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New Amsterdam - The New Normal - Review

Full disclosure before we start this little recap: I love medical shows, and I've watched many, but I'll admit since the hey-day of Grey's Anatomy, it's been hard to find one that was actually worthwhile. Enter: New Amsterdam, which is heartfelt, well acted, funny, and possesses noticeable chemistry between its main cast. I was hooked! Which is why I was happy when we learned that the show was back in production despite the current sanitary context (all while being especially careful, since when production shut down, new cast member Daniel Dae Kim had actually gotten the virus).

I'll admit I was a little worried as to how they'd include the pandemic in the show. Me, I like fiction to stay, well... fiction, and aside from "real life" shows like medical ones, I don't fancy seeing the world burning in real life, as well as in shows I watch for a few instants of escapism.
I'll admit I got real worried about not being able to go through with watching this when the beginning of the episode launched with what can only be called a pandemic montage, all in hommage to the healthcare workers (as it should be). Watching their bruised skin from the masks, the 7pm clapping, the dying patients without their families to bring them solace, brought back memories that aren't even memories YET. We're still very much in it, and I for one, do not wish to relive it in TV shows I ordinarly enjoy or in any kind of fiction (so please, pretty please, Hollywood, just ban those pandemic inspired movies and shows that creators have been so prompt to set up, as if ANYONE wants to see this. Maybe in 10 years, maybe in 50, maybe not even then). In any case, while necessary because a medical show can't ignore the worst medical event of current times, being plunged back into the very start of it, felt Not great, Bob..

Thankfully, New Amsterdam did what it does best: i.e. surpassed my expectations and dealt with the situation tastefully, keeping its lingering effects present, but still moving forward in a way that allows for the medical show to shine through and still remain entertaining. At the end of the montage, we see Bloom getting the vaccine, followed by a waiting line of doctors, the bruises gradually resorbing, regular testing becoming the new normal (ha), and fewer masks. I can't wait for this to be our new normal.

Now, on to the episode! I'm not sure how much time has actually passed, but the last time I remember seeing Luna, she was still pretty much a cute blob in a baby hat, and now she looks like a full grown toddler. So I'm assuming it's been at least a year, which would track with real life. It feels strange to write that going back to "regular" disasters feels good, but, well, it does. This time, it's a plane literally crashing into the river in front of Max's bewildered eyes, meaning a slew of casualties and a quest to find what happened.

Despite the situation getting markedly better, not everyone is adjusting to things quite as smoothly as they'd want to. Namely, spurred on by the plane crash and the victims starting to come in, Lauren is still operating as if her ED is in full covid threat. Meaning she takes over a case that clearly necessitates specific handling by the corresponding medical expert, bulldozing her way through it in full covid emergency mode, with unsurprisingly bad results.
"I miss the pandemic. I mean, the worst of it. You know, I feel like a sociopath even saying this. But when we were hit the hardest? When the ED was above capacity? I felt like I'd spent my whole life training for a moment that finally came. I helped people. I saved them. And even when I couldn't save them, I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. I held patients' hands as they died. I sang songs to them. And now what? I'm just supposed to pass them off as if they don't matter to me?"
There are so many layers to what these healtcare professionnals have been through, it's difficult to parse through every emotion and simply move on. One has to hope that a change of such a caliber will help rehaul the system at least in part, if not entirely. In a hospital like New Amsterdam, led by a medical director like Max Goodwin, I'm willing to bet there will be a discussion, and a real plan as to how things can, and will change in terms of organization, patient care, and the lasting effects of a quasi war against the virus. As Casey astutely puts it, they were at war and it's okay to miss the fight. It would be easy to assume that of course, Lauren has been saving lives during her entire career, covid non withstanding. And at first I was shocked by her admission because no one wants to be back in the middle of what has been the most devastating year, however she puts it. But it's understandable, that for her, the thought of just "stabilizing patients and then getting out of the way" seems unbearable to her after what they've all been through, and I'm sure it'll make her an even better doctor. Sidenote: I really enjoy Lauren and Casey's dynamic, and I hope he gets more to do this season. Let's bring him into the fold, give him some actual storylines, okay New Amsterdam people?
Meanwhile, Helen and Cassian's burgeoning romance from last season has all but disappeared into the ether. Another consequence of the pandemic: Helen is having intimacy issues in that she can't actually stand being touched after months of mandatory social distancing. There's a lot to be said about how this will affect everyone's social skills, after over a year of avoiding physical contact as much as possible to keep people, and oneself, safe. This isn't how human beings are supposed to operate, and it's anyone's guess as to how impactful it'll be in the end. As a germaphobe myself, I can't say I miss the old days of people not washing their hands enough (or at all, really, ugh!), people coming to work sick as some kind of badge of honor, and the now obsolete, but previously unavoidable handshake in professionnal contexts. That said, I do miss basic, friendly, human interactions and I hope these effects are only temporary. We can't stay scared of one another for life, but right now, we all have to function on a "stupid people are dangerous" basis (thanks, Katniss!) and assume not everyone is being as careful, or diligent, as oneself. Otherwise, well, there would be no pandemic, now would there? Back to Helen though, my little shipper heart wants to see more of those fleeting, but deepfelt moments she and Max shared at the end of season 2, but I do wonder where this thing with Cassian will go. He's all shiny and new, and brings in a welcome change of dynamic to the ED, so I'm excited to see where the show brings his character. As to Helen, well, more Helen is always welcome!

As the crash victims are being taken care of, the mystery of the reason behing the crash finally starts to reveal itself. The pilote has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (I was wondering whether this was something he had to disclose at his job or not, and if so, understandably, he'd feel stigmatized) and he believes he self-sabotaged the plane himself during a manic episode, as a way to kill himself. Iggy and Max take the time to understand him, despite the FBI crew becoming increasingly insistant that they needed to put him behind bars.
- "You guys always walk together like that?"
- "We have rehearsals at noon. You're welcome to join."
As it turns out, the pilote actually did everything he could to save the plane's passengers, but assumed the worst. I love seeing Iggy work with kids, but despite Lauren's doubts, his grain-based diet clearly hasn't affected his deduction skills with adults, either! I joke, but I do want to see more of his eating disorder storyline, even if it is triggering for me. It's important to see this adressed on TV, and so far it's been very tactfully and realistically done.
Besides the emotional toll, the pandemic has also caused severe drug and equipment shortages that are heavily affecting just about every hospital in the area. In a heartwarming (but, unfortunately, probably unrealistic) move, Max brings up his lack of Propofol to a variety of other medical directors, each with their own specific dearth, until they realize everyone has something someone else is missing, and it all (somewhat magically) works out. Still, there's a really nice sentiment of mutual aide being set up here, and that's really the heart and soul of New Amsterdam.
"How can I help?"
You see, there's a reason why Max desperately needs Propofol. All right, there are probably several reasons, but the main one is that beloved Dr Kapoor has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus, but he's finally being taken off his ventilator and he needs the drug. I was ready to rejoice because I'm quite fond of VJ, as many of us are, but we promptly find out that nothing short of a cardio god performing a miracle on VJ will save him from the damage that has been done to his heart (paging Dr Cristina Yang, please!). Enter... Dr Reynolds, all the way from (I assume) San Francisco! I was wondering if/when he was going to pop up again, and I'm really glad he did. I truly hope he can come back (maybe?) and help, because if anything happens to VJ, I will riot.

All in all, this episode made me (and my cold little heart) tear up not once, but several times over the course of it and while it wasn't always easy to watch, this show always finds a way to make things seem slightly less bleak at the end of the day. I'm excited to see what the season will bring, and am particularly glad the show isn't making the pandemic its focus, but is actually bringing forward the lessons learned from it.

What did you guys thing of this premiere? Do you think they handled the current context well, or were you expecting something different? Any predictions for upcoming storylines? As usual, sound off in the comments!

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