Spoilers ahead for the March 29 episode of The Good Doctor Season 4, called "Spilled Milk."
The Good Doctor delivered the kind of complications that were inevitable for Shaun and Lea after making their big decision last week, along with fresh heartache for Claire, more back-and-forth before Morgan and Park, and a case with a dancer who faced the possible loss of her leg. In many ways, the show hit all the beats that it needed to hit and delivered the same kind of story that has kept The Good Doctor going for four seasons now, but now I find myself thinking that the show needs to spice things up. Even if that means bringing back the kinds of TV cliffhangers that can make the waits between episodes downright painful.
Much of the fourth season of The Good Doctor has been falling flat for me compared to previous seasons of tearjerking twists and heartwarming developments and everything in between on a weekly basis, at least in the episodes since the show absolutely nailed the way to handle the pandemic. And I haven't been entirely sure if it was just that I was getting tired by the 10 p.m. time slot or there is an overload of heavy medical dramas this season or just that things had to be done differently for production during a pandemic.
"Spilled Milk" spelled it out for me, and oddly enough, it was the case of the week that really made me realize that The Good Doctor needs to mix things up rather than just going back to old standbys. Problems just don't always need to be solved by the end of the hour!
The case of the week saw a young woman by the name of Maya learn that she has a rare disorder that would mean either a surgery on her leg that could very well kill her but preserve her dancing career or an amputation that would almost certainly save her life. She was in love with her dance partner, Leo, who was gay, and she left the fate of her leg in his hands when she went under for surgery.
When something in the surgery inevitable went wrong, Asher more or less convinced Leo to approve the amputation because he invested himself in their relationship, and I was ready for some nice juicy conflict to arise from that once Maya found out. But there was no conflict, and this was another case of the week that opened and closed in the same episode. And when nothing much came of that, I was reminded of just how procedural of a show that The Good Doctor can be, for better or for worse.
The procedural nature of the show is fine and can definitely work; just look at the first three seasons and part of the fourth. There just needs to be more going on outside of the cases of the week that actually changes the status quo. Whether that means moving characters forwards or backwards, there just needs to be movement, and connective threads with cliffhangers from episode to episode could be the way for it to work.
The Good Doctor brought in and then said goodbye to a number of residents over a span of not that many episodes before mostly going back to the core group, and it ultimately didn't matter that I didn't learn all of their names on first watch when they debuted. I find that Morgan in particular is done a disservice this season, as the show keeps more or less resetting her character and teaching her the same lessons over and over again, which is why I'm not a fan of Morgan/Park.
None of this is to say that I no longer enjoy The Good Doctor or The Good Doctor is a lost cause; I'm just missing some of the conflict and stakes to spice things up, and some more serialization could work wonders. I do still see a hole where Dr. Melendez should have been, and there's a lot of potential in the pregnancy arc with Shaun and Lea since that's not a plot that can just be undone or ignored now that they've decided to keep the baby. Plus, Freddie Highmore and Paige Spara are always great together. Claire's story with her dad has potential, but I'm just ready to see Claire get an arc that doesn't involve tears.