The Good Doctor depicts autism better than almost any show currently on TV.
But when it gets it wrong, it gets it way wrong.
The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 16 was one of those times. For the second episode in a row, everyone tried to tell Shaun what he felt, and the implication that he doesn’t know his own feelings was annoying.
Let’s get this straight right now: autism isn’t about having no clue what your emotional state is.
Many people with autism feel overwhelmed both by their emotions and by other people’s and shut down, but more often than not, they know what they’re feeling.
I don’t think this is about you losing a patient. I think this is you distracting yourself. You don’t want to let Jane go because you don’t want to let Carly go.
Everyone’s different, of course, so it’s conceivable that Shaun is less in touch with his emotions than other people, autistic or not.
But because he is the only autistic character on The Good Doctor, having him be an autistic person who is clueless about his own emotional state sends the message that that’s what it means to have autism.
Carly broke up with Shaun on The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 15 because she was convinced he was in love with Lea even though he insisted he wasn’t.
That was obnoxious enough without Carly turning out to be right, again sending the message that neurotypical people know what autistic people feel better than autistic people do.
Plus, the scenes with Carly and Lea proved that Carly is much better for Shaun than Lea is, other than her ridiculous jealousy of Lea.
I couldn’t help thinking that Shaun had convinced himself he was “more in love” with Lea, because it didn’t seem like it.
It seemed like he was in love with Carly but took her command literally to say he was in love with Lea.
When he went to Carly for what appeared to be a work-related purpose, there was chemistry, which simply does not exist with Lea. In addition, Shaun was reluctant to leave Carly and looked into her eyes like he wanted to kiss her.
Yet he told Glassman that he wanted to be with Lea and couldn’t deal with the possibility of her rejecting him.
It’s clear the writers intended for Carly to be a placeholder while Shaun came to the “realization” that he was meant to be with Lea, but Shaun’s actions on-screen don’t suggest that at all.
Lea has always been the comfortable, safe choice for Shaun despite the chaos she brings into his life. He doesn’t have to push past his comfort zone and do the hard work required to make a relationship work with Lea like he does with Carly.
Even Lea’s reaction to Shaun’s admission of love demonstrated how mismatched and better off as friends these two are.
Lea is aware of how immature and drama-addicted she is, but that doesn’t make her right for Shaun, and she couldn’t even stay to finish the conversation when he asked her if she was rejecting him because he had autism.
Conversely, Shaun and Carly communicate. They talk through things. They push through the rough patches.
And they challenge one another.
Let’s hope Shaun realizes this soon and gets back together with Carly.
The medical cases were far more interesting than the romantic drama.
Shaun’s quest to find out what killed his Jane Doe was especially compelling. Everyone assumed that he was just distracting himself from the breakup with Carly, but knowing Shaun, it was more likely he was just engaging in some autistic hyperfocus on a new case.
Shaun: Carly broke up with me.
Melendez: I thought you two were doing great.
Shaun: We were, but then we weren’t. Cross clamp, please.
Park: You must really be hurting.
Shaun: Not really.
Melendez: We’ve all been there. It helps when you own you’re in pain.
Shaun: There is nothing for me to own because I’m fine.
His attempts to talk to Jules went badly, to say the least, and he is lucky Jules didn’t call the cops again the second he showed up.
But it seemed like Shaun’s last words to Jules about how Jules’ mother did love him came from a deep place, and Shaun might have, on some level, been thinking of his own tumultuous relationship with his late father.
Aiden and alter-Aiden were a unique type of dissociative case.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is often misrepresented on TV, but if The Good Doctor had gone there, it probably would have been more accurate than most.
However, the series went in a more original direction by having Aiden’s dissociative problems be caused by a cyst in his brain.
Morgan was annoying as usual…until alter-Aiden needed a push to make the right decision.
So are you and Melendez back to sneaking around? I hear he’s gone back to being a good mentor. Apparently my complaint did nothing.
Hopefully, her insistence on doing things like filing complaints because she’s jealous will come back to bite her sooner or later.
Lim already spoke to her about that, so it will probably hurt her professionally at some point.
But if I were Claire, I’d be careful about having any kind of friendship with Morgan after her betrayal And that’s a shame, because their friendship makes Morgan tolerable.
Anyway, Morgan was the one to get through to alter-Aiden, so she was semi-redeemed, but we don’t need any more of her petty jealousy, or of Claire and Melendez pretending to fight for her benefit.
Melendez and Lim sneaking around when they were dating was bad enough. There’s no need for Melendez and Claire to sneak around to have a platonic relationship.
Speaking of Lim, that was an odd storyline with that little girl.
For the first half of the episode, I thought the child was a figment of her imagination. I’m glad that wasn’t the case, though the whole thing was weird.
Lim had great rapport with the child, though, and her words about how much love the heart can hold tied in nicely with Shaun and Jules’ story.
Hearts are amazing things. I’ve held one in my hands many times. You’d never know by looking at them, but somehow they have all the room we need.
I would have loved to have known about this backstory for Lim before Trinity showed up, but it turned out to be a touching story, even if it was a little bit strange.
Your turn, Good Doctor fanatics.
What’s your take on Shaun’s relationship drama, the cases of the hour, and all other things Good Doctor?
Hit SHOW COMMENTS and share your thoughts.
Want to see the episode again? You can watch The Good Doctor online right here on TV Fanatic.
The Good Doctor continues to air on ABC on Mondays at 10 PM EST/PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.