After a couple of weeks when The Good Doctor was, perhaps, treading water just a little, this was every inch a return to form. In particular, the storylines of both Patients of the Week had a real emotional heft. Patient 1 is Charlie, a twelve-year-old boy who is, on the face of it, remarkably sanguine and good-humoured about the fact that he is about to have his one functioning eye removed because of cancer, rendering him permanently blind. Charlie disappears before surgery, but Claire and Morgan track him down and let him have a bit of fun. Then Claire is kinda mean to him – yeah, OK, Claire, but he’s a child who is not only about to go blind for ever, but who knows he’s about to go blind for ever – and he decides not to have the operation after all, before she talks him round.
I was expecting the usual Good Doctor last-minute miracle surgery, but we, and Charlie, don’t get it at all: he wakes up from surgery, he’s blind, and he wants to speak to Claire, who’s not there. Morgan finds Claire at a bar, where she’s presumably brooding again about the loss of her useless mother, and suggests that Claire should have been there when Charlie woke up because she connected with him emotionally – well maybe, Morgan, but you’re the one who flashed him, as a last sighted-world treat. “Deal with your crap”, snaps Morgan at Claire, “before this is who you really become”. Co-signed.
Patient 2, meantime, is endearingly acerbic Tara, who is not “the girl in the bubble”, except that she totally is: she has SCID, severe immunodeficiency, which means that she needs to stay in an isolation chamber, even when being operated on. She takes to Shaun’s kind of plain speaking: he, like her, is isolated in a way, although for different reasons. Tara even helps Shaun reply to Carly’s texts: she is, she explains, good at phone sex, that being the only sort she can have.
But here comes this week’s miracle cure, sort of: Park proposes a form of gene therapy, high-risk for sure, but which if successful might give Tara a chance at a normal life. Melendez, however, is gun-shy after last week’s tragedy, and declines to push the treatment, which isn’t like him; he’s normally all over flashy interventions which might succeed spectacularly. (This isn’t Claire and her stupid mother, I’m fine with the after-effects of something like this lingering for a while.) Shaun persuades Tara to go ahead, and it looks as if it’s successful: by the end of the episode, she takes her first steps outside her bubble, and contemplates the world. Coming in the same episode as Charlie’s last sight of the world, it’s quite moving.
The quick subplots work this week as well – Glassman is an idiot for thinking that he can work with Debbie, who orders him around, acts out to Lim, then quits; Lim and Melendez are doing their very best to negotiate their relationship, even though Melendez is refusing to admit that he’s not coping well with what happened last week; and Shaun is still learning how to be in a romantic relationship with someone neurotypical, this time in particular that texts which don’t appear to need a reply actually do need one. And his final text to Carly – simply “I’m here” – is, frankly, what we all need to hear at some time or another. Wonderful.