Credit: Jeff Weddell/ABC

A familiar face appeared in the final moments of The Good Doctor's season 4 premiere.

Unfolding over the course of several months, part 1 of the ABC medical drama's emotional season opener followed Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) and the rest of the doctors at St. Bonaventure as they contended with all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Dr. Claire Brown (Antonia Thomas) and Dr. Audrey Lim (Christina Chang), that meant treating a mother suffering from the virus while also grieving Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez), who died in the season 3 finale.

Unfortunately, Claire and Lim's patient died, and shortly after, her daughter showed up at the hospital and asked Claire if she could have her mother's crucifix back. Even though they aren't supposed to return coronavirus patients' things until the pandemic ends, Claire decided to bend the rules and ventured down to the storage room. As she stared at bags and bags of stuff belonging to coronavirus victims, a voice emanated from the beyond to comfort her.

"Things will be okay," said Melendez, as Claire turned around and came face to face with her deceased love.

Was this just the result of grief and stress, or was Melendez's appearance indicative of a bigger neurological issue à la Ghost Denny on Grey's Anatomy or Ghost Amber on House?

"No, she's not having a breakdown," The Good Doctor showrunner David Shore assures EW. "It is similar to what Dr. Murphy had with his brother."

Gonzalez exited the hospital drama at the end of season 3 after Melendez died from injuries sustained during a massive earthquake. At the time, Shore made it clear to the actor that he was open to him to returning in some form down the line, but he couldn't have predicted that it would happen in the very next episode.

"Nick was so great [in the finale]," Shore says. "It was obviously a very difficult experience. I directed the last episode, so I was there with him on a daily basis, and boy, he just did tremendous work. I did say to him jokingly, 'Death doesn't mean the end of a character on this show.' And I meant it. I didn't think it would happen quite this soon. But as we were developing these first couple episodes and we saw the stress that Claire was under, Liz Friedman, who I was writing it with, made the suggestion that maybe he's here."

Shore adds, "Nick was great. I was so happy to have him back in the first couple [episodes]."

The Good Doctor airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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