The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1 Review: Frontline Part 1

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It was inevitable that COVID-19 would end up on our screens.

It’s the stuff that medical dramas live for: a deadly disease that has a million seemingly unrelated symptoms and stretches hospital capacity and doctors’ energy to the limits.

But considering that viewers have lived through nine months of the real thing,  was The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1 TOO realistic?

An Unpredictable Illness/Tall - The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1

The Good Doctor certainly packed every aspect of the horrific pandemic into the hour!

By going back to late February, viewers saw the crisis unfolding through the doctors’ eyes.

The time jumps effectively demonstrated how doctors went from mistaking the virus for the flu to being able to diagnose patients but not treat them… and later to continually discover new symptoms and new problems related to the disease.

These complications are very inconsistent. It is becoming annoying.

Shaun

They even included the hospital playing celebratory music when a patient recovered well enough to go home. 

Dealing With Danger - The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1

But the thing that saved this from becoming a depressing semi-documentary about COVID-19 is that through it all, the characters stayed true to themselves.

Shaun’s reactions were especially fascinating. As we know, one of the ways that Autism affects him is that he doesn’t adapt well to change and is an absolute stickler for rules.

That latter quality probably helps protect him and those around him. One of the reasons that COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States is because of people not following safety guidelines.

Something as simple as having a birthday party for a child with a few friends can lead to a surge in cases, but Shaun will not allow anyone he cares about to do such a thing.

Some of the hour’s lighter moments came from Shaun’s difficulty in dealing with the pandemic, specifically with not being able to spend time with Lea.

I cracked up at that whole conversation where he kept talking about sex after Park explicitly asked him not to. Ordinarily, I don’t like it when Shaun ignores boundaries, but I needed the laugh just then.

And Shaun and Lea’s attempt to have phone sex was classic Shaun.

I also appreciated his frustration with the disease’s ever-changing symptomology.

As a non-doctor, I hate that as much as he does. At one point it seemed like any symptom you can imagine was a potential sign of COVID, which did not help my anxiety any.

Unlike Anything Else - The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1

Anyway, dealing with the pandemic realistically was a strong departure from The Good Doctor’s usual formula. The hospital has seen plenty of bizarre cases, but usually Shaun comes up with some creative treatment option that no one else would have thought of.

Unfortunately, there is no such miracle cure for COVID, at least not yet, and it would have been cruel to fictionalize one. So this time, Shaun had no answers any more than anyone else did and was helpless to cure this disease.

Shaun: You have COVID-19. I can tell without a test, which is a good thing because we don’t have any.
Man: But I can’t smell. That’s not a symptom.
Shaun: It is now.
Man: So I have COVID. Now what?
Shaun: Go home. There’s no treatment. Rest, stay away from people, come back if you have trouble breathing. Goodbye.

That’s why the most powerful moments came from the patients themselves, not the doctors.

Martin’s video chats with his wife were among the strongest moments of the hour. This was the closest she could come to visiting him, and that was almost as heartbreaking as his belief that he was likely to die.

New Safety Protocols - The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1

Shaun dealt with that in his usual blunt way, but even Andrews didn’t have the right words to reassure Martin and his wife that everything would be fine, because there were no guarantees.

Across the hospital, Claire’s case was one that we’ve seen in the news over and over.

This woman was one of the first people to get sick, and it was inevitable that she was going to die. The doctors didn’t know enough, there were few treatments available, and equipment and beds were in short supply.

Morgan misdiagnosed the woman’s condition in the first place, but an earlier diagnosis wouldn’t have helped without a plan to treat it, which didn’t exist.

Nevertheless, this was an emotional story arc. It was horrible how the woman’s daughter couldn’t ever visit her because of the danger and how the woman ultimately died surrounded only by a few doctors in full protective gear.

Dealing With the Pandemic - The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 1

I couldn’t help thinking about the death of Claire’s mother as she told this patient’s daughter that her mother was gone.

Claire must have felt a kinship with the woman. They had both lost mothers to horrible diseases. 

It made sense that she would try to bend the rules to get the woman her mother’s cross, though I could have done without the Melendez ghostly appearance.

Whether Melendez is a true ghost or just a figment of Claire’s imagination remains to be seen, but either way, appearances by dead characters at times of crisis is a way overused TV trope that I’d rather The Good Doctor stay away from.

As for Morgan, she was two for two with misdiagnosing COVID patients.

Did anyone doubt the abdominal pain patient was going to turn out to have the disease? I called it as soon as he said he had abdominal pain and was sent to the non-COVID ward.

I was sure, too, that one of the doctors was going to end up COVID positive — what’s a medical drama without the doctors catching serious diseases, after all? But I didn’t expect the victim to be a minor character.

I figured it would be one of the main characters, though I’m glad we didn’t go that route. Melendez’s death was bad enough.

In any case, now that Morgan exposed the hospital to COVID twice by not realizing that’s what her patients had, that needs to be a major part of her story.

Morgan will likely feel guilty and whine about it in a selfish, annoying way, because that’s what Morgan generally does. I wonder, though, if anyone will blame her for missing the second guy’s diagnosis.

Back on Staff - The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 19

In both cases, she was dealing with symptoms she’d never seen before. But the hospital had drive-up testing by the time the second guy came along, and I was surprised that patients presenting with non-COVID symptoms weren’t tested just in case before being sent to the regular ward.

Glassman: With proper precautions I could go to the hospital.
Debbie: You are 65 years old with a history of cancer. if you get this virus…
Glassman: What am I doing?
Debbie: You’re being safe. You’re being smart. And anyway, what’s wrong with us spending time at home together?

Elsewhere, Glassman and Debbie’s conflict was the most annoying aspect of the episode.

Obviously, too much togetherness caused tension in their marriage, but their fights weren’t much different than the nonsensical fights they always have.

These two are incredibly mismatched and their head-butting is not enjoyable.

Your turn, The Good Doctor fanatics!

Was the COVID-19 story compelling or too on-the-nose?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know what you think!

Want to see the episode again? Just watch The Good Doctor online right here on TV Fanatic.

The Good Doctor airs on ABC on Mondays at 10 PM EST/PST.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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