2013/08/05 | 5321 views | | Permalink
This drama starts out rather gloomily. Bullying, horrible injures, and death are a constant presence. The more significant factor, though, quickly turns out to be Park Shi-On (played by Joo Won). Even as a young child, Shi-On seems incredibly detached from the world around him. There's an emotional distance between him and all these trauamtic events that's puzzling, and to a certain extent inexplicable.
To other characters, anyway. It's obvious to us in the audience, who live in more enlightened times, that Si-On is on the autistic spectrum. I was impressed at how even-handed this drama was in demonstrating his unique abilities and social characteristics. Shi-On's autism is only really a negative in the sense that it changes how other people interact with him. In terms of general trauma, the detachment autism gives him actually makes it much easier for him to recover and move on.
It also endows him with exceptional skills in regards to medical diagnosis. As a child he easily grasps university-level textbooks and diagrams of the human form, and as an adult this skill has been transmutated into a genius-level understanding of the human body. We get to see this ability at work, and it seems clear that his mastery of medicine is unmatched.
The more significant problem this drama draws up is how Shi-On is going to interact with other people- something he clearly has trouble doing. He lacks the critical thinking power necessary to explain to people why they should listen to his opinion. The best he can do is act quickly and decisively and hope that he looks smart enough that no one will question him. Mind, Shi-On incapable of engaging in this kind of action deliberately- he lacks that kind of long-term thought process. So the minute he runs into someone situationally self-confident enough not to automatically believe the words of a complete stranger, there's trouble.
In my experience there's often a zoological approach whenever autistic spectrum individuals show up in fiction. The quirks will be overemphasized, even fetishized, and we're then left with a caricature as a result. Shi-On does not fit into these categories. From the very beginning we understand the world on his terms, and while it may not be an enviable life, as a way of coping it's about as good as any other. This conflict looks to be an appropriate fit with the world of medical dramas. Shi-On's difficulties are quite likely to have less to do with his quirks than they are with the unbending conservatism of the hospital hierarchical structure.
Review by William Schwartz
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Good Doctor" Episode 1"
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