Sometimes being different makes all the difference. This is true for Doctor Shawn Murphy, a young autistic surgeon played by Freddie Highmore. The Good Doctor gives viewers an insight into the challenges, triumphs and trials of this resident surgeon. Riddled with themes of love (or lack thereof), loss and social injustice. The Good Doctor promises to compete as televisions’ next medical drama, a title we have all been waiting for.
You might recognize the lead actor from his role as Norman Bates of Bates Motel. His role in The Good Doctor is drastically different so much so it isn’t comparable however, it can be agreed that Highmore treats both these roles with great devotion that they both require. We are introduced to the character of Dr. Murphy as an unassuming passenger at the San Jose airport, when tragedy strikes an eight year old boy, his savant syndrome begins to unravel before our eyes, as he subverts the odds at saving the child’s life. The pilot aired on Monday on CTV and has left viewers wanting more since its release. Majority of critics agree that Highmore is brilliant as Dr. Shawn Murphy.
Highmore treats the essence of his character with great depth and caution as we learn of his scarring past, battles with abuse and tragic death of his loved ones. His autism is often met with bewilderment and skepticism by his peers and superiors. The exception being Dr. Aaron Glassman (his mentor) who is now vying for Dr. Murphy to be hired at St. Bonaventure Hospital. We now question the reality of Highmore’s character as we do not usually see portrayals of people with autism being ‘endorsed’ by an outside authority.
Highmore does an excellent job of pulling on the audience’s’ heartstrings, and it is not too long after the episode begins that you can’t help but fall in love with him. Depictions of his treacherous past and scenes of his abusive parental relationships do a good job of bringing out the tissues throughout the episode. His colleagues are either irritated, befuddled or confused about his atypical social conventions. For example, he keeps a plastic toy knife in his pocket, he is often anxious and pedantic. As he attempts to navigate his work and social endeavours, the audience is captivated by his humility, modesty and wit. Producers have spared no detail in illustrating the daily struggles Murphy faces with his double disorders(savant syndrome and autism), which is a challenge they tackled viciously.
However, it must be said that writers have undermined the versatility of Highmore as his character perfectly executes his role in The Good Doctor, the plot does not carry any intricacies (thus far) and seems to be simplistic in its entirety. The dynamic at the hospital resembles that of the popular, Grey’s Anatomy, as we see subplots of workplace hookups, power disputes and overarching relationships.
It might be too early to give the Good Doctor the title of TV’s new medical drama, but one thing is for sure we are hooked to see what St. Bonaventure Hospital has in store for Dr. Murphy. It will be interesting to see what direction writers take with the treatment of his character within the workplace dynamic.
Definitely rooting for this underdog to bite back.