‘The Good Doctor’ Season 3 sees the remarkable but nuanced evolution of Dr. Shaun Murphy and that has us feeling hopeful
When ‘The Good Doctor’ opened two years ago, we didn’t know what to expect out of Shaun Murphy. As a character profile, all we knew and assessed was that he is ‘an autistic doctor with Savant syndrome, who is exceptional at medical diagnoses’. Truth be told, we have seen TV characters with exceptionally good judgment capabilities and an eye for detail, with or without a psychological/physiological syndrome, lack of social skills, and so on. So, we had our precedence to judge Shaun Murphy in all possible ways. And then we met the young, 20-something doctor whose portrayal of an autistic adult with the typical symptoms of a Savant. He has near-photographic memory, can identify the smallest details, which even the most observant ones tend to overlook, and is wired by his sense of routine. But this is not what makes Shaun Murphy the ‘Good Doctor’. It is his charming self, which, despite his apparent blunt and brusqueness, keeps shining from time to time. Also, as he explores varied scenarios in his professional and personal life and faces some of the most unique challenges, Shaun grows, not only as a person but also as a character.
From being withdrawn to living alone to learning to sustain in a social environment, it sure is a tough ride for autistic people. So it was for Shaun. But it was heartwarming to see how little events helped him through this journey, albeit with the support of his mentors, friends, and now, a girlfriend. Here’s an important aspect of Shaun’s growth, worth mentioning. Coming out of an abusive childhood, followed by the accidental death of his younger brother, Steve, Shaun experienced severe difficulties forming deeper relationships with people. Over the first one and half seasons, Shaun’s focus has been on work and proving his medical skills to the management and seniors at St. Bonaventure. Soon he learns the ropes of hospital work, which is the next step in his evolution. He slowly starts embracing the fact that he cannot always be a one-man army (something he has been so used to) and needs to work as a team, understand different elements in people’s characters.
While he is adapting to his new environment and discovers newer traits, Shaun is faced with more emotional situations. Take the angle of Lea for instance. They were best friends and then they have a fallout, only to reconcile in season 2. They even move in together. In another time, this would have been disturbing for Shaun, but he managed to maintain a platonic ‘friendship’ as Lea’s roommate. Even when he found that Lea has a boyfriend, he was upset but eventually, let it go. Now, this is a huge leap of development for any person with Shaun’s conditions. It is not easy for people with such heightened senses to ‘let go’ of sensitive emotions.
Growing from there, he becomes friends with Carly, to a point where they go out on their first date, where Shaun tries to ‘impress’ his girl in his most natural and goofy way. The art of chivalry and making an impression does not come naturally to a Savant. Rather, they are known to be indiscreet about how they feel, at times to the point of being crude. But with Shaun, we see many positive developments, whether it is towards his approach to work, people, or even handling his own emotions.
With five episodes down in season 3, Shaun does not seem to be a misfit in his social environment anymore. But he still has his fights and challenges he needs to overcome. After failing to carry on with his first lead surgery, Shaun is all set for a new challenge at work. As far as his personality is concerned, we feel hopeful at his growth and believe that this could be a ray of light for people with similar conditions. Our good doctor might just be the best inspiration.