While The Good Doctor is one of the best feel-good shows on television, Monday’s episode delivered a huge gut punch for St. Bonnaventure’s shining resident, Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas). After completing her first solo surgery — and being the first resident to get one — Claire received a phone call that will change the rest of her life. She arrived on the scene of a car accident to find that her mother, Breeze (Sharon Leal), had died after drinking Claire’s celebratory bottle of champagne.
Claire and her mom haven’t had the easiest of relationships; Breeze was an addict and bipolar, and she had a tendency to go off her meds. At the start of Season 3, Claire agreed to give her mother another chance after a lifetime of being let down. She cleared out all of her liquor, but had saved that one bottle for after her surgery.
This sudden tragedy comes as Claire’s career is on the upswing, and it will be a devastating trial for her moving forward. TV Guide spoke with Antonia Thomas about the heartbreaking twist and where Claire goes from here.
Claire is clearly in shock after seeing her mom dead in the car. What can you say about her reaction once she’s had a second to process what’s happened?
Antonia Thomas: It’s a mixture of things. If you’ve come onto the scene and you see your parent has died, I think that’s a horrifying, shocking, traumatizing thing to walk in on, basically. For Claire, it’s a little bit more complicated than that because there’s so much stuff bound up in having looked after her mother all her life. We saw in Episode 2, and then you see more of it in [Episode] 3, that she’s finally decided to give her mom a chance, and that happens. [Claire] wants to take care of her and then, once she’s sort of taken this huge step forward, then it’s all sort of feels like it’s for nothing anyway.
The one bottle of champagne that [Claire] leaves for herself because she was thinking of herself, is the one thing that she feels like killed her mother. It’s sort of bound up in all of this crazy guilt, which is of course not really her fault, but she’s felt this guilt all her life about her mom. She’s finally decided to take a step forward to sort of [mend] the relationship, and as soon as she does that, her mother dies.
This episode really highlighted how Claire can’t say no when people ask for her help. Is she going to be able to ask for other people’s help as she grieves, though?
Thomas: That is going to be a massive theme. … Claire has the biggest heart. In a way, she’s chosen this job because she wants to be able to help other people. But I think, yes, for her. And I think we’ve actually seen this all the way through, you know, [in] Season 1 and 2 she finds it very hard to let other people in and accept help. What we are going to see is quite an interesting transition that Claire makes in terms of dealing with her grief and … in what she does and how she builds with it and how her colleagues react to her.
I am nervous but excited to see how Shaun (Freddie Highmore) handles trying to help someone grieve.
Thomas: That’s definitely something that I think could be explored. Although, actually Shaun, but interestingly other characters too, that you wouldn’t necessarily think that Claire would kind of have much of a kind of close interaction with, are other ones on the scene in terms of her grief.
Before this huge tragedy, Claire actually had a really great moment professionally. She did her first solo surgery successfully. How is this going to rattle the confidence that she just gained as a surgeon?
Thomas:: The two things are separate. There’s a tremendous amount of guilt because she felt like she was so focused on wanting to be brilliant as a surgeon and she kind of dropped the ball in terms of her mother. It’s less about her ability, kind of, in terms of skill, and more about her attitude. I think we’ll see a slight change in Claire’s attitude in terms of the way she goes about her day as a way of dealing with her grief.
It’s mentioned a few times in the episode that whoever gets the first solo surgery is on the path to chief resident, but Claire never talks about that. Is that something that she actively wants or is allowing herself to want?
Thomas: That’s something that we’re still very much getting to. The chief residency is a long way off, but I think that Claire, as a character, she’s just focused on being good. Whereas, I think you see with Park (Will Yun Lee) and Morgan (Fiona Gubelmann), especially, it’s sort of about the competition of beating out other people. Claire feels like that’s sort of wasted energy, you know, just put all the energy to being good and hoping your work will speak for yourself.
Speaking of Morgan, the two got a little bit closer in Season 2, but what can you say about what their relationship is in Season 3?
Thomas: Morgan is there, or sort of happens to be on the scene, and [she] notices, because Morgan is always watching people, … what’s happening with Claire. [Morgan] inadvertently is kind of there for her [and] kind of an unlikely connection is sort of formed between them… I’m not quite sure where it’s going because we’re still very much in the middle of it but … reluctantly a friendship blossoms.
What are you most excited for fans to see from Claire’s upcoming storyline?
Thomas: I’m excited for fans to see a slightly different side of Claire. Grief is an unpredictable beast, and I think that it affects Claire in a way that we don’t necessarily think it would. Knowing her, knowing the kind of very open-hearted, kind person that she is, we see her go on a little bit of a ride that is unusual for her. I think for fans, it’s joy, and I hope that they also forgive it.
The Good Doctor airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.