The Good Doctor: How Freddie Highmore’s Shaun Murphy finds victory in failure

The Good Doctor episode 17In this edition of our month-long TV Heroes series, we’re putting some of the emphasis on ABC’s The Good Doctor and, beyond that, one of the best characters we’ve seen in primetime in quite a while: Dr. Shaun Murphy. When it comes to the work that he does, he’s exemplary and there are few out there who are even anywhere close to his equal. Yet, what we’ve learned as viewers over this season, and what Shaun has probably learned further about himself, is that being so exemplary at one thing is only part of the equation. There is still so much more that goes into being a fantastic doctor.

One of the reasons why Shaun is a hero isn’t so much what he does as a doctor; instead, it comes courtesy of his capacity to learn and grow. We’ve seen that on numerous occasions through the first season, as many of the opinions that he holds about life and his patients are ones simply not rooted in any empathy. At times he speaks in black-and-white terms, and doesn’t understand either the softer touch or the humanity that comes with the job. Yet, over time Shaun figures it out. He’s inquisitive and caring deep down in his heart, and unlike some people who are entirely stubborn, he takes the time to develop an understanding and moves past the limitations that come with his autism. Because of the journey that he goes through, the connections that the character earns with his patients are deeper and all the more special than they would be on other medical dramas with other characters.

Shaun’s heroism could also be extended just in terms of what he’s achieved in general. This is someone who never viewed autism as something that would inhibit him, and with that he’s come to a new city, works a challenging job, made new friends, and figured out a way to make a new life for himself. He’s found some people who have accepted him, most notably Lea, and while he’s also found some others who take advantage of him (most notably Kenny), he doesn’t let those setbacks and heartbreak define him. He finds a way to move forward and focuses on the next thing.

While Shaun doesn’t always express his emotions, when he does you feel it deeply. Don’t we all wish we had the vulnerability that Shaun showed at the end of the season when it comes to Dr. Glassman?

The man who brings Shaun to life

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Freddie Highmore should be an Emmy candidate this year for this role. The actor completely reinvented himself coming off of Bates Motel and now has a thought-provoking, nuanced role that showcases great ability. Freddie knows that you can sometimes say a lot just by saying little, and he’s learned the value in building relationships and chemistry with your fellow actors. He makes Shaun into a character you want to root for and keep watching — hopefully for many years to come.

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