Park Shi On (Joo Won) is a first year resident doctor with autism. Although he faces bias and discrimination because of the way he talks and his mannerisms, he is resolute in becoming a great pediatric surgeon. Cha Yeon Soo (Moon Chae Won) is one of the first doctors on Shi On’s team that see his potential in helping young patients.
The interesting thing about Good Doctor is that it explores the world of autism in every day society. There are varying degrees of the disorder and my bias certainly extends from the fact that I do know people who are autistic and adapts to the normal world.
Having said that, Shi On is a dated portrayal of the autistic savant. Shi On feels more like Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man except with the ability to express some more complex emotions. With all the resources out there about autism, I wished for a more honest portrayal like Parenthood’s Max Burkholder who plays a young teen with Asperger Syndrome.
Instead Shi On was created to fit the typical romantic K-Drama mold. The problem is that I just wasn’t very attached to the romance storyline between Shi On and Yeon Soo. For most of the drama’s run, they felt like brother and sister with Shi On quietly crushing after her. Only in the very last week, the drama brings the two together and quickly glosses over the adversities they would need to face as a couple.
Those weren’t the only two people I had difficulty sympathizing with. I had trouble watching Kim Do Han’s (Joo Sang Wook) cantankerous attitude in the drama’s first act. Understandably, Joo Sang Wook is playing an authority figure who must lay down the law but I found myself feeling unsympathetic towards Do Han for picking on Shi On. Do Han puts a wall up between himself and Shi On perhaps because of his guilt over his younger brother and yet he overlooks Shi On’s medical knowledge. He can’t be as petulant as Dr. House if he doesn’t have the vision to see the science. On the other hand, Yeon Soo is only capable of seeing that Shi On’s heart is in the right place.
When given a great script, Joo Sang Wook has shown that his acting can make the story work even if his acting isn’t so dynamic. With a bad script, he reminds me a bit of Song Seung Hun’s acting which is all about looking hot but adds no substance. Don’t get me wrong. My superficial side loves me some Joo Sang Wook (preferably broody and wearing a 3-piece suit, please) but I’m aware that he’s got a small range.
If the Good Doctor’s script and the flow of the drama was more thought out, then perhaps I would ease up on the acting itself. There were many veteran actors playing various doctors in the hospital but they were unmemorable. The script is fragmented with it rarely figuring out a way to transition between the multiple storylines threads. Juggling the personal lives of our doctors to looking into the cases that our pediatric team faced and then turning our attention the coup of hospital’s management, I found myself tuning out the storylines which I didn’t care for.
The drama was more concerned about tying things the conclusion up in a neat bow. So after dedicating episodes on Deputy Director Kang’s (Kwak Do Won) plot to turn Sungwon University Hospital into a for-profit hospital, he switched sides without much of a struggle after his son is treated by our doctors.
With so many storylines that seldom intertwine, the writer overuses exposition to force the story in the direction it needs to go. Rather than feeling organic, the drama feels contrived and after watching Good Doctor I feel like Lucy has pulled the football from underneath me right as I was about to kick it.