How ‘The Good Doctor’ Double Cliffhanger Sets up Series Finale, According to Showrunners

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[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Good Doctor Season 7 Episode 9, “Unconditional.”]

The penultimate episode of The Good Doctor just staged not one, but two massive cliffhangers in its final moments. TV Insider caught up with showrunners David Shore and Liz Friedman to discuss what this means for The Good Doctor series finale, which airs Tuesday, May 21 at 10/9c on ABC.

Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) returned in The Good Doctor Season 7 Episode 9. She came back to San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital from her practice in Guatemala for treatment on a lump in her breast, which scans at her practice said were benign. Tests at St. Bonaventure confirmed the original diagnosis was wrong. Claire did, in fact, have breast cancer. A treatment plan was immediately set in place, and while the first surgery didn’t get clear margins when removing the mass, a second procedure seemed to have done the trick.

Claire was up and moving and having a lovely time at the impromptu wedding of Morgan (Fiona Gubelmann) and Alex (Will Yun Lee) later that night, and her own romance seemed to be rekindling with Jared (Chuku Modu), whom she used to date when she was still working at the hospital (Thomas and Modu were both original cast members — Modu first left in Season 2, and Thomas left in Season 4). After confessing they thought about each other often earlier in the episode, Claire and Jared kissed at the wedding. They were leaving together at the end of the night (well, early morning — the bar where Morgan and Alex had their first date was only available at 2 a.m.!) when Claire fainted on the bench as they waited for a car. They b-lined for the hospital instead of Jared’s home as intended.

Chuku Modu as Dr. Jared Kalu and Antonia Thomas as Dr. Claire Browne in 'The Good Doctor' Season 7 Episode 9 - 'Unconditional'

Claire and Jared kiss at Morgan and Alex’s wedding, while Jordan looks on in surprise in The Good Doctor Season 7 Episode 9 (Disney / Jeff Weddell)

That wasn’t even the biggest cliffhanger of the episode. Glassman (Richard Schiff) shared a touching moment with Shaun (Freddie Highmore) at the bar during the reception that ended with a heartbreaking, shocking reveal: Glassman’s cancer is back, and it’s progressed to a terminal glioblastoma. “I’m dying,” Glassman told Shaun.

As previously announced, Thomas will return again as Claire in the series finale. The episode description for The Good Doctor‘s last episode, titled “Goodbye,” says, “As the doctors consider their futures, they work together to solve one of the most important cases of their careers.” Friedman and Shore elaborate on that logline.

“You are going to watch Shaun and all the characters at St. Bon’s deal with two of the most emotionally important patients they’ve ever handled before, and at the same time,” she says. As Shore warns of the impending end, “Bring your Kleenex, but it won’t just be about crying.”

Claire and Glassman’s cases are the “set up” for the series finale, Shore says. He says to expect the medical and emotional intrigue you’re used to seeing in The Good Doctor, but with an added punch for the last hoorah.

“These episodes are what you think they will be,” Shore explains. “That doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised and you won’t be moved and you won’t have twists and turns, but the episodes are about what you think they’re about. It’s about striving to take care of Claire and Glassman, and then taking it further. It is a finale. It is absolutely a finale, and you will learn a lot about the characters.”

Obviously, Shore and Friedman have to keep their final cards close to their chests. But they clearly want The Good Doctor fans to be prepared for an emotional last ride. What they could open up about was Thomas’ return as Claire and why it was important for Shaun’s journey, which Friedman says they “could have kept telling the story for Shaun and for Freddie Highmore for as long as he wanted to do the show. It was a character that always had a unique point of view and was going to face interesting challenges.”

Bringing Claire back for the final season “was an idea that that came into play relatively late,” but “when it really landed and started to take shape, it was very clear that it was right,” says Friedman. Because of Thomas’ schedule, Shore says they filmed “pretty much all of her stuff right away.” Diving into Claire’s story all at once, it was clear to Friedman that they made the perfect call bringing her back.

“It was that thing of the second I was on set and we did the first rehearsal and reading through, it was that moment you love as a writer and a showrunner where you go, ‘Oh, this was exactly the right choice. This was exactly the right thing to have done.’”

“It did feel like seeing an old friend,” Shore adds. “That’s what it was.”

Brace yourselves for an intense final installment as Shaun and the doctors at St. Bon’s rally together to save the lives of two of their own in The Good Doctor‘s final episode.

The Good Doctor, Series Finale, Tuesday, May 21, 10/9c, ABC

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