The Good Doctor‘s bittersweet finale marked the departure of a beloved character and new beginnings for practically everyone.
On the heels of Claire’s decision to accept a surgical position at a rural hospital in Guatemala (Antonia Thomas’ series departure was revealed ahead of air Monday), Lea proposed marriage to Shaun — and he said yes!
Elsewhere on the couples’ front: Morgan and Park professed their love for each other; Andrews revealed that his wife Isabel (previously played by Marsha Thomason) had left him for another man; and Mateo (newly promoted series regular Osvaldo Benavides) decided to return to the States to be with Lim… and face a decades-old warrant for his arrest.
Below, executive producer David Shore weighs in on the status of The Good Doctor‘s many couples, reflects on Claire’s exit storyline (and her possible return) and looks ahead to Season 5.
TVLINE | Before we discuss Shaun and Lea’s engagement, let’s discuss the tragedy that nearly tore them apart. Why did you decide to have Lea miscarry? Why have this couple share that particular trauma at this point in their relationship?
We simply weren’t sure we wanted to go down the parenthood road yet. There were things we wanted to explore in their relationship before we started exploring that. The other thing was, for people who go through this sort of thing, it felt like the right barrier to explore it. When something like this happens, it’s amazing what you hear suddenly, like that scene [where Nurse Villanueva tells Lea, “It also happened to me”]. And we wanted to dramatize this pain, this particular pain, and not short-change it. Carry it out over several episodes [and see how it impacted this couple]. It’s an unusual piece of mourning that people go through.
TVLINE | After watching Lea grieve for multiple episodes, why was it important for her to be the one to propose to Shaun?
Part of the reason she proposed to him was because of what she saw from him in this episode, and how supportive he is. I mean, literally within the episode, he waits with her [at the hospital]. They sat and bagged that child throughout the night. And he waits for [Lea] to be ready [to move forward in their relationship]. It was important that it be on her schedule, not his.
TVLINE | Knowing that this was going to be Antonia Thomas’ last year, did you go into Season 4 with a specific path in mind for Claire?
I went into this season hoping she would change her mind. [Laughs] That didn’t happen, which wasn’t overly surprising. She’s been very appreciative, and I know she had a great time on the show. She tells me she’s grateful for the opportunity, and we will miss her. But we put that character through so much, and she rose to the occasion every single time. Antonia was so good, and I so look forward to watching her in whatever she does next.
TVLINE | What about in terms of Claire’s exit storyline?
We didn’t want the ending to be another blow [to the character]. I wanted her to be running towards something, not away from something. We wanted to find a place for her to go that felt like a great fit for her.
TVLINE | Had you discussed any alternate exit strategies? This season saw Claire reconnect with her father. She also contemplated a trip to Paris…
We discussed some stuff, but we never felt [anything else was right]. It’s not like [the trip to Paris] was something we planned on doing [for her exit]. That would have been her running away. [Accepting the job in Guatemala] felt like running towards something… It was the first and only idea I discussed with Antonia, and she was very excited about it.
TVLINE | Antonia has said that she would “absolutely” be open to reprising her role as a guest star. Is it your hope that we’ll be able to check in with Dr. Browne in a season or two and see how she’s doing in Guatemala? Or perhaps bring her back for Shaun and Lea’s wedding?
Yes, we would love to find places to bring her back. She’s such a part of this world, and will always be a part of this world, so it will be lovely to see [Claire], for her to bring a story to us, or just to come in for the highlights of peoples’ lives.
TVLINE | Among his peers, Claire has always been the person Shaun turns to for advice. In her absence, do you see Shaun relying on another colleague to fill that role? Or do you think he’s reached a point where he doesn’t need that role filled anymore?
We all need that role filled, to some extent. And Shaun is [less reliant on her], to some extent. I think the rest of our characters are carrying a little bit of Claire with them, so I think they all have a little bit of that [wisdom] in them now, to give what Claire gave in the past. But it would be foolish to try and design a character to try and be Claire 2.0.
TVLINE | At one point, Glassman acknowledged that Shaun needs him less and less these days. How will their dynamic evolve in Season 5, as Shaun prepares to get married?
He needs him less, but he needs him differently, more so. Shaun is growing, like we all do. It’s the classic parent/child relationship. As your children grow up, they need you less for a lot of things, but they never completely stop needing you. That is the purpose of the parent: to get the child to a spot where they’re independent and can stand on their own two feet. I think Glassman has done a wonderful job at that, and Shaun has done a wonderful job himself.
TVLINE | Why has Glassman kept his split from Debbie a secret from Shaun? I half-expected him to say something during their Zoom call.
The simple answer to that question is Shaun has [embarked on] one of the most important weeks of his life [on this surgical mission], and Glassman does not want to throw that at him. We’re certainly going to have to deal with the fallout of what happened, but this was not the time to do it.
TVLINE | Andrews’ impending divorce shouldn’t have come as a surprise — we haven’t seen Isabel since Season 1 — but it still caught me off-guard. Did a lack of storylines for that relationship influence your decision to end it off-screen?
That’s exactly right, yes.
TVLINE | We witnessed a more vulnerable side to Morgan in the finale. She allowed herself to open up to Park and to a healthy, committed relationship. Will we see more of Morgan in this new light during Season 5?
Look, Morgan is always going to be Morgan. She’s always going to have that [vulnerable] side to her, but we’ve always viewed her, and I think Fiona’s done a great job of making her a fully dimensional character. [She] doesn’t want to show these sides to her, but they’re there. She chooses to emphasize one side, and probably that side is more prominent in her than it is in a lot of people. [Laughs] But yes, she will probably let her guard down a little bit more, especially with Park — and that may turn out to be a challenge in that relationship.
TVLINE | Similarly, Dr. Lim opened up to Mateo about her PTSD. Now that she has confronted her trauma, can we expect sunnier days ahead for the chief of surgery — especially now that Mateo is following her back to the States?
I think we can expect some sunnier days, absolutely. Of course, these are doctors dealing with death, dealing with challenges in their own lives, and that won’t stop. But this is certainly a sign that she is on the way to recovery, or at least learning to cope.
TVLINE | Beyond his relationship with Lim, what sort of role will Mateo have next season?
I love that he comes from a different place, a different world and has a different point of view. He has been through very different things. He is diverse in many ways, and that is what I am excited about. The writers’ room is just starting up, and we are going to be exploring that.
TVLINE | And he’ll be working at St. Bonaventure?
I think that’s safe to assume, yes.
TVLINE | How into the weeds are we going to get with his legal issues? Are those going to be explained away in a few sentences, or is that going to be an ongoing storyline?
Probably more the latter than the former.
TVLINE | Each season has seen Shaun embark on a new journey, so to speak — whether it was him navigating his first romantic relationship in Season 3, or taking on more responsibility as a senior resident in Season 4. What sort of journey will he take in Season 5?
We’re exploring different ways to take the themes [of Season 4] and take them to an even higher level, which is supervising [interns], but also his professional independence. He’s now reaching the end of his residency, so what does that mean? He’s been in a safe place up until now, to some extent. It certainly wasn’t safe in the beginning, but we want to mix things up a little bit and makes things less safe for him and see how he rises to that occasion, because he will no longer be a resident very shortly. And on a personal front, we wanted to take it even further, so that’s the engagement.