The Good Doctor 2×09 Review: “Empathy”

I continually ask each week how The Good Doctor always manages to surprise me, and the answer — as per usual — is because they never do what I expect with these characters. “Empathy” naturally dove into the question of how good a doctor can be if they don’t have at least a little bit of empathy for their patients, which was more of a challenging question for Shaun. Yes, you are hearing my heart shatter for this man, but let’s break down what made this episode tick.

Melendez vs Lim

The Good Doctor writers, please, NEVER pit these two wonderful doctors against each other ever again. Andrews stepping in to shadow/stalk them to make a decision was weirdly funny, but I couldn’t blame either of them for being bothered. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing my job if my boss was literally staring over my shoulder, but it made them easily competitive for the chief position. The residents making a betting pool on who would win cracked me up, and then I died laughing when Shaun won the pool.

As entertaining as the multiple sassfests were, I really didn’t like Andrews pitting them against each other, and THEN declaring himself freaking Chief of Surgery. What the hell, dude, you already have a job! I shouldn’t have been surprised, but if it means my two favorite attending surgeons are drinking in solidarity, I can live with it.

Seriously, who calls a meeting to give themselves a job? 

Morgan & Claire fighting for a life

Look, when the press release came out that their patient would be a pedophile, I immediately jumped to worst case scenario. Thankfully, these writers (usually) know what they are doing, and it ended up being a much less cringe-worthy story than I imagined. What I really enjoyed, more than anything, was the camaraderie between Morgan and Claire. They may not be best friends, but the competitiveness has died down to arguing their points of view out of expressing their opinion alone, not to one up each other in any way.

Which was needed dealing with a guy who was willing to stoop to taking dangerous drugs and attempting self castration to stop his deviant urges. It’s remarkable when you can lead an audience to empathize with a guy who’s confessed to having thoughts like that. Yet that’s exactly what I did. So when he stepped in front of that bus, with Claire and Morgan watching, it was heartbreaking.

Morgan can’t stop her opinion from coming out, but as she said earlier she believes in telling the truth when it comes to expressing empathy. Especially for a fellow resident who’s becoming more friend than professional foe.

Shaun & the lesson of Empathy

I freaking love all these characters to bits and pieces, but every week without fail, Shaun’s ongoing quest in life — whether inside or outside the hospital — is what draws me in. His sadness at being short of empathy due to his autism was a sad point that slowly changed course throughout the episode. Portraying him treating a patient with obvious wounds, and a forehead “defect” was the perfect writing choice in his experience at stepping outside his own point of view and into someone else’s shoes.

It took some work to get there, which included his efforts to get a driver’s license after he refused to relent on taking away Dr. Glassman’s, when it was proved that the radiation therapy was affecting his brain’s cognitive function. I’d have been pissed as hell getting independence like that taken away, but Glassman recognized that Shaun’s efforts to get his driver’s license was the same reason behind his suggestion of a breast implant to correct his patient’s forehead.

Without even realizing it, he empathized in his own unique way, guided along by people who care about him — Park in the hospital, and Lea with learning to drive. Side note, how adorable was Lea using surgery analogies to calm Shaun’s anxieties down about driving? Those two are freaking adorable, are they ever going to kiss again?

At the end of the day Shaun knows he is capable of empathy, and the subtle way Freddie Highmore expressed the joy from that realization was amazing. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Final Thoughts


  • This hour was low on Claire/Melendez moments (and yes, you better believe I was keeping an eye out — I’m in the trashcan of this ship), but I loved that Claire is not afraid to sass him after what’s happened. Boss or not, I swear the man still gets surprised when Claire busts out sarcasm.
  • Interesting that empathy had different definitions depending on who you were talking to, but it came down to allowing yourself to connect and see beyond just what your eyes pick up.
  • Park making it clear to Shaun that he saved their patient’s life was so kind and thoughtful, it made me ask where the brusqueness was. Not that I minded, as it’s always good to get surprised by these characters when you’re still getting to know them.
  • I am hoping after next weeks winter finale there’ll be more…obvious romance in the second half of season two, as so far it’s all felt very subtle and quiet.


The Good Doctor airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.

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