It’s always sad when a beloved TV series announces it is ending, and it’s doubly heartbreaking that so many are reporting final seasons now that the writer’s strike is settled.
First, Blue Bloods and now The Good Doctor — two landmark series with big fanbases.
That’s right — The Good Doctor Season 7 will be the series’ swan song. Although unsurprising, considering the series’ sudden move to Tuesdays after being a fixture on Monday nights for the past seven years, it’s still sad. Yet, in some ways, it’s past time for this doctor show to fade to black.
The Good Doctor’s original premise excited me.
As an autistic person, I’m always curious about how TV plans to represent neurodiverse characters. In this case, the series got off to a rocky start, but I appreciated that the focus was on Shaun and not on how tragic it was for everyone else that he existed (yes, Parenthood, I’m looking at you.)
I got mad on Shaun’s behalf at how the administration treated him, ignoring his skill set because he was different and caring more about his difficulties with social skills than his ability to save lives.
But in recent years, the series moved far away from that premise. I don’t mean that Shaun had to be stuck proving himself forever — that wouldn’t have been great TV, nor would it have been a good message to send about neurodivergent people.
But it became more and more the Shaun and Lea show. Sometimes, it felt as if the medical storylines were an afterthought if they were included at all.
Instead, every episode centered on Shaun’s latest relationship problem with Lea, all of which boiled down to a difference in communication style because of his autism.
That wasn’t what I signed up for. The Good Doctor was supposed to be about Shaun’s challenges as a doctor, not exclusively about him as a boyfriend, husband, or prospective father.
Maybe I would have felt differently if I shipped Shaun and Lea as a couple. Still, they always seemed mismatched, and every story involved Shaun doing something problematic that Glassman had to convince him to apologize for.
That’s not the kind of message about autistic people that I wanted, either. Yes, social skills and understanding neurotypical communication patterns are more challenging when you’re not neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean that we are incapable of learning or are always wrong.
Lea often came off as whiny and entitled, which didn’t help either, but the main problem involved the shift in focus. It’s no wonder that some viewers jumped ship!
Shaun had plenty of opportunities to grow as a person, and in some ways, the series did encompass that, but it wasn’t the primary focus, as it should have been.
I enjoyed Shaun becoming an attending and learning how to be in charge without alienating the residents under his care. That was a fascinating development that should have been more of a priority in the later seasons.
Shaun had a hard time dealing with changes in his relationships as he progressed in his medical career, and the last few seasons of The Good Doctor tried to address that, which I appreciate despite how far short they fell.
He was used to relying on Glassman and Lim to tell him how to handle situations, and neither one was willing to do that, which was great, but I wished it hadn’t been because they were mad at him for stupid reasons.
That whole Lim paralysis story, with Lim and Glassman being angry at Shaun for different, but equally ridiculous, reasons didn’t do the later seasons any favors.
Glassman, in particular, was a character the series didn’t know what to do with anymore by the end.
He began as Shaun’s tormented mentor, who had treated Shaun like a son but struggled with the burden of losing his daughter, and Richard Schiff was the perfect actor to play him.
During The Good Doctor Season 1, Glassman’s supposedly terminal brain cancer and Shaun’s refusal to accept that there was nothing anyone could do was as compelling as it was heartbreaking.
But after Glassman’s miraculous recovery, the character bounced from one weird scenario to another.
A whirlwind romance, marriage to, and divorce from a character played by Schiff’s real-life wife. Retiring and refusing to talk to anyone. Returning to the hospital only to learn he had a condition that prevented him from working.
These silly stories were beneath him, and he spent the last half of The Good Doctor Season 6 nursing a grudge because Shaun’s tenacity led to the discovery that Glassman had had a mini-stroke and could no longer perform surgery.
Let’s hope that he and Shaun make up before the series ends. I can’t take any more of that!
Lim’s paralysis story came out of another problem the series has had in recent years: an overreliance on epic disasters.
The characters work in a hospital, so they will deal with human tragedy on a mind-boggling scale. Some stories will have to involve mass casualties — that’s just life in an emergency department of a hospital.
But at least once a year, usually toward the end of the season, The Good Doctor had some other type of tragedy, such as the earthquake that killed Melendez and nearly cost Shaun his life, too.
Lim getting stabbed at Shaun and Lea’s wedding was also unnecessary. When a show begins writing these kinds of high-stakes cliffhangers regularly, it’s a sure sign that the writers have gone as far as they can with these characters and need to call it quits.
There were a lot of cast changes over the years, too, but that wasn’t so much a problem — or wouldn’t have been if it hadn’t contributed to the shift in focus.
People move on from the hospital where they did their residency as they advance in their careers, and new residents come in. That’s just how it goes.
Some new residents have been interesting, though I’d have preferred more interactions with the original cast. It sometimes felt like a spinoff about these new residents rather than the original cast having much to do.
Still, each time a significant player left, it left a hole that was never filled. Antonia Thomas’s departure at the end of Season 4 changed the dynamic more than the others; Claire was always Shaun’s biggest supporter, and the series wasn’t the same without her.
Jared’s return might have helped matters, but he wasn’t there long enough, nor did he have many memorable storylines, so that didn’t solve these problems.
Although the series has devolved into plots more worthy of a soap opera than a doctor show, there’s still room to go out on a high note.
Now that Shaun is a father, the final season can be devoted to him learning to balance his career and family requirements and ending with him finding happiness on both fronts.
Hopefully, as the series draws to a close, it will return to its roots, focusing on medical stories instead of exclusively on relationships. Shaun could take the next step in his career, leaving St. Bonaventure to begin a life as a full-fledged doctor while raising a child with his wife.
Over to you, The Good Doctor fanatics.
How do you feel about the series ending? Are you surprised, or do you think the series lost its way a while ago?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!
The Good Doctor’s final season will air on ABC on Tuesdays at 10/9c. The season premiere airs on February 20, 2024.