Spoilers ahead for the second half of The Good Doctor's Season 4 premiere two-parter, called "Frontline Part 2."
The first half of The Good Doctor's Season 4 premiere event last week ended on a wild cliffhanger: the return of Nick Gonzalez's Dr. Melendez... sort of. Melendez didn't miraculously come back to life in the middle of a pandemic, months after his post-earthquake demise, but he appeared real to a mourning Claire. Now, after Claire spent an episode talking to a Melendez who wasn't really there, and following the tragic death of a member of the St. Bonaventure team, is it time to say goodbye to Dr. Melendez for good?
The Good Doctor paid off on surgeon-turned-internist Morgan Reznick and Nurse Petringa being exposed to COVID-19 by revealing that one of them was going to catch COVID and die. Morgan didn't even get sick, but Petringa didn't survive. Despite the fact that Nurse Petringa wasn't the biggest character on The Good Doctor, she was certainly memorable, and her death packed a punch for the rest of the characters. They lost another one of their own, not terribly long after Melendez died.
Despite Nurse Petringa's death and Claire's emotional journey of interacting with her visions of Dr. Melendez, the episode ended on a semi-uplifting note by revealing the main patients who seemed to be on death's door managed to survive. Claire found some closure, and even resolved to move on by the end of the episode, helped by Melendez telling her that he'd be watching her as her story continued.
The Good Doctor wasn't clear if Melendez was a ghost, an imaginary figure Claire conjured up to help deal with her grief, or a genuine hallucination -- although I doubt this show is going to follow in Grey's Anatomy's footsteps with a Denny arc -- and it might not matter in the long run. The two-parter started with the beginning of the COVID outbreak as Claire and Lim continued meeting to mourn, and ended with the end of The Good Doctor's version of COVID and Claire realizing that it was time to move on, complete with the specter of Dr. Melendez disappearing.
If Melendez appears to Claire again in the same way that he did in the two "Frontline" episodes, it might cheapen Claire's journey in these episodes as well as his death. After all, it took months of a pandemic draining her for her to begin seeing Melendez. Unless she decides for some reason that she liked "having" him around, I think her implied goodbye to him in "Frontline Part 2" should be the show's goodbye to him overall, or at least for the foreseeable future.
If Nick Gonzalez does return to reprise his role again -- which I'm not against -- then I just hope that it's either via flashback or to just Claire. I can suspend my disbelief that one character would begin to see and talk to him as a coping mechanism, but it would be too much if multiple characters began to do it, and I don't see The Good Doctor going a supernatural route and introducing ghosts. Flashback Melendez? Sure. Other versions of Melendez? No thank you, at least for now.
All of this said, Melendez's death at the end of Season 3 was very abrupt, especially considering The Good Doctor seemed to be setting up a very sweet (if professionally inappropriate) romance with Claire, and I can understand wanting him back. Even if he's not real, seeing more of Nick Gonzalez with Antonia Thomas is a treat.