The Good Doctor Season 5 Finale Cliffhanger Called Back To An Iconic ER Twist, But Is That A Good Thing?

The Good Doctor Lim ER Carter
(Image credit: ABC/NBC)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 5 finale of The Good Doctor on ABC, called “Sons.”

Although The Good Doctor has been known to deliver game-changing finales that include major tragedies, the Season 5 finale seemed like it was going to end on a high note with Shaun and Lea finally getting married after so many ups and downs … except that they exchanged their vows with a couple of minutes left to go in the episode, and that all but guaranteed time for a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger involved Dr. Lim and Nurse Villanueva, and it called back to an iconic scene from another medical drama. But does it bode well that The Good Doctor had me flashing back to a bloody episode of ER?

What Happened To Lim And Villanueva

Fans will remember that Villanueva has been living with Lim after the latter refused her resignation and gave her a place to stay to get away from her domestic abuser. Villanueva was trying to get on her feet and move out of Lim’s place, but her boss made it clear that she was more than welcome to stay, since getting over the relationship with her abuser wasn’t going to be easy. They were all set to continue living together, and I honestly forgot about the storyline in all the excitement of the doctors of St. Bonaventure setting up a wedding for Shaun and Lea on the roof of the hospital. 

It was when Lim went down into the break room in search of more glasses while everybody partied two floors above – with nobody else, music blaring, and only a couple of minutes left in the episode – that I started flashing back to ER, and it turns out that I wasn’t entirely off-base. (More on the ER scene lower.) When she got down to the break room – with The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” playing – she slid in something that turned out to be a pool of Villanueva’s blood. She leapt into action, putting pressure on her wounds and calling for a cart, telling the nurse not to speak, but Villanueva had to try and warn her friend that somebody else was there. 

And that somebody was Villanueva's abusive ex Owen, who came out of the shadows, lunged at Lim and stabbed her twice in the abdomen before running off! The Season 5 finale ended with Villanueva and Lim both brutally stabbed and bleeding on the floor of an otherwise empty room, with the people who could save them partying obliviously above, with music drowning out any calls for help. Lim at least was still alive, and Villanueva was still breathing the last time that the camera focused on her face, but it’s going to be a long hiatus for fans wondering what happens next. 

If you’re an ER fan like me, you might already have an idea of what could happen, if The Good Doctor follows the pattern of what the legendary medical drama did more than two decades ago. Spoilers for Season 6 of ER are below.

What Happened To Carter And Lucy On ER

In Season 6 of ER on NBC in 2000, the show delivered a huge and horrifying twist when it came to Dr. Lucy Knight and Dr. John Carter (played by Noah Wyle), who had been treating a patient who very much did not want their help… or their spinal tap. After Carter got the situation under control (and yelled at Lucy) with a psych consult on the way, the episode moved on, and seemed sure to end on a high note with a Valentine’s Day party taking over the Emergency Room, complete with loud blaring music. Then, Carter went to check on Lucy and the patient in a dark exam room, and everything went wrong. 

When Carter entered the room, that patient lunged at him from the darkness and stabbed him twice before fleeing. Carter yelled for help, but nobody could hear him over the music, and he collapsed to the floor, where he found Lucy, who had already been brutally attacked and was lying in a pool of her own blood, conscious but not looking good. It’s a seriously chilling end to the Season 6 episode – which you can watch with a Hulu subscription, or just check out the scene here – and it stuck with me enough that The Good Doctor Season 5 finale immediately left me thinking about it. 

Now, are the two scenes identical? No. Lim saw Villanueva bleeding on the floor first, and then was stabbed from the front, whereas Carter was stabbed in the back and didn’t find Lucy until he too had fallen to the floor. But two medical professionals being stabbed as an episode cliffhanger after a happy party scene with music drowning out cries for help? Of course I was thinking about ER! And quite frankly, I’m about ready to revisit Season 6’s “All in the Family” and the follow-up episode just to experience it all over again.

Now, on the one hand, I applaud any show that makes a nod to an iconic ER scene, if the Good Doctor scene truly was inspired by what happened to Carter and Lucy back in 2000 and not just a coincidence of the writing. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily want the payoff of this cliffhanger to go down the same way that ER handled it. Carter survived, although went on to become addicted to his pain meds for a long and emotional arc. Lucy died from her wounds. Lim is too major and key of a character for me to want to see her to die, and Villanueva deserves to catch a break after trying to flee domestic violence. 

One thing is certain at this point: The Good Doctor delivered a doozy of a cliffhanger to leave fans on for the months of hiatus. The good news is that ABC has already renewed the medical drama for a sixth season, so their fates won’t be left permanently in question. Fans can only hope that it premieres earlier rather than later in the 2022-2023 season to shed some light on whether or not they survive, and whether their attacker is caught. 

The Good Doctor is done for the 2021-2022 TV season, but there are still plenty of finales on way, so be sure to check out our spring TV finale schedule for the dates you need to know for more of the biggest shows on television.

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).