun had to come to terms with a future where his father figure wouldn’t be around; whereas with Claire, he had to make life-altering decisions for his friend and patient — including amputating one of her arms — to save her life. Both challenges, he noted, showed his character’s remarkable growth across seven seasons of “The Good Doctor.”

“One of the misconceptions about autism is that people who have autism can’t change and learn and grow… That’s just not true. Of course, Shaun will always have autism, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of changing,” Highmore told TheWrap. “There’s a tendency on shows that have that case-of-the-week element to keep the characters the same. But Shaun has changed so much, which has been an incredible privilege and joy to play.”

As he came to terms with losing Glassman, Shaun found himself with both Glassman and his wife Lea (Paige Spara) in the same boardroom at the hospital where he passionately advocated for himself to be hired in the series’ first episode, a “surreal” full-circle experience that Highmore said “put into perspective how far we’ve come” on the show.

“I thought it was really lovely to send him back to that place where Glassman fought for him and he fought for himself on Day 1 for his mind to be back there and for our minds to be back there at the end of the show,” Shore told TheWrap.

The finale then flashed forward a few years to show Shaun giving a TED talk in honor of Dr. Glassman and how his work with Shaun and others led to the treatment of thousands of patients. Through his speech, viewers learned Shaun rose through the ranks to chief of surgery and that, after him and Glassman saved Claire, he teamed up with her to open a foundation focused on fostering neurodivergent doctors to become surgeons and medical practitioners of all kinds.

Though she noted there were plenty of stories left to be told, Friedman said she was happy to show where Shaun and the rest of the characters landed with the finale’s final act.

“We know that he’s out there, that he’s happy and continuing to put forth his message and get people to understand that difference isn’t just something accepted, it’s something to be embraced and valued,” she said.

“In a time when so many TV shows were cynical and embrace the darkness of the world, Liz and I are very proud to have done a show that’s grounded and real and deals with real people just trying to do their best in the world,” Shore added. “‘The Good Doctor’ is about hope, and we hope it touches people’s lives in a positive way.”

“The Good Doctor” is now streaming on Hulu.

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