‘The Good Doctor’ EP on That Heartbreaking Death, the Toll on Lim & More
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 2 of The Good Doctor, “Frontline Part 2.”]
The Good Doctor explored the fallout of Morgan’s (Fiona Gubelmann) misdiagnosis of a COVID-19 patient in the second part of the premiere, and there were heartbreaking, fatal consequences for one of the hospital’s own: Nurse Petringa (Karin Konoval).
While Morgan recovered after getting sick, Petringa did not, and it was Lim (Christina Chang) who not only convinced her to be put on a ventilator (even though both knew the chances she wouldn’t come off it) and then also took her off it. Meanwhile, with the late Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) guiding her, Claire (Antonia Thomas) tracked down the owner of dog tags she found in the room with the deceased patients’ belongings.
Here, executive producer Erin Gunn breaks down the episode and previews what’s next. Is that the last we’ll see of Melendez?
After this episode, you’re moving to post-COVID stories, correct?
Erin Gunn: That is correct. It’ll play very vaguely in the background, but yes, we felt like at a certain point, we did need to move on. We all know everybody’s exhaustion level with dealing with COVID, so for us, what felt right was to address really go all out with COVID stories but then return to more typical Good Doctor episodes.
How will the doctors’ experiences with those patients affect them going forward? Lim had it particularly hard — seeing the montage of her with patients as loved ones could only watch over FaceTime as they turned off the machines was heartbreaking.
It’s so heartbreaking, and that’s something that we will definitely explore this season, especially with Dr. Lim, what that toll is for her and for so many frontline workers and doctors. What does that do to you? What does that do to Lim as she moves forward in her life with that level of trauma and stress? Are doctors suffering from PTSD? Possibly.
Claire and Melendez’s scenes together were so sweet. How much did she need that as part of her grieving process? And is that the last time she — and we — will see him?
You see how it ended in Episode 2, and I think it’s really sweet and lovely and I feel like we see Claire have some resolution to her grief, further inspired by Melendez basically saying, “You’re going to be OK and I’m going to be rooting for you. And you’re right, we didn’t get the ending we wanted, but you’re going to do great things in life.” I don’t know if it’s the last time we’ll see him but it certainly feels like a good mentor sendoff from him that he gives her one last piece of great advice, and I think that allows her to take good steps forward in her life.
The hospital lost one of its own just like has been happening in the real world. Why Petringa? How will we see that loss affect everyone moving forward, especially Lim and Morgan? Their scenes were so good in this episode.
I agree. We do a medical show and we feel like we have to be realistic about, sometimes you’re going to lose your own staff. It happened with Melendez, and now of course it happened with Petringa. These are characters we love and actors we love and when that story was pitched out early in the room, we gasped because emotionally, you don’t want to lose her. We love her and she’s a phenomenal actress. She’s been amazing on the show.
But we felt like, unfortunately, sometimes you have to make these really difficult decisions about losing cast that you love because it feels right creatively and it feels realistic. Hospitals all around the world are losing beloved doctors and nurses and all kinds of healthcare workers, and so we felt like we had to be authentic to some of those stories and we knew that we should unfortunately probably lose one of our beloved characters. Unfortunately it was Petringa and I think you will definitely see the fallout of that. She and Morgan had such a close relationship, and Lim felt such responsibility for putting her on that ventilator and knowing the odds of who was successful in coming off of that — those were Lim’s calls, and so she definitely is dealing with the aftermath of those choices.
Shaun and Lea are now going to have the chance to really be together in the same room again. What is that going to look like in upcoming episodes?
It’s something we’re very excited to explore. What does it mean to now be back together, to be able to hit that start button again, and with an in-person relationship? This is a storyline that we’ve been excited to tell for a long time. For many years, we had this idea that Shaun and Lea should end up together, and now that we get to write for those characters and explore this, it’s just a lot of fun to tackle a relationship with Shaun.
We had such beautiful storylines last year with Shaun and Carly. Carly represented so many firsts for Shaun and we wanted to make this relationship a little bit different in that it wasn’t really showing Shaun having firsts, but it’s about Shaun being in it and what does that look like on a day-to-day basis? What does Shaun look like as a day-to-day boyfriend to someone?
Lim was wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt in her and Claire’s final scene. Will we see that part of this season in a significant way like the pandemic was the focus of these first two episodes?
I’m not sure. It’s not a real storyline that we’re following for her in a concrete way, but it was important for us to put that T-shirt on a character because that’s also what we were all dealing with this summer, the aftermath of George Floyd and so many others. The Good Doctor lives in the present-day real world — and it’s still happening now – but at the time, with the protests and the social unrest, it felt like, “Of course someone would have that T-shirt on in this time,” and Lim was the absolute, natural character for us to do that, just given who she is. She’s a strong feminist. We’re also a show that believes in subtlety and we didn’t want to hit it over the head too hard, but it felt natural someone would be wearing that. It felt right for her character.
Park’s staying. How are we going to see him continuing to work to balance work and his relationship with his son, especially after he came so close to moving to be with him?
I love this relationship so much. I think Will Yun Lee is just so great in this role, specifically when he has scenes with his son. I know we left last season with people thinking, “Oh gosh, is he leaving the show as well?” We pretty much knew that wasn’t going to happen, and we’re excited to write for that, to explore, is there more story there with his son, and if so, what does that look like for him? As now a single father, living in another state, with a son he loves? I’m not sure how it’s going to play out yet.
Morgan’s going to have to change her approach to medicine and patients as an internist.
This is a story I find so interesting that we’re doing because I think on the surface, it seemed like we were not going to have her on the show. “We’re a show about surgeons, and if she’s not a surgeon, what’s her place?” In doing research and talking to our medical experts who work with us on the show, actually general practitioners are the ones that bring their patients to the surgeons and they generally stay on. That patient is their patient and the surgeon is the person who comes in and performs the surgery, but they’re not the person who follows through on your care or stays with you through your treatment.
In a way, there are stories we haven’t yet explored on The Good Doctor of the doctor part of it, and so it gave us a nice opportunity to get into those stories by way of Morgan. Just given who that character is, how competitive she is, she’s not going to change her stripes overnight. She is a competitive surgeon at heart. How does that feel, to sort of be on the outside looking in at these colleagues who you were just with, and because she had to turn her practice over to being a general practitioner, it set her back a year, so she took a little bit of a step back and out, and what I’ve seen so far, I’m loving.
It’s really fun to see her try to stay on pace and interfere with the surgeons’ recommendations because in her heart, she’s still a surgeon and she has very strong opinions about that. It’s a really fun dynamic between her and her former colleagues. And also Glassman [played by Richard Schiff] is now her direct boss. They’re in the clinic together, so it’s really fun to see those two in scenes together as well and what that feels like for her.
What’s coming up for Marcus (Hill Harper) this season? We saw a bit of how the pandemic affected him at home.
That montage of him in the garage was very emotional for a lot of us. When we read that so many doctors and nurses around the country were not entering their own homes or were being shipped to other cities and being put up in hotel rooms so they could stay away from their families, it was so heartbreaking to us. We’ve always loved the idea of Dr. Andrews having a really strong marriage. This highly competitive man in the workplace just has this rock-solid marriage and then to see him be ostracized to the garage was very heartbreaking for us.
We’ll continue to explore that character. He and Lim are the bosses, and what does that feel like for them to have to work together in that way? But also there’s a little surprise twist with one of our new residents and Dr. Andrews, so it gives us a whole new way to talk about story with Dr. Andrews’ character, through this new resident, which I think is really fun and interesting.
The Good Doctor, Mondays, 10/9c, ABC