‘The Good Doctor’ Finale Was as Preposterous as You’d Expect

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/ABC
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/ABC

It’s hard to overstate how gaga viewers were over The Good Doctor when it first premiered in 2017. The ABC medical drama stars Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy—an autistic surgeon with savant syndrome. A lot of critics might’ve panned the show when it first began, but audiences flocked to it week after week. At one point, the show’s viewership managed to best even the years-long record-holder Big Bang Theory, an achievement shocking enough to inspire a flurry of think pieces. On Tuesday night, the series wraps up its seven-season run with a fittingly sentimental and preposterous series finale that dares to ask, what if not one but TWO people in Dr. Shaun Murphy’s life were dying?

In the years following his sparkling debut, our blue-eyed, pure-hearted good doctor has faced a serious fall from grace. The show’s self seriousness combined with its trope-y and frankly ableist depiction of autism turned it into a meme last year, when social media users roasted one infamously embarrassing scene to hell and back. That frenzy also led X users to resurface other clips from the show, in which Shaun—an actual doctor who made it through medical school—commits such gaffes as forgetting that trans people exist and also failing to realize that not all brown folks are terrorists. What a pity this show is coming to a close!

But how did it all wrap up? If you’re a person who wants to watch this finale unspoiled, this is your warning—spoilers lie ahead.

We kick things off with a major blow for Shaun. Last week, we learned that Dr. Aaron Glassman’s (Richard Schiff) cancer is back, and during Tuesday’s finale—fittingly titled “Goodbye”—he reveals that he’s got only three to six months to live.

Freddie Highmore sits in a lab in a still from ‘The Good Doctor’

Freddie Highmore

Jeff Weddell/ABC

Shaun takes this news about his surrogate father’s life expectancy about as well as one might expect, which is to say that he immediately goes into crisis mode and comes up with not one but two groundbreaking treatment plans that Glassman rejects.

Yes, these ideas would buy Glassy some more time, but his quality of life would plummet, and he’d rather spend a few good months with Shaun, his daughter-in-law, and his grandson. This is, of course, understandable, but Shaun, whose little brother died in an accident when they were young, will not accept that decision.

Freddie Highmore holds a baby in a still from ‘The Good Doctor’

Freddie Highmore

Jeff Weddell

As if that wasn’t enough to raise Shaun’s blood pressure to new heights, his friend and former colleague, Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas), is also dying from a bacterial infection—acinetobacter, to be specific—and needs a medically induced coma to recover. (Poor Antonia brought her character back from Guatemala for this?!) In a moment that could only ever happen on a medical drama, Shaun’s colleague Dr. Audrey Lim (Christina Chang) scolds him for failing to take a few minutes with Claire when she asks, telling him, “Shawn, your very good friend who might die is asking for a few minutes of your time, but you’re too busy ignoring the express wishes of your other friend who’s dying!”

So, what’s a guy to do in this situation? Everything wrong!

For starters, Shaun tearfully lashes out at Dr. Glassman for being “selfish” and “giving up.” His compulsive search for answers also prevents him from paying Claire a visit in her hospital bed before her induced coma—during which time her doctors realize they must amputate her necrotic arm, effectively ending her surgical career. (Did anyone expect this finale to go this dark?)

Let the ‘Bridgerton’ Girls Be Gay!

In the end, however, all becomes right in the world once more when Shaun figures out how to save Claire using bacteriophages, aka viruses that destroy bacteria from the inside, leaving the rest of the body untouched. He also finds a way to accept Dr. Glassman’s decision to forgo treatment. When the FDA declines to approve Claire’s procedure, Shaun does the noble, Grey’s Anatomy-coded thing and decides to perform it anyway—which would effectively end his medical career. To save him that fate, Glassman does it instead, making the procedure his last.

Then, it’s time for a decade-long flash-forward to Shaun’s... TED Talk. Because apparently those still exist?

Freddie Highmore sits in front of the cast of ‘The Good Doctor’

Freddie Highmore

Jeff Weddell/ABC

Ten years in the future, Shaun is apparently the chief of surgery, and he remembers the name of every patient he’s treated in his career. They all appear behind him in an endless scroll on a screen as he gives a speech honoring Dr. Glassman for giving him a chance at becoming a surgeon. From there, we see updates on pretty much every major character: Audrey is headed to Ukraine with Surgeons for a Better World; Dr. Morgan Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann) and Dr. Alex Park (Will Yun Lee) have adopted a baby named Eden; Dominick Hubank has started his own community health practice, and Shaun and his wife Lea (Paige Spara) now have two kids. Oh—and Claire is alive and still in love with Dr. Jared Kalu (Chuku Modu).

As Shaun honors his late mentor, he tells his audience that Dr. Glassman “taught me that when you touch one life you don’t just touch one life. You touch every life that that life touches.” He reveals that he and Glassman collaborated to found the Dr. Aaron Glassman Foundation for Neurodiversity in Medicine upon his death; Shaun and Claire run the operation. Above all, Shaun says, the lesson Glassman wanted to impart on everyone was simply, “Don’t be an ass.” These are words we should probably all strive to live by—and they’ll be especially salient for whoever creates the next series intended to represent the neurodivergent community. With any luck, it’ll be at least a little less ridiculous.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.