This morning, “The Good Doctor” greets another sunrise, already looking with some fans furious and others feeling the preciousness of life more dearly than ever. The March 30, Season 3, Episode 20 finale, “I Love You” radiated the drama’s characteristically affirming themes of hope and acceptance but, in the middle of tragedy, there is often more tragedy. Death came for two beloved characters on “The Good Doctor”— one from the series’ start and one from last week’s “Hurt”-- in this deeply intense, exquisitely crafted episode, but not without closure, peace, and true absolution. That is more than most real human beings get, and those who cherish the full cast have fine performances to relive and contemplate over the hot summer.

The truth of the episode is relevant and real during this pandemic, too.

The brilliant surgeon knows the end is bearing down on ‘The Good Doctor’

Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) wants to get right back to saving lives as soon as he regains consciousness on his gurney in the ambulance. “The doctor without the head injury makes the call,” Claire Brown (Antonia Thomas) asserts. The CT scan doesn't look good for the most brilliant surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, either. Claire already has deeper concerns because Melendez refers to being at the “winery” instead of the brewery. Details are not something he is ever known to miss.

She realizes with one look that he is bleeding internally, and has a serious injury to a bowel artery.

Claire and Dr. Lim (Christina Chang) immediately go in and see that the internal damage is far greater than they thought. Melendez knows the numbers, and he knows by the diagnostic scale that his body has a good chance of “going septic” very quickly. “We're not there yet,” Lim encourages, but when she tries to enlist the services of Dr.

Glassman (Richard Schiff), he advocates that the time has come to “be a friend” beyond being a doctor. Even if Melendez somehow survived the surgery, he would be a diabetic, tube-fed patient on the list for a liver transplant and with a colostomy. That hardly measures beyond mere existence for a man like Melendez.

The poetry in imagery and dialogue consistently sets “The Good Doctor” on its own plane among TV Shows, even with the resurgence sparked by the drama for the medical genre. Viewers witness Melendez come to peace with both his life and his death. He relates his trek through Southeast Asia in the months before he started medical school, the food and falling in love still palpable in his memory.

He relates how he feels the faith of his Catholic upbringing greeting him “like a warm blanket.” His first deathbed scenes with Claire are physically painful because he insists that “you go, there still a crisis out there,” and she does. One by one, every person close to him comes for a personal moment of memory, caring, and touch.

The scenes were like a gut-punch in light of what patients and families are enduring in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It feels worse than death not to be able to hold a hand, stroke a forehead, listen to a whisper, or simply be next to a dying dear one. As someone who has lost many loved ones, I can speak to how much that closeness matters. It is so heartbreaking to feel this added blow to victims and their families by the contagion of this illness. The arts can at least offer catharsis for those pent-up feelings not able to be shared, and this depiction is worthy.

“I could have drunk whiskey with you forever,” Melendez tells Lim, who responds that “I even started to like it neat,” before asking “What did we do?” “No blame,” the dying surgeon insists.

Glassman relates a save on a gallbladder surgery that Neil Melendez could have pulled off, along with some baseball odds. “You were the best I ever worked with,” he departs with a gentle handclasp. Claire returns with a silver crucifix on a chain, and in the fading moments, she and Neil share their true feelings. “You're a terrible bowler-- worst I ever saw,” he tells the woman whose talents were “incredible” in last week's episode.

“And I hate your tattoo,” Claire returns, “but I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he says before she lays her head on his chest for his last moments. The two women who loved the surgeon most embrace each other to offer unspoken condolence. They agree to go for a drink sometime.

‘The Good Doctor’ does all he can to stay above water

Dr. Shaun Murphy’s (Freddie Highmore) unwavering sense of hope and practicality are pure gifts to his patient, Vera (Marin Ireland). Vera is as invested in “The Good Doctor” as he is in her. She admonishes that “moving on” in no way represents giving up, and that persisting in trying to fix a relationship “traps us and keeps us from other victories.” She makes him promise that if she doesn't make it, he will move on.

Lea (Paige Spara) refuses to take the advice of rescuers and leave. She stays, and maintains constant radio contact, hearing every exchange between “The Good Doctor” and his patient. When Vera shouts out that “I'm going to be dead in 15 minutes,” Shaun tells Lea that's not true.

“At the rate the water’s rising, we've got about an hour.” He begins to cut away the rebar with the remaining good side of his saw, but an aftershock causes a surge in the flow from the broken pipe. He never considers Lea’s appeal to leave Vera, even at Vera’s urging.

“I can't cut through the rebar, but I can't cut through your leg,” Dr. Murphy determines. He prepares Vera for the pain, and Lea for the screams, as he asked her to count from 180 to make 3 minutes. With almost no direct vision, Dr. Murphy manages the cut, but Vera slinks down into the water. Yelling for her to exhale, he brings her head up. At the same time, the word is radioed that “I got something” above ground.

The Good Doctor” and his patient are pulled up to see a sunrise, and Vera celebrates the new beginning, no matter her hard road ahead.

Lea rushes to Shaun with a kiss. He surmises that it could be “a practice kiss, a pity kiss, or a goodbye kiss.” She describes that it is an “I love you with all my heart” kiss, and gives another long, passionate follow-up. It makes for a picture-perfect final shot, and “The Good Doctor” does point out that he didn't lose Vera, so his promise doesn't apply.

Love certainly changes lives and can soften hardened hearts, but it usually does not make anyone a completely different person. Lea is still Lea, and for now, her moment in the morning sun is lovely with “The Good Doctor,” but one sunrise doesn't wash away her less shiny side. Hopefully, Carly (Jasika Nicole), who was willing and vulnerable enough to be a completely dedicated girlfriend, will reveal more of her sides in Season 4.

Lea tells Shaun: “You make me more…” so if anyone can make her less flighty and self-involved, he can go for it.

Dr. Murphy isn’t alone in saving lives through the night. Morgan Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann) does wonders in the operating room in repairing a rupture from an ectopic pregnancy, never mind not being healed from her own hand surgery. Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper) demands that she leave the surgery, but commends her selflessness in saving her patient. Using his own story, Andrews elaborates on the reciprocal value of grace. Morgan, like Claire, is a survivor, but she has had to use very different methods for defense. Her new physical limitations may force her to develop empathy not yet seen before, and that could be very refreshing and enticing on "The Good Doctor."

Dr. Park provides a father's farewell in ‘The Good Doctor”

Portrayals of parents have been pivotal in several unforgettable episodes of “The Good Doctor,” and parents have certainly been pivotal for the main characters of the drama.

Dr. Park (Will Yun Lee) is the only parent in the group of residents, and in this final episode for the season, he takes on a father's greatest pain.

Dr. Park and Dr. Lim attempt surgery on the aorta to spare the life that Casey (Bentley Green), who is certain to lose the lower half of his body when a massive steel beam crushes him. They try both a straight and a side approach, but continuing would cause more bleeding and restricted flow to the brain. Dr. Park must tell the boy, not yet a man, that he is dying.

Casey cannot accept the news at first, insisting “I feel fine.” As time passes, however, he longs for his father. He wants to tell the story of how he “killed my mom” by not telling anyone about the opioid pills in her purse.

In another stellar performance from Lee, he assures that no matter what “fathers love their kids,” and that Casey is loved and never indicted as guilty by his dad. Will Yun Lee has a medically-fragile son (with rare Moyamoya disease) with his wife, Jennifer Birmingham Lee, who has also starred on “The Good Doctor,” as Park’s ex-wife (on still-friendly terms).

Casey hallucinates the Park is his father, and the surgeon willingly takes the part, speaking loving words of healing to the teen who won't survive long enough to see his true father. Their exchange is the sort of art that etches into the soul, and is Emmy-caliber. Park calls his ex-wife, Mia, at sunrise, asking to speak to his son, Kellan.

He melts into tears as he says “I love you, son,” and tells Mia that “I gotta be closer to you guys-- I'm movin’ back.”

Only time will tell if this truly means that Will Yun Lee will be absent from the Season 4 cast of “The Good Doctor.” Whatever lies ahead, this finale was a gift, and its memoir of love, forgiveness, and all that matters in life will stay a treasure.

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