The Good Doctor: The hard and sad reason why Dr. Neil Melendez had to die


The Good Doctor season 3 finale rocked the series with a massive earthquake that caused major damage to the San Jose area. While the lives of many characters were put in danger, Dr. Neil Meléndez (Nicholas Gonzalez) was the one who met an untimely death.

A main character since Season 1, Dr. Melendez was a surgeon who worked at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital alongside Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore). But after being hit by debris from the earthquake, Melendez suffered internal organ damage, leading to his death. Consequently, that meant the character’s actor, Nicholas Gonzalez, would be exiting the ABC medical drama.

Thankfully, unlike some outings, the decision was made mutually by the actor and the show’s producers. In a 2020 interview, Gonzalez said that he felt he was “leaving The Good Doctor in a really good place.” The creator of The Good Doctor, David Shore, explained why he decided to kill Meléndez in an interview, claiming that it was nothing personal.

“We wanted to lose a character that we felt something for and felt pain for,” Shore said, “and certainly, he’s a character that a lot of them have come in contact with.”

And the death of Dr. Meléndez was certainly shocking. In the previous seasons, the character had developed deep relationships with many of the characters. In fact, he had just broken up with Dr. Audrey Lim and only recently started developing feelings for Dr. Claire Browne. In a heartbreaking but moving scene, Meléndez and Browne confess their love for each other in some of Meléndez’s final moments. Because the doctor was so connected to various characters on The Good Doctor, the creators knew his death would be deeply felt.

“I think that would have been largely true for any of our characters, but it’s particularly true for him,” Shore said.

Meléndez’s death was not only felt by the characters, but also shook the audience of The Good Doctor. Fans were upset that one of the show’s beloved characters was suddenly killed off, especially before he and Claire (Antonia Thomas) could begin a real relationship. Even González thought that Meléndez had unfinished work.

“Part of me is sad to see a character go that I respected so much, someone who felt like he still had so much more to say but didn’t always get that opportunity.”

While no one likes to see a character die, crises like this are what make shows like The Good Doctor so compelling. Melendez’s influence at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital will always be felt, and since Nicholas Gonzalez briefly reprized his role in Season 4, but only as visions for Claire, it’s possible that everyone’s favorite surgeon may find his way to back, somehow before the drama ends.