It's been some time since the shocking events of The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 20, including Neil Melendez's untimely death, but the shockwaves and aggravation over the decision have not diminished.
It's something of which The Good Doctor fans, whichever of them remain, will be discussing for some time. It's one of many frustrating turns of events of this season that don't sit well in hindsight.
It all boils down to this: was Neil's death necessary?
It's a sea of medical dramas out there to appeal to everyone, so there is room for all of them to carve out an identity of their own and stand in it. One of the most frustrating things about The Good Doctor Season 3 is how it strayed away from many of the things we loved about the series and have pulled some of the antics of other medical dramas.
We love The Good Doctor because of it not being Grey's Anatomy.
But on a season fueled by love triangles and relationship angst, and a finale that settled on something as cliched as a "shock value" death, that's precisely how the series comes across.
Hopefully, the series can turn itself back around and stay true to its origins and why we fell in love with it and its characters in the first place.
Because the premature killing off of a character like Neil Melendez when there were a host of stories left to tell, and he had not tapped into his full potential yet was asinine.
It's no other way to describe it. It was the prime example of the emotionally manipulative moves a series does to get people talking, whether it makes sense or not.
It was strictly for shock value. Hey, congratulations! It got people talking (and none of it is pleasant), and it was shocking (shockingly bad).
The death of a prominent character should do justice to that person. It should be as meaningful as it is tragic. However, it's challenging to feel grief or sadness over Neil's death when all you can feel is anger and irritation.
It was something that was seemingly in the works for this season, and it was the trusty "creative choice," but even that has become a tiresome and unsatisfactory reason to resort to tearing the tritest page from the book.
To suggest that death was the only creatively feasible direction Neil Melendez's character could go with such gumption, you'd have to assert that Neil was a fully-developed character whose storylines and potential peaked.
It's certainly not the case.
The series teased a plethora of possible storylines for Neil, but there was no followthrough with some of them. There are a host of loose threads dangling without resolution.
Neil had a sister with Down-Syndrome, and they seemingly dropped the story. They introduced us to this intriguing aspect of his life we hadn't previously known and did nothing with it afterward.
Was it something to add an extra layer of humanity to the formerly prickly doctor to make us understand why he is the way he is, for a single episode?
It coincided with his previous history of coming to an impasse in his first relationship over kids. What of that then? The show never revisited his thoughts about children and his want for a family.
One of the most flagrant examples of the lack of cohesion of Neil's narrative was the abrupt breakup between Neil and Lim only for something to spark between him and Claire, and the show demolished that as well.
The series built Neil and Lim's relationship up, and they invested a great deal in their love story amidst everything else happening.
They then resorted to a weak plot to drive the two of them apart, but it was never any real closure between them.
Ever since parting ways over hospital politics and power dynamics, every time Neil and Lim interacted, it was charged with emotion. The implication was that their relationship wasn't over.
Limlindez was a dangling loose thread that petered off into nothingness, in a way that was a disservice to their relationship.
And their brief, sweet goodbye scene didn't do the couple justice. It was a rushed attempt to recognize the bond between them.
Rushed was the general sentiment of Neil's death, so hackneyed in its execution that it's hard to believe this was the intent all along. It felt like a last minute afterthought.
Claire: You saved my life.
Melendez: No. I just happened to be there at the right time.
For a person who was a primary character since the show's inception, you would think there would be more fanfare right? You would think his death would be touching and gutwrenching, and it definitely wouldn't be so irritatingly ambiguous.
Even the cause of Neil's death was infuriating. He died from something easily treatable with a dose of antibiotics, and it was another reason his death had fans, especially those with some cursory medical knowledge, screeching.
He didn't have a final moment with Shaun. The lack of a Shaun and Neil scene was jarring, given the course of their relationship and how it developed.
Neil went from one of the most reluctant to have Shaun to a supportive mentor. It was one of Shaun's most meaningful bonds, but of course, most of those have been placed on the backburner to explore Shaun's messy entanglements, but more on that in a bit.
Instead, Neil had to make peace with the senseless nature of his death, while saying goodbye to his former love, Glassman, whom he never had a particularly unique relationship with, making it an odd choice, and of course, Claire.
The dissolution of Neil and Lim's relationship was a disservice, and yet, it paled in comparison to the destruction of Neil and Claire before it could properly take off.
What was the point of coming so close to pulling the trigger on a relationship that was simmering for multiple seasons only to leave it incomplete?
The series spent most of the season developing this relationship and broaching the topic of it becoming something more.
We watched as they became mentor/mentee, friends, and then the possibility of something more. They explored how their relationship affected their work dynamics and how some of the others responded to their undefined closeness.
They were companions, compatible in a beautiful way, and then they ended it abruptly with Neil's death. Neil was there to tell Lim that he would have drunk whiskey with her for his entire life, but he also admitted, on his death bed, that he loved Claire.
And she returned the sentiment, giving fans a confession -- an admission of what we already suspected, but then, not much more. It was Claire who got the final moments with Neil.
It was an intimate scene, of her presumably lying on him, until he passed away in his sleep, but they couldn't even punctuate the couple's love with a kiss.
And then, Claire left his side by daybreak, joined the other woman in the last days of Neil's life, with the promise of friendship, getting drinks, and bonding over losing the man they loved and lost.
Therapist: Want to tell me what's on your mind?
Claire: Not really. I think I'm in love with my boss.
Yes, they actually mentioned getting drinks together, and perhaps that's why fans were scratching their heads wondering if the man had actually died due to how nonchalant the suggestion and aftermath was.
It was unsettling -- as if Neil's death had to bring the two women together as some consolation for an otherwise melancholic ordeal. Was it meant to be this grand moment of sisterhood and solidarity?
What does it say about these professional women when love must elude them to make them somehow better?
Lim had to choose between her position as chief and her relationship with Neil. Instead of Neil and Claire confessing their feelings and pursuing a compelling story where they figured out what it meant for them and if they should pursue it, they ended it before it could ever be.
It's one more check on the list of ways this series has made Claire the "Charlie Brown" of The Good Doctor. Hell, the "Bonnie Bennett" for those familiar with The Vampire Diaries. Does anything ever go well for this woman? Can anything go well for her?
The series relies heavily on Claire going through the wringer without a payoff, and it's so redundant and disturbing it's actually getting uncomfortable. They rip stability from her at every turn.
It's not even the first case of someone she cared about being unceremoniously dumped from the series, lest we forget how the series kicked Jared to the curb for no conceivable reason too.
But this season took the cake, by introducing us to the tumultuous relationship Claire had with her mother, only to kill the woman off in such a disheartening and unsatisfactory manner.
As if Claire hasn't endured enough, she witnessed the aftermath of her mother's accident. Then, for most of the season, her colleagues and friends, judged or overlooked her grief.
Neil was her most active support throughout the experience. It was the foundation the series could use to expand upon their relationship and take it to new heights, so to go through such a devasting plot point just to hurtle into another is nonsensical and disconcerting.
After all, if you're keeping up, Claire has officially lost three people she cared about and loved in one season. It's the literal definition of overkill.
It seems the series is incapable of giving her anything that resembles a healthy relationship or happiness. Her work is fulfilling for her, and that's fine, but it shouldn't be the only part of her life that's successful.
At some point, what's the message we should take that her personal life can only be nothing but pain, or that everyone she cares about in that aspect of her life leaves in some capacity?
Why must she endure so much loss? Why must they beat her down and drive the goodness and softness out of her to make her more resilient?
The show had a shot of changing that narrative with the direction they were taking Melendaire.
Neil was her boss, and their relationship would've been inappropriate after their confession. It also would've been interesting to watch them navigate that as two people who worked well professionally and personally.
Claire has come into her own. It's unfathomable that putting her through another loss was necessary and preferable over any other alternative.
They killed off Neil and both potential relationships with Lim and Claire, both perfectly healthy and enjoyable in their own right. Then they left us with Shaun and Lea as the preferable happy ending. It feels like the series was championing some form of toxicity over healthy relationships.
Was there anything remotely happy about the Shaun and Lea union after the long, dragged out, and the destructive path it took to get them together?
Here's the thing; the show can do whatever it pleases to force the Shaun and Lea romance down our throats, but it stopped being endearing a long time ago.
The window for which they would have been a decent pairing closed around The Good Doctor Season 2. Nevertheless, they spent most of the season "preparing" Shaun for a relationship with his best friend, that they imploded beyond repair before sending them careening toward each other.
The relationship in itself became as toxic as ever with Shaun embarking on a romantic journey with another woman, only to have Lea between them the entire time.
And Shaun realized he had to tell Lea how he felt only to have her flat out say she couldn't possibly date him because of his Autism.
Lea: Shaun? What are you doing?
Shaun: I want to smash your car.
Lea: That sounds like a really bad idea.
He was good as a friend and roommate, and occasionally a bit of a pet project for Lea, but she couldn't fathom dating him or viewing him as a romantic companion.
It was hurtful and several other things, but Lea has long since been a fickle character, so it wasn't entirely shocking either.
Did any of us have to like or agree with her reasoning behind rejecting her best friend? No, but her position should've been respected too.
Instead, Shaun became the "Nice Guy" who was reasonably upset over his best friend's bigotry and rejection, but also, unacceptably hostile and entitled to her love anyway.
Shaun: Time to wake up.
Carly: It's too early. It's still dark out.
Shaun: I want to have sex.
Carly: As romantic as that proposition is, it's too early.
Shaun: I have calculated it and given our average duration, we have precisely enough time to have sex and get ready to go to work on time.
He unleashed such a scathing tirade against her because of her rejection, and it was a moment charged with such violence as he threatened to smash up her car, that the idea of the two of them remaining friends after that display should've been slim.
Instead of letting that fester, reuniting Lea and Shaun consisted of a near-death experience for both of them.
It wasn't until Lea overheard Vera rightfully telling Shaun to move on and that he deserves better, and Shaun agreed to do just that for Lea to decide she does want him.
Vera: If we get out of this alive, let's promise to move on. You can do better than Lea. Not that I have any business suggesting that. I'm still hung up on Paul.
Shaun: No, I don't want to move on.
Vera: Shaun, she -
Shaun: I always knew I could be a good doctor, but before I met Lea I didn't know I could drive a car or do tequila shots or fall in love. I don't want to stop being the person I am with Lea. She makes me more. But I don't make her more. If I did, Lea would want to be my girlfriend.
It took near death, a genuine fear of losing him, and a healthy dose of FOMO for Lea to finally see him as full-person with agency worthy of love, his autism be damned. And there was no addressing the legitimate issues between them.
It's not exactly romantic to have her reach this conclusion after all of this.
Vera suggested that Shaun wasn't so much in love with Lea as the idea of her and love itself. Shaun eventually accepted that, and then they pushed him into the arms of someone who didn't view him as romantically viable. Why?
Shaun: I made Vera a promise...
[Lea kisses him]
Shaun: I don't know what that was. Was that a practice kiss or a pity kiss or....
Lea: It was an I'm an idiot kiss. I see how much you mean to me.
Shaun: Vera lived so the promise does not count.
How are we supposed to believe that Lea wants to be with Shaun because of genuine love and attraction rather than fear and temporary trauma after her ordeal?
Yet, it's sold as the happy ever after, without any work put into dismantling all the troubling things that led to their fallout.
But one of the most egregious offenses was bringing in the Jasika Nicole as Carly, getting things off to a promising start, and then reducing the character to a stepping stone for Lea and Shaun.
It's impossible to list all the ways in which this is grossly tone-deaf at best, but it would've been more compelling if Shaun realized that Lea wasn't ideal. And maybe decided to reunite with Carly or at least be on better terms with her since a lot of work was put into the relationship.
Contrary to Lea's accusations (or Lea herself as we learned), Carly didn't date Shaun because of his autism. She saw him for who he was, including but also beyond that.
She had genuine feelings for Shaun; she cared about him. She was nothing but patient with him as he shared every facet of their relationship with all of his friends and colleagues.
Carly allowed Shaun to set the pace of their relationship, especially when it came to getting physical. She took her time, even when she had to deal with her own needs not being met all of the time.
Shaun: She said you are practically peeing on my leg.
Lea: You're going to have to give me context.
Shaun: Morgan. She said you are trying to assert your dominance over Carly.
Lea: Wow. What a biotch.
Shaun: Is it true?
Lea: Shaun. I promise you that my voice and body language are saying the same thing.
She researched ways to improve their romantic and sexual life. She made herself vulnerable and even subjected herself to rejection and any number of Shaun's emotions.
Carly went from having Shaun's interest to spending most of her relationship having Shaun compare her to Lea or feeling as though she was in this woman's shadow. Her insecurity overcame her, but could you blame her?
She somehow became the third wheel in her own relationship. It was something that brought out some desperation in her, but eventually resignation.
It's an understatement to say that Carly's existence was to "break Shaun in" and make him a credible romantic lead for someone else (Lea).
She was Shaun's test-run -- a chance for him to work out all the relationship kinks and quirks before the series paired him with Lea.
Carly was there to "build him into a better boyfriend," or "boyfriend material" for someone like Lea who never would've viewed him that way without that experience.
It speaks volumes about the Shaun and Lea relationship when you think of it that way, right?
And if there was any doubt Carly's sole purpose was to be a starter girlfriend and a stepping stone, then Shaun seeking her out for advice on how to tell Lea he loved her clenched it.
What kind of madness is that? It was the last we saw of Carly, and it was the end of her arc and Jasika Nicole's tenure on the series. It's a shame, since Carly was a delight as was Nicole even in the face of relentless harassment over the role.
It's enough to leave a bad taste in your mouth. But then, hasn't all of this had that effect?
The powers that be heralded the finale as a soft reset for the series. Park may be gone, they have ruined Morgan's hands and surgical career, and Neil is dead.
Lim and Claire have both lost the man that they love, and Carly was effectively "disappeared." And Shaun finally got his Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, Lea.
It makes you wonder, what will next season will look like now?
And after the incendiary response to the finale, Neil's death, and the relationship woes, do you plan on returning to find out? Take our poll below!
If you missed anything or would love to relive the season all over again and cherish each of those Melendez scenes, you can watch The Good Doctor online here via TV Fanatic.
And for those of you binging and catching up, don't forget to check out our The Good Doctor Reviews written by senior staff member, Jack Ori!
Over to you, Good Doctor Fanatics. Do you have bittersweet thoughts about the finale? How do you feel about Melendez's death? Did it seem premature and pointless?
Are you happy that Shaun and Lea finally got together? Disappointed? Will you miss Carly? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.