Review – The Good Doctor: Episode 6 “22 Steps”

Shaun works with an autistic patient while Claire is still dealing with the repercussions from her mistake in the previous episode. Jared has to make difficult decisions when assigned to a patient who has no intentions of accepting a new pace-maker and Neil and Aaron both have to review the way they’ve been thinking about and treating Shaun.

There are a lot of good things addressed in this episode; from the fact that not all autistic people are going to get along or even find any significance in meeting another autistic person, through to the equally damaging tendencies to exclude or over-protect autistic people, to the very real consequences of some so-called “homeopathic remedies” for autism. That’s without taking into consideration the equally heavy topics covered in Claire’s struggle to reconcile with her mistakes that ended a life, and Jared wresting internally with how best to help a patient.

Shaun is sent on an errand by Neil and en-route discovers paramedics wrestling with a supposedly “psychotic” patient, Liam, who he correctly identifies as autistic. He then steps in to complete his treatment. Of course, this is television so once the original reason Liam ended up in hospital (getting off his bus early and getting injured in an accident in his confusion) is concluded, there is something else that needs resolving. This is around about the time Liam’s parents make it to the hospital. Throughout the episode, the parents are reluctant for Shaun to be involved in their son’s treatment, having themselves realised that Shaun has autism too, and eventually they forbid him from being involved in the surgery.

This leads to something of a turn-around point for Neil as he doesn’t like to be told what he should or should not be doing with his own surgery team. He goes to Aaron hoping – I think – that Aaron will tell him he must include Shaun. Aaron has been having his own reflection on the way he treats Shaun, realising that while he means well he has become guilty of patronising and over-protecting Shaun. So he tells Neil he needs to make the decision himself and, at the same time, make a decision about how capable he thinks Shaun is. Neil finally shows some common decency and tells the family that if they won’t allow his surgery team to work as an entire surgery team, they can go elsewhere. Again, this is television so that doesn’t happen – Liam says that he wants Dr Shaun and so the surgery goes ahead as planned with Shaun getting to take the lead.

This same feel-good vibe does not extend to the rest of the team and their personal lives and cases. Claire is struggling to work out how she feels after accidentally killing her patient and her therapy session only reveals more questions and concerns. The continuity from last week with Claire’s anxieties expressing themselves as hand tremors and her distraction from task is well done, as is the painfully awkward mask that Claire is trying to paint on to show that she can carrying on doing her job. I hope this continues to be explored.

Jared, meanwhile, has a 73 year old patient who deliberately sabotaged his pace-maker because he wants to die. Nothing Jared says or does convinces him otherwise. Jared reveals a lot about himself this week and, rather like Neil, I start to find him more sympathetic as a character. This is good because he was seriously in need of his character arc starting. Jared tries his best to give his patient a reason to live before he realises that he’s arguing for what he thinks he would want, not for what the patient wants. So, he sits with his patient and grants his wish for him to die by letting him switch his pacemaker off. It will be interesting to see if this decision returns in a future episode or not. Chuku Modu’s acting in this final scene is excellent.

The Good Doctor keeps getting better and I hope it continues to address more of the complex social issues around both autism and the mental health of the residents in the show.

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