How The Good Doctor Resolved That Crazy Cliffhanger

the good doctor shaun dr. glassman
(Image credit: Image courtesy of ABC)

Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of The Good Doctor.

The penultimate episode of The Good Doctor's smash hit first season ended on the type of cliffhanger that is usually reserved for season finales, and there were some big questions that had to be answered in the final episode of the 2017-2018 TV season. The cliffhanger last week revealed that something was neurologically wrong with Dr. Glassman, and the trailer for this week's Season 1 finale revealed that he would be diagnosed with the type of brain cancer that delivers a death sentence. The big questions going into the finale were whether Shaun and the other doctors at St. Bonaventure could save Glassman and how Shaun would deal with the traumatizing news. Well, the finale resolved the cliffhanger in a way that was both hopeful and potentially devastating.

The season finale first revealed that Dr. Glassman had been diagnosed with an inoperable glioma from which he could not recover. The semi-good news was that he would live for up to another 18 months, which at least meant that he would have time to get his affairs in order and do whatever his heart desired before passing away, and there was no point in suffering through surgeries and unpleasant treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. A year and a half was as good as Glassman might have gotten after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. That said, a year and a half wasn't enough for Shaun, and he decided to go against Glassman's wishes and try to find a way for him to live.

Despite Dr. Glassman's protests that he wanted to live his life and deal with his new status quo without thinking about his impending doom, Shaun persisted, and he ultimately talked Glassman into getting more imaging done in case the glioma had been misdiagnosed and was actually something treatable. It turned out that Shaun was correct that Glassman wasn't facing an inoperable glioma; imaging indicated that Glassman was facing a glioblastoma, which was also inoperable and meant only 3-4 months left for him to live.

Still unwilling to accept that his mentor was going to die, Sean came up with a crazy way for a neurosurgeon to biopsy the tumor in Dr. Glassman's brain by going through his nose, and Glassman gave in and had the biopsy. Apparently, Glassman had been misdiagnosed again, and he has a low grade glioma that doesn't 100% mean death. Unfortunately, it does mean brain surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and Glassman did not look enthused at the prospect of what he would have to go through to try and survive. For his part, Shaun was overjoyed, and he ended the episode convinced that Glassman could live. The two even exchanged I love yous in a touching scene reminiscent of a flashback featuring Glassman and his daughter, who had died.

the good doctor dr. glassman

(Image credit: Image courtesy of ABC)

Shaun's success in finding a way for a brain biopsy for Dr. Glassman's tumor came at a cost. Distracted by Glassman's diagnosis, Shaun made a critical error in surgery that meant a young man was almost certainly going to die. Nicking his patient's artery inspired him on how to help Glassman, but it also meant all but certain death. When his fellow doctors learned that the patient was likely going to die because of Shaun's mistake, they were conflicted on whether or not to report him, knowing that he -- as an autistic doctor who was only hired because Glassman put his own job on the line to vouch for him -- would be fired.

The patient did ultimately survive once Shaun realized what he did wrong and came up with a dangerous plan to save the young man's life. The surgery was almost as likely to kill him as leaving him alone, but the doctors decided to try. They were successful, and the patient lived. Nevertheless, Shaun could face the consequences for his mistake, as he was determined to confess what had happened so that the hospital could take steps to prevent such a thing from happening again. He and Dr. Glassman ended the episode on the way to admit what had happened and face the music.

On the one hand, good for Shaun for wanting to 'fess up to what he did wrong for the sake of preventing future incidents, and good for Dr. Glassman for sticking by Shaun. On the other hand, Dr. Glassman could really probably use the awesome medical insurance plan that he undoubtedly gets for his position as neurosurgeon at St. Bonaventure. Sure, he's qualified to get another job at just about any other hospital, but the staff at any other hospital wouldn't know him and likely wouldn't be the people he'd want around him while going through treatment for a potentially deadly ailment. Sadly, the fact that this episode was the Season 1 finale means that we're stuck with this cliffhanger for the foreseeable future.

Luckily, The Good Doctor has already been renewed for a second season, so we'll definitely get to see the aftermath of Dr. Glassman's heartbreaking diagnosis. For what you can watch now that The Good Doctor is over for the season, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide, our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule, and our 2018 Amazon Prime breakdown. If you're not up on the shows not quite as lucky as The Good Doctor, check out our rundown of TV cancellations and renewals.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).