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The Best And Worst Shaun And Lea Moments On The Good Doctor

In a world of dark, heavy dramas reflecting the dark, heavy news stories that seem to dominate the headlines, "The Good Doctor" offers a much-needed injection of optimism and heart. Adapted from a South Korean drama by actor-executive producer Daniel Dae Kim, the charming ABC series follows the professional and personal life of Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a phenomenally brilliant surgeon who also happens to be autistic. Against a backdrop of sweetly inspirational music, the show's refreshingly diverse cast navigates predictably complicated surgical cases while Shaun and those around him gradually come to embrace the challenges and gifts of a more neurodiverse workplace and world.

Of all the romantic relationships that populate the series, Shaun's relationship with literal girl next door Lea Dilallo (Paige Sparo) is one of the most endearing, but also the most divisive. Like many of the best IRL couplings, theirs began with a close friendship that has helped them both grow over the course of the series. While their story hasn't always been easy, the couple's chemistry and enduring commitment to each other have managed to win over their share of naysayers over the years. Let's take a closer look at some of the best and worst Shaun and Lea moments on "The Good Doctor" according to fans and critics.

Best: Shaun and Lea's first kiss

Shaun and Lea have always seemed able to understand each other like no one else on "The Good Doctor." When Shaun's efforts to become more independent from his pseudo-dad Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff) were initially met with pushback, Lea always had her friend's back. After encouraging Shaun to take a necessary self-care day complete with plenty of tequila and karaoke, Lea teaches Shaun "the proper way to end a date," complete with a sweet first kiss that might have turned into a second one if all that booze hadn't send him running for the bathroom (season 1, episode 11, "Islands, Part 1"). 

The charming moment was warmly received by fans, who praised the pairing's undeniable chemistry on Twitter. As "The Good Doctor" fan Dáquan wrote, "I could not get enough of Shaun and Leah! From Shaun opening up about his family to their kiss. Well done, #TheGoodDoctor." Fans also loved that Shaun's autism doesn't seem to matter to Lea, who later reinforced her sincerity when she told him she would kiss him again if she had brushed her teeth. For a guy who once declared "I don't understand why having someone to love is so important to everyone," it's delightful to see him connecting with a friend who genuinely adores him. 

Worst: Lea tells Shaun she's moving to Hershey, PA

Unfortunately, one of Shaun and Lea's sweetest moments would shortly be followed by one of their saddest when Lea dropped a painful newsflash on a very hungover Shaun at breakfast the next morning. As the friends had been growing closer, Lea had been quietly considering the opportunity to walk away from the daily grind to go work on cars at her late uncle's garage. Her mini-vacation with Shaun made her realize she didn't want to spend her days as a cog in the machine navigating conference calls and "never-ending meetings." Her only regret, she told Shaun, was that the move would mean packing up and moving thousands of miles away to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The news devastated Shaun and fans alike and would lead to sharp criticism of Lea's actions from some fans, who found her manic pixie vibes off-putting and self-absorbed. Viewer dierregi summed up this view in a scathing critique, calling Lea an "over-cheerful" character with a "pretty vacant face" that demonstrates how "totally self-centered and unaware" she is to Shaun's autism and responsibilities as a surgeon. Others felt Lea had taken advantage of Shaun as a neurodivergent individual, especially given Shaun's difficulty interpreting others' intentions and actions. Regardless, this difficult moment would go down as one of Shaun's more painful experiences on "The Good Doctor."

Best: Lea and Shaun make up over karaoke

Every couple has their special place, and Shaun and Lea's will always be in front of a karaoke machine. As a guy who once claimed to not enjoy music, the fact that Shaun connects so strongly with Lea through karaoke speaks volumes. That's why it's so perfect that karaoke brings the pair together again after their first big fight. While Lea was away, the friends missed each other dearly, a heartache amplified by challenges in their personal lives as Shaun struggled with Glassman's illness and Lea's plans fell through. Her unexpected return (Season 2, Episode 1, "Hello") would make Shaun realize how much she hurt him by leaving, and his fear that she'll hurt him again causes Shaun to push her away. 

Shaun's messy efforts to mend fences afterward only complicate things (Season 2, Episode 4, "Tough Titmouse"). When Shaun finally realizes what Lea really needs is a friend who is willing to listen, the pair make amends with a sweet reprise of "Islands in the Stream" on the karaoke machine. One of the best parts of this storyline is watching Shaun and Lea learn from their mistakes while continuing to work for a relationship they both value dearly. Even when they're hurting, they're still trying to understand and meet each other's needs, a reminder that although growth can be difficult, it's fully worthwhile, especially when it's with someone you care about.

Worst: Carly makes Lea move out

Before becoming roommates, Lea and Shaun were aware of the depth of their connection and its potential for romance. Because they valued their friendship so dearly, they took the decision to become roommates seriously, carefully weighing the possibilities before signing a lease (Season 2, Episode 5, "Carrots"). Over time, the besties gradually settled into their life as roommates, adopting a goldfish, learning each other's habits, and supporting each other's dating relationships. But as Shaun's relationship with St. Bonaventure pathologist Dr. Carly Lever (Jasika Nicole) heats up, so does her insecurity over Lea and Shaun's closeness.

After seeing his dying abusive father in Wyoming, Shaun becomes distraught and begins severely stimming and hitting himself, a condition affecting autistic individuals that is sometimes referred to as a "meltdown." Lea comforts him by wrapping her arms around him until morning (Season 3, Episode 10, "Friends and Family"). Learning about this is painful for Carly after she and Shaun worked so hard to achieve basic levels of intimacy like hand-holding. She gives Shaun an ultimatum: Lea needs to move out for the pair to stay together (Season 3, Episode 11, "Fractured"). While fans of Sharly found his hasty agreement and declaration of love was a huge win, many viewers felt the chemistry between Shaun and Carly was lacking and their relationship seemed "forced." For those still on the Good Ship Shea, the moment was a devastating blow.

Best: Shaun and Lea make sparks during a karaoke double date

Just as Carly is finally coming to terms with Shaun and Lea's friendship, she gets smacked squarely in the face with their undeniable chemistry in one of the more surprising moments of "The Good Doctor." While sipping cocktails at a bar, Carly and Shaun run into Lea, who is vigorously snogging on the dance floor with her most recent drummer (Season 3, Episode 15, "Unsaid"). An impromptu double date commences, and the duos end up onstage together getting down to a karaoke rendition of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." But islands in the stream that they are, Shaun and Lea end up drifting to each other and singing face-to-face, much to the dismay of a sidelined and heartbroken Carly.

The depth of the pair's friendship is clear in one of the series' most adorable moments as Shaun and Lea dance around singing gleefully into the mic. But the moment comes with a price for Shaun. To Carly and Shea shippers alike, it's so painfully clear that Shaun and Lea love each other that there is no room for another romance in his life. As a tearful Carly later breaks things off, she tells Shaun that he and Lea love each other, with the parting words "You should tell her how you feel." It's a tough card to be dealt, but with a karaoke game that good, fans already knew Shaun would be fine. 

Worst: Lea tells Shaun they can't be an item

As with any serious breakup, Shaun has a tough time finding his bearings after things end with Carly, at one point solemnly asking Park (Will Yun Lee), "How do you move on?" After coming to terms with everything Carly said, Shaun concludes that while he loves both Lea and Carly, he loves Lea more (Season 3, Episode 16, "Autopsy"). Taking Carly's advice, he declares his feelings to Lea, who replies with an absolutely crushing response. In one of the most heartbreaking and controversial scenes of "The Good Doctor," Lea tells Shaun that although she also loves him, they can't be together. He calls her out on it, pressing, "You don't want to be my girlfriend because I have autism?" A stunned Lea can't even respond, instead walking away and leaving both of them in tears. 

One of the most divisive scenes in the series, this brutal moment of truth for Shaun and Lea opened the doorway for some frank and nuanced discussions of a reality that many autistic individuals face when dating. Some fans found Lea's behavior despicable, lamented the pressure to put the pairing together, or worried that Shaun wasn't given time to process the loss of his relationship with Carly. On the other hand, many praised the "realistic portrayal" and Lea's honest expression of her fears with someone she cares about so deeply. But no matter which side you fall on, the episode was undeniably emotional.

Best: Lea hears Shaun over the radio after the earthquake

Just as it seems like things between Shaun and Lea are irreparable, a natural disaster forces them to come to terms with their feelings for each other. While at a hospital fundraiser, Lea becomes trapped in a brewpub when an earthquake hits (Season 3, Episode 19, "Hurt"). A determined Shaun dons a hardhat and bravely crawls into the wreckage, risking his life in the process. While he doesn't find Lea, he encounters Vera, another woman in need of saving. Lim orders him to keep the radio channel open so she can hear him as Shaun renders aid while waiting for rescuers to reach them. 

Shaun pours his heart out to the woman, telling her he doesn't want to move on because Lea makes him a better version of himself. "I don't want to stop being the person I am with her. Lea makes me more," he declares as a rescued Lea listens in from the back of an ambulance, moved by his words. Later, Lea counts down three minutes while Shaun tries to amputate the woman's leg and free her from water rising in the compartment they're trapped in. While traumatic and gripping, this scene is one of the most beautiful in Shaun and Lea's relationship because it shows Lea coming to terms with her feelings. For the first time, Lea is forced to realize what losing Shaun would mean to her.

Worst: Shaun goes off on Lea in the parking garage

Before the earthquake forces Shaun and Lea to finally work through their feelings, one of the most painful and devastating moments in "The Good Doctor" plays out in the parking lot outside Lea's apartment (Season 3, Episode 18, "Heartbreak"). After witnessing the catharsis a patient's girlfriend experiences while trashing her beau's Porsche with a baseball bat, a drink-fueled Shaun shows up at Lea's place wielding his own to exorcise his own pain. As he is steeling his courage to destroy her "Striped Tomato," a confused Lea appears.

When Shaun can't bring himself to do it, he instead focuses his anger on Lea. In his merciless takedown, he criticizes her inability to keep a boyfriend or a job, "You're going to end up alone, and you deserve it! Because you're a superficial, selfish, and prejudiced person!" The scene is painful to watch, and Freddie Highmore gives a gut-wrenching and complex performance that captures the heartache of a person whose trust has been broken by the person they were once closest to. Fans noted that the words he chose were far more destructive than a baseball bat to her car would have been, with many arguing that he went too far. As one Redditor wrote, "Brutal, harsh, and overboard. A great reminder, though, of the regrettable things anyone can say when under extreme stress/grief/pain." 

Best: Lea and Shaun finally get together after the disaster

After Lea was forced to listen helplessly while Shaun faced a life-threatening situation trying to rescue a trapped woman for most of Season 3, Episode 20 ("I Love You"), Shea fans finally got the payoff they'd waited for. When the radio goes silent, Lea can do nothing more but wait and hope for the best while the rescue scene gradually dies down. When Firefighter Dan finally tells her "Lea, it's time to go," she refuses to leave. As rescuers announce they have found someone else, Lea rushes back into the brewery. There, she sees Shaun peering up out of a hole in the ground next to the woman he saved. 

In the golden light of dawn, Lea walks up to Shaun and kisses him, declaring, "That was an 'I'm such a stupid idiot for not seeing it, but I love you with all my heart' kiss. And this is another." In a stereotypically magical disaster movie scene, the camera pans out with the dust-covered couple kissing passionately in front of a backdrop of fire engines and debris. For many fans, this moment was a long time coming and couldn't have happened without all the growth Shaun and Lea had experienced both individually and together over the course of the series. Fan Amy Danko summed the anticipation up, tweeting, "Believe it! They've been building to this moment since season 1."

Worst: Lea and Shaun finally get together after the disaster

Although for many Shea shippers, Lea and Shaun finally getting together after the earthquake was well-earned, it was a divisive moment for the "Good Doctor" fandom. Many were so dissatisfied with the outcome they vowed to turn off the show altogether. One fan expressed frustration at the "Grey's Anatomy"-esque focus on romance, calling Lea a "terrible" character who had been "awful to Shaun in the past" and didn't deserve a speedy redemption arc. Other fans agreed, with one asserting that the series had "turned into yet another typical doctor drama series." Another IMDb reviewer expressed frustration at the seemingly wasted time and effort put into Shaun learning to deal with rejection and even promising Vera he would move on, only to go back on his word at the sight of Lea. When Lea suddenly changed her mind, they felt the couple's romance was contrived and soapy. 

Even among those who didn't lambaste the romantic storyline, many fans felt the couple's reconciliation worked better as part of a series finale than a season finale. Along with other storylines in the episode, they argued that the epic romantic quality of their kiss seemed to give a sense of closure for the series. Between the death of a major character, Park's decision to reconnect with his family, and Shaun and Lea's fairytale ending, many fans wondered where "The Good Doctor" could go from here

Best: Lea and Shaun decide they're ready to be parents

"The Good Doctor" has never made things easy for Shea. Just as the pair's new romance is emerging from the challenges of the pandemic lockdown, they're hit with a fresh challenge when Lea unexpectedly learns she's pregnant. Both want to be parents together someday, but they struggle with doubts over whether it's the right time. Above all, they're completely committed to one another, and Shaun is fully on board for whatever Lea decides. After spending time with the decision, the pair decide to terminate the pregnancy (Season 4, Episode 12, "Teeny Blue Eyes"). But as Lea's name is called for her appointment, she realizes she's not sure there will ever be a right time to start a family and the pair embrace, deciding to face the challenge of parenthood together. 

While it seemed unlikely that such a responsible guy would be slapdash about birth control and some fans found the storyline a little too predictable, many felt Shaun and Lea's relationship was layered enough to not be too clichéd. As one Reddit user put it, "I kinda dislike that they went with the 'go to abortion clinic and change mind' trope because its a major 'safe for tv' move." On the other hand, many fans praised Sparo's and Highmore's performances as a young couple struggling with such a heavy decision, just one of many reasons this episode earned one of the highest IMDb ratings of the series.

Worst: Lea's miscarriage

While one of the most tragic moments in Shaun and Lea's relationship, the couple's miscarriage would also prove one of the more masterfully handled plots of "The Good Doctor." As is the case for many first-time parents, pregnancy puts a strain on Shaun and Lea's relationship during Season 4. When Lea's body is overcome by nausea and pregnancy symptoms, the couple's intimacy starts to break down and Shaun begins to feel disconnected from her (Season 4, Episode 13, "Spilled Milk"). In turn, Lea feels frustrated and hurt. But like everything they've been through together, the pair work through it with communication and love.

Tragically, Lea suffers a devastating late miscarriage at 22 weeks not long after learning she's expecting a girl. In a mournful scene that was praised by fans, Shaun silently delivers the news to a grief-stricken Lea (Season 4, Episode 16, "Dr. Ted"). Many fans who had been rooting for the couple's journey as parents responded strongly to the loss, expressing concern that the relationship wouldn't be able to recover from such a blow. Redditor Topay84 wrote that for some couples, loss can serve as a "springboard to grow stronger," hoping this would be the case with Shaun and Lea. 

Best: Lea and Shaun get engaged

Unlike many shows that gloss over or speed up the grieving process, "The Good Doctor" dedicates a fair amount of time to exploring grief as Shaun and Lea struggle through theirs after Lea's miscarriage. While Shaun finds ways to move on and put it behind him, Lea's heartache is powerful and lasting, leaving her feeling disconnected from Shaun and everything else in her life. While joining Shaun for a ten-day surgical mission to Guatemala in the hopes that helping others will distract her, Lea finds herself in a hands-on role while helping to save a newborn's life (Season 4, Episode 20, "Vamos"). The experience proves healing for Lea, who tells Shaun she now knows she won't be sad forever. While waiting to leave, Lea tells Shaun she wants to spend the rest of her life with him and asks him to marry her. "Of course," he tells her in one of the most heartwarming moments of the series.

Fans gushed over this sweet moment for Shaun and Lea. One IMDb reviewer mused, "Oh my heart! I know it's super cheesy but it's sooo sweet." Another praised the show's normalizing portrayal of ASD and how refreshing it is to see Shaun "portrayed as openly, genuinely ecstatic to be in a loving relationship." And after the many fictional and real-world losses of the past few years, the almost Shakespearean ending where three couples paired up and a wedding on the horizon was refreshing.

Worst: Shaun drives Lea crazy with cake tasting

With his wedding on the horizon and new corporate supervillain Salen (Rachel Bay Jones) buzzing about St. Bonaventure making everyone miserable, Shaun copes by obsessing over wedding cake flavors. Lea leaves the decision up to her fiancé, a decision everyone around him comes to regret as he pours himself into the project to the point of near-obsession. As the hospital around him is in upheaval, Shaun remains focused on cake, even developing a "basic ranked-choice vote" to poll his colleagues, which he declares is "not as nuanced as the Kemeny-Young method" while handing out samples of cake. In a typical expression of Shaun's brilliance, he solves the puzzle by deciding to stack all four flavors of cake, giving everyone what they want. 

Unfortunately, with the distraction of cake flavors off the table (pun intended), Shaun can no longer ignore the many changes Salen makes and their impact on his sensory issues, and his real feelings bubble to the surface. In a masterful performance, Highmore depicts Shaun gradually stimming more and more until experiencing a meltdown. Thankfully, his good friends and dearest love are there to support him. Many autistic fans praised Highmore's portrayal of meltdowns, with one writer explaining the importance of letting an autistic individual calm down rather than escalating the situation. And as "The Good Doctor" teaches us, it's worth the effort to learn that when it comes to wedding cakes or neurodiversity, variety makes everything better.