*Warning: some spoilers ahead*
Earlier this week, a new medical drama called The Good Doctor premiered on ABC. Adapted from the Korean show of the same name, it tells of a young doctor (played by Freddie Highmore) with autism and savant syndrome. While I was unable to watch it when it first aired, Hulu, thankfully, made it available to stream, so I could catch up on it a few days later.
The pilot episode starts out with Highmore’s character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, setting off to his first day of work in the San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Along the way, he encounters an accident that injures a young boy. Jumping in to help, Dr. Murphy jogs his memory to save the boy from oxygen loss. Despite a few obstacles, he manages to create a breathing tube, and resuscitate the child, until they can reach the hospital.
Meanwhile, the president of the hospital, Aaron Glassman (played by Richard Schiff), debates with staff members on whether or not it’s a good idea to hire Dr. Murphy. Dr. Glassman, who’s known Dr. Murphy since the latter was young, recognizes his intelligence and abilities and is eager to have him on the team. Most of the staff, however, fear Dr. Murphy’s autism will affect his ability to work, and he will be a danger to patients. A viral video of him saving the little boy, however, gives some of the staff members second thoughts.
Between scenes, we learn about Dr. Murphy’s childhood. He grew up with an abusive father, and his younger brother, Steve, mainly took care of him. After their father kills Shaun’s pet rabbit (a scene which may be potentially triggering to some), the two brothers run away from home and move into an old school bus. Steve later dies tragically, which inspires Shaun to want to become a doctor.
At the end of the episode, Dr. Murphy is accepted onto the team. However, a snide comment from a fellow doctor hints that he may not be accepted by everyone.
As someone with autism, I looked forward to seeing this show and finding representation of myself. I did worry, however, if Highmore’s portrayal would accurately show what autistic people are like. Thankfully, he does a great job playing Dr. Murphy, and I was happy with how it turned out.
Unfortunately, with disabilities like autism, comes ableism. Many doctors in the hospital are shown to be ableist toward Dr. Murphy. Without even meeting him, they already judge him based off of stereotypes, such as lack of empathy and social awkwardness. With the way the episode ended, I expect more ableism will be prevalent in future episodes.
Viewers who previously watched Highmore in Bates Motel may find it odd how he went from playing violent killer Norman Bates, to shy but sweet-natured Shaun Murphy, within a brief amount of time.
This, however, just shows to me his wide range of talent, and I look forward to future projects he may put out.
The Good Doctor airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on ABC. It is also available to watch on Hulu.