On the surface, The Good Doctor seems to be a fairly predictable tale of the trials and tribulations of a first-year resident who hopes to specialize in the incredible scientific feast of treatments and cures related to internal medicine rather than the more dramatic (at least on TV and in the cinema) realm of any sort of surgery.
However, largely due to Orlando Bloom’s quietly obsessive performance as Dr. Martin Blake, director Lance Daly’s take on John Enbom’s screenplay digs deep into the dark side of those in any profession who mask their insecurity and shallowness with diabolical deceit that is only possible due to their encyclopedic knowledge of their fields coupled with some unlikely willful blindness from underlings who stumble across their masters’ treachery and lies.
Proof? Merely pick up a newspaper and learn about long-past patient maltreatment or financial house of cards that ruin lives all in the name of proffering advice meant to improve physical time on the planet or increase net worth.
When his first Spanish-speaking patient proves to be allergic to the properly prescribed penicillin, Martin’s dream of winning a fellowship by acing his residency is suddenly at risk. Not surprisingly, his supervisor (Rob Morrow readily fits the bill of tough love then fiercely supportive Dr. Waylans—replete with middle-split spectacles) emphatically cautions his nervous charge even as a whiff of “don’t tell, don’t report” momentarily soils the air from the newbie. In one of many predictable plot twists (save and except for the final act where Enbom marvellously makes his point after flooding the screen with an apparent payoff to his protagonist’s much-earlier philosophy of life and death), Martin is vindicated and a floor nurse sent packing.
The meat of the medical yarn concerns a stubborn kidney infection being suffered by a young beauty (Riley Keough is ideally cast as Diane Nixon), which is quickly put under control by the instantly smitten Martin. (The U.S. newcomer’s beachside home is as sterile and empty as its only resident’s soul.) In order to keep this instant-love going (all the while encouraging Diane to dump her philandering boyfriend: “If you love someone…set them free”—a Sting quote that is as romantic as the solo piano music favoured by the upcoming physician as he sips fine wine and peels off the top of yet another frozen dinner), the pharmacology wizard tampers with all manner of meds to ensure a much longer hospitalization of his devoted, unknowing patient than anyone expects.
Ironically, the worse Diane gets, the more praise is heaped upon Martin for being so diligent in this now “difficult case.”
The pace picks up as the sub-plots of a fun-loving orderly (alas Michael Peña is too-nice-by-half as the patient-prodding party animal to convince when he shifts from dull servant to diabolical shot-caller) venturing into blackmail, and the varying attempts by the rest of the Nixon clan to interact with the miracle man. As the body count rises, so does the dramatic heat: Will justice be done or will society shrug its shoulders and further reward a man of great intelligence and skill whose role will command universal respect once his indentures have been successfully completed?
To better understand what truly drives so many trusted professionals into the realm of infamy, look no further than Martin’s telltale visage as he sits in his mentor-to-be’s luxury ride, savours the plush leather seat, then shuts out the world by rolling up the window—blissfully cut off from his legions of inferiors. Visually capturing that chemistry between god-in-training and his just rewards silently sums up the film long before the kindest cut of all. JWR