This week's episode of The Good Doctor ended on a heartbreaking note, even after Freddie Highmore's Dr. Shaun Murphy finally decided to reveal who he really loves. It did not go as well as he hoped, and fans will have to wait until next week to see how Shaun recovers. The scene played out in a tense episode directed by Highmore himself.
Spoilers for "Autopsy" follow.
In "Autopsy," Shawn decided to listen to ex-girlfriend Carly's (Jasika Nicole) advice and tell Lea (Paige Spara) that he really loves her. At the end, Lea arrived at their apartment to see Shaun set up a candle-lit dinner for the two of them. Shaun told her he loves he and hoped he could become her boyfriend.
"I love you, too," Lea replied, but then went on to list all the reasons why the relationship wouldn't work. At that point, Shaun suddenly asked "Because I have autism? You don't want to be my girlfriend because I have autism?"
Lea began tearing up, as did Shaun. She could not answer, and left the apartment without responding to his question.
"That last moment, that's so lovely [because] there isn't anything to say," Highmore told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published after the episode aired. "It's so heartbreaking because it's this horrible truth and what I think that Paige [Spara] did such a wonderful job at in playing that moment is that we feel for Lea just as much as we feel for Shaun."
"I think Lea realizes just how there's almost a sense of self-hatred there like, 'I know that I shouldn't be feeling this, and this is a horrible thing to admit, but if I'm completely honest with myself maybe it is partly because of that,'" Highmore continued. "That seems to make that moment so powerful because it's this genuine, horrible thing that she has to admit."
Highmore suggested that fans should not hate Lea because he does not think she is an "inherently prejudiced person."
"Even though the words will suggest the opposite, I don't think it's as simple as her saying, 'The fact that you have autism means I can never love you, or I can't be with you,'" he explained. "I think the fact that Shaun has autism, he has certain traits that she finds difficult to be attracted to or finds herself imagining that she couldn't be in a relationship because, as there are with all of us, certain things about Shaun she just would not be able to put behind her."
In another interview with TVLine, Spara revealed Lea was originally going to tell Shaun "I'm so sorry, Shaun" before kissing him on the cheek and walking away. Instead, Highmore decided to let her convey the emotions through her face and just walk away.
"...To get that freedom, especially with network TV, is very rare," she said. "And the fact that [Freddie] knew what that scene entailed and what it called for, and actually gave me permission to do that, that was huge. I feel like it made the scene what it was actually supposed to be about, yet relatable to anyone who has dealt with such a hard conversation."
Shaun's future with Lea is unknown. "Autopsy" showed how difficult it was for him to move on from Carly and this will be another challenge for him.
"You'll find these characters addressing that conversation and addressing the questions that were brought up," Spara told TVLine. "We will see Shaun handle it in his way, Lea handle it in her way, and when those two ways come together, we'll actually see why Lea [was] hesitant in the first place."
Photo credit: ABC/Kailey Schwerman