In the first episode of The Good Doctor Season 4 on ABC, the cast was pretty busy with the COVID 19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that the events of the last season’s finale have been forgotten. In this episode, Dr. Neil Melendez (played by Nicholas Gonzalez) succumbed to his injuries after a major earthquake in San Jose, and at the premiere of Season 4, Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) and Dr. Audrey Lim (Christina Chang) continued to mourn his loss.
After the finale of season 3, the creator of The Good Doctor, David Shore, Deadline revealed exactly why this Melendez ended up being the victim of the earthquake. He said: “None of this is personal. You know, Nick was fantastic, and there’s nothing I can tell you that will make you say ‘oh, yes’. Okay. It had to be this way.
“We wanted to lose a character that we felt something for and we would feel pain for, and certainly he’s a character that so many of them have come in contact with. Lim had a relationship with him; Claire started a relationship with him; Shaun [Freddie Highmore] obviously had something with him, although their paths didn’t really cross in the finale. I think that would have been largely true for any of our characters, but it is particularly true for him.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, told TVLine about his withdrawal from the series: “It was a creative decision [that]just kind of came at a good time, you know? There’s a lot of things about this job that I loved and that was an honor, and a lot of it came from the family that we created behind the scenes. But there also comes a time when you feel it’s time to move on and I feel like I’m leaving Good Doctor in a really great place.
In the same interview he later added: “It was a pleasure to do the show, but at the same time, as an artist, you have the feeling that you are just looking forward to going out and taking on the next challenge.
WARNING: The rest of this article contains spoilers for The Good Doctor season 4, episode 1
Although Gonzelez will not be the main cast of season 4, he made a surprise appearance in episode 1, “Frontline Part 1”.
After Claire was sorting through the belongings of the COVID patients, she heard Melendez’ voice telling her that everything would be okay before she turned and saw him standing there.
Although he appears to be just a figment of Claire’s imagination, it was not ruled out that he might return in future times of stress for the doctor, as Shaun’s brother sometimes appears to him.
Shore said in a TVLine interview that he wanted to bring the character back: “Claire’s story is very much about comforting people who have lost someone [and]doing what you can do. Melendez is one of those people [for Claire], more than anyone else in our hospital at this moment, considering how we ended last season.
“Liz Friedman, who wrote the episode with me, called me one day and said, ‘I think we should see Melendez’ and I said, ‘That’s a good idea’. We’ve obviously done this before with Shaun and his brother, and it seemed like an interesting way to manifest that [grief].
When asked how ready Gonzalez was to return, Shore said, “He was on board immediately. He may have been surprised that it was so soon, but he did not hesitate. It was wonderful.”
The Good Doctor Season 4 will air Monday at 22:00 ET / 21:00 CT on ABC….