I was going to start this piece off by calling Shaun an idiot. However, after watching him confront Lea on last night’s episode (S03E18), I can’t seem to summon the vitriol anymore. Mostly because I think he finally realizes how idiotic he has been. And it’s not as fun to kick someone when they’re down, you know?
The Good Doctor centers around a brilliant surgical resident, Shaun, who is also autistic. In the current season (S3), Shaun is caught in a love-triangle of sorts. The incredibly ridiculous Carly/Shaun/Lea triangle.
Laughable, really. As if Lea can hold a candle to Carly in the girlfriend department. Honestly, Carly should be given the Oscars-equivalent for Best Girlfriend.
But maybe I’m biased. Let’s examine the facts, shall we?
When we first meet Lea, she is literally the girl-next-door. She breezes past Shaun’s autistic barrier to social interactions and worms her way into his affections. She doesn’t mind that he is autistic. Instead, she seems to like that he is autistic. One time, she even says that he is not like other guys. She takes him out of his comfort zone: road-tripping, driving, drinking, even giving him his first kiss. Perfect, romantic teenage-y stuff, right? No, because Lea drops him like a hot potato almost immediately, claiming that she just wants to be friends and moves right out of San Jose before he could say Dillalo.
Just when Shaun starts to become okay without her, she moves back to San Jose, right into his house and they become roommates. Poor, confused Shaun. Like he needs this much drama in his first situation-ship.
Thankfully, the writers realized that Shaun needs some sanity in his life, so at the end of season 2, Shaun asks another doctor out on a date. Her name is Carly and she has sense. Did I mention that she has sense? Yeah, okay.
In his relationship with Carly, Shaun grows by leaps and bounds. He learns how to be comfortable with his autism. He learns that he is desirable even as someone with autism. He and Carly have open, honest, and deep conversations about their biases (Carly wondering if she is dating him to prove a point because her sister is autistic), their personalities (Shaun disliking intimate physical contact, i.e. handholding), fears (Shaun being afraid Carly will grow tired of his “issues”). For the record, she never gets tired of his “issues.”
Meanwhile, Lea hovers around their relationship like a visible ghost. She lives with Shaun until Carly tells him that she is not comfortable with their housing arrangement. Lea moves out, but less than two episodes later, she is around again, working in the same hospital as a technical assistant (y’all, Lea is supposed to be an automotive engineer! What does that have to do with medical software?)
Finally, the love triangle seems to be solved in S03E16 when Carly breaks up with Shaun because she thinks he is in love with Lea. It takes him an episode to get there, but Shaun agrees with Carly’s assessment and goes after Lea, because he “loves her more.” If I rolled my eyes any harder, they would pop out of their sockets.
Here’s why this is problematic: Shaun already picked Carly over Lea! In S03E11, he weighed Lea and Carly against each other, and picked Carly. If Shaun was not autistic, the storyline of him not “realizing” his love for Lea might be plausible. But he is, so it is not. Shaun is brutally honest and does not engage in nuanced emotional interactions that belie artifice. If he wanted Lea over Carly in S03E11, he would have picked Lea over Carly. But he didn’t.
So, for him to be persuaded that he loves Lea more than Carly because he and Lea sang into one mic at karaoke is a level of idiocy that Shaun should never even have considered. Shaun even tries justifying his decision by claiming Lea makes him a better version of himself (please read: not autistic).
Either Shaun is an idiot or the writers messed up by making Lea seem prejudiced. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Because Lea is who she is now, and Shaun is autistic. They do not fit together. It’s borderline toxic and just plain wrong. To insinuate that Carly did not make Shaun want to be better is a writer’s cop out. Shaun grew so much in one season with Carly than he did in two seasons with Lea. That might have something to do with Carly’s caring consistency and stability, something Lea is not great at.
I applaud Lea’s decision to reject Shaun, but it also highlights why it shouldn’t even have been an option in the first place.