Why The Good Doctor Season Finale Ended On That Cliffhanger

the good doctor season 1 finale shaun dr. glassman
(Image credit: Image courtesy of ABC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of The Good Doctor on ABC.

The Good Doctor was one of the biggest new shows of the 2017-2018 TV season, and the Season 1 finale ended on a cliffhanger that could mean a very different status quo when Season 2 kicks off. For most of the episode, it seemed like the cliffhanger was bound to be whether or not there was even a chance for Dr. Glassman -- recently diagnosed with a seemingly inoperable brain tumor -- could possibly survive. As it turns out, that particular cliffhanger was resolved before the end of the episode. Unfortunately, in the course of trying to find a solution for Glassman, Shaun made a surgical error that very nearly cost a young man his life. He decided that he would 'fess up to the mistake to the hospital brass, which theoretically meant that both he and his mentor would be given the boot.

Naturally, since this was a season finale, the answer to what happens next didn't come, and we're stuck waiting until Season 2 kicks off to see the resolution. The Good Doctor showrunner David Shore revealed why Season 1 had to end on the cliffhanger regarding Shaun and Dr. Glassman's futures at St. Bonaventure:

Not all the details were set, but I sort of knew as soon as the pilot was written that the natural bookend to that beginning was this ending. It's important to me that Shaun not just be a superhero with autism, but be a real person with strengths and weaknesses. He makes heroic moves, but is also capable of mistakes, both minor and major, as we all are. Dr. Glassman makes a promise in the pilot that if Shaun doesn't live up to all that he is promising he is capable of, that Drs. Glassman and Murphy will be gone. You know, if you show a gun in Act 1, it has to be fired in Act 4. That [promise], to me, was the equivalent of a gun, and I wanted to see Shaun make a mistake.

Way back in the pilot, Dr. Glassman promised the St. Bonaventure administrators that Shaun was perfectly capable of working as a surgeon in the hospital. Although they weren't 100% sold on bringing an autistic doctor into the fold, Glassman's reputation was solid, and his promise that he would resign from the hospital if Shaun messed up and/or failed to meet their expectations was enough for them to give Shaun a chance. For the majority of the season, Shaun didn't seem to make any massive mistakes, but as David Shore said, the finale had to pay off on the promise of the pilot.

There's also the point that the season finale ending without Shaun facing some repercussions for his actions might have been a little bit too happily-ever-after in light of the discovery that Dr. Glassman could survive his tumor after all. The episode certainly wouldn't have packed as much of a punch -- or featured as much of a hook -- if Shaun would get away with making a mistake that could have been very costly. That said, we shouldn't expect Season 2 to open with Shaun searching for a new job or even trying to get his St. Bonaventure job back. David Shore had this to say in his chat with TVLine about Shaun's new status quo in Season 2:

We can expect to see Shaun still working at San Jose St. Bonaventure. . . . I think the focus [of Season 2] is going to be that there's a new hierarchy -- a new sheriff in town.

Shaun will still be part of the team at St. Bonaventure, although it sounds like he won't have as much support from the brass as he earned in the first season. Whether or not Dr. Glassman will be back at work remains to be seen. We can bet that he won't be as active at the hospital as he was before his diagnosis and the discovery of the treatment he's facing. Dr. Melendez might not be able to help too much, and Shaun may find himself short on allies.

The Good Doctor will return to ABC for Season 2 in the fall. For what you can watch between now and then, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide and our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule. Our rundown of TV renewals and cancellations can show you which network series have gotten the axe and which will be back for another batch of episodes.

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. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. 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).