An #ActuallyAutistic Review of ABC’s “The Good Doctor“3 min read

This blog entry is from the archives on my per­sonal blog, SAspie blog. I orig­i­nally posted it in November of 2017, but I really enjoy this show and think that it is one worth watching. This review is on the first half of season 1. The second half was just as good, and I am cur­rently enjoying season 2.

I recently just watched the first episodes of ABC’s, “The Good Doctor.” It is about a doctor who has autism and savant syn­drome. I gen­er­ally have no interest in medical-related shows, but I decide to give “The Good Doctor” a go because I was inter­ested in seeing how Freddie Highmore dis­played autism in his char­acter, Shaun Murphy.

I think that he, as well as the pro­ducers of the show, por­trayed autism in a fairly real­istic way.  I have had trouble finding things on or revolving around autism that did not seem over­done, com­pletely unre­lat­able, or con­de­scending to people with autism.

Of course, my view of this show is purely my own, and I am in no way saying everyone on the spec­trum will enjoy this show. Also, there are spoilers in this post; so, if unlike me you do not enjoy pre­dictability, you may want to tune out of this blog post if you intend on watching it your­self.

Dr. Murphy is in a con­stant battle with his coworkers and patients to prove that he can be a bril­liant sur­geon despite his autism. They worry that he may lack empathy and scare the patients or that he may feel over­loaded and have a melt­down while per­forming surgery or other sur­gical tasks.

In every episode, Shaun dis­proves neg­a­tive the­o­ries around him, thus impressing those around him. He had a tough child­hood replete with cruel bul­lies and neg­li­gent par­ents. He often has flash backs to moments in his ado­les­cence, and they can be quite heart-wrenching. Part of the reason why he wanted to become a sur­geon was because he watched his rabbit as well as his brother die in front of him before it was truly their time to go.

It seemed to be that the main reason the hos­pital decided to hire him, was not because of his extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties as a sur­geon, but because of why he wanted to become a sur­geon. The over­seers of the hos­pital wanted reas­sur­ance that he could feel emo­tions– and of course, he could.

Shaun is often con­fused by his co-workers due to social rea­sons. I find this part of his char­acter to be highly relat­able. And, if I am being com­pletely honest, at times cer­tain points in the show I do not under­stand some of the social­izing that is going on.

Dr. Murphy is rather opti­mistic at times. I like that in spite of his extra­or­di­nary savant capa­bil­i­ties, he is not nar­cis­sistic, arro­gant, or selfish in any way. Shaun is very honest. He ques­tions things that I often find myself ques­tioning. I am not a man, a sur­geon, or someone with savant syn­drome. Yet, despite my typ­ical aver­sion to people, I find some­thing familiar and com­forting about watching him.

In episode 7, Shaun, for the first time, met someone else with autism. Claire, a fellow sur­geon, asked him if he shared com­fort or recog­ni­tion with the patient. He said no and asked if she met someone who also had pso­ri­asis, if she would share a kin­ship with them. Claire denied having pso­ri­asis, but still believed that Shaun and the patient felt some­thing between each other.

I under­stand both of their posi­tions, and it only makes me feel more flum­moxed about my own feel­ings towards other humans. I apol­o­gize for the self intro­spec­tion as this post was not sup­posed to be about me, but it is a rarity that I ever relate to a person– even if they are fic­tional.


  1. Don’t apol­o­gize! This was an enlight­ening article. I’m going to have to watch the Good Doctor now even though, like you, I don’t care much for med­ical shows.

  2. I liked the show too. The con­stant under­mining would have pissed me off in that sit­u­a­tion. I would not take it as learning. I don’t think of any of us would. We’d most likely inter­nalize the mis­trust and/or lash out against con­stant abuse.

    All the talking about him in front of him is just insulting, but I’m glad it shows the cru­elty. What bothers me is that it doesn’t bother him. I also don’t like the “tough tit­mouse” ableism of the entire hos­pital and every person sup­pos­edly on his side.

    1. Author

      I have never really thought about it not both­ering him. I just took it as another sign as his dif­fi­culty reading social cues. Though, I do remember within the first few episodes Shaun calling out Melendez.

      There have been quite a few things within the last couple of episodes that I have not cared for as the new doctor is treating Shaun very poorly. Shaun proved him­self to be a phe­nom­enal sur­geon on mul­tiple occa­sions. He had very few con­flicts with the patients and often times the patients even valued or learned some­thing from him.

      Overall, it is a good show, but I agree that it does have some flaws.

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