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New Amsterdam - Grabby Hands - Review

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This week's episode of New Amsterdam was another mess of uncomfortable story lines and a miss for the series that is already struggling with the lowest ratings of the show’s run. If it hadn’t already been cancelled, the ratings surely would have earned them a place on the chopping block, and this episode likely won’t reverse that. The fifth episode of the final season was not only sloppy, but it was choppy and disorganized. Several unrelated storylines were jammed into the span of an hour, most of which were disconnected to the already established storylines from previous episodes, leaving viewers feeling confused and dissatisfied. 

The show has a habit of trying to tackle too many issues in one episode, leaving the storylines feeling abrupt and incomplete, and this one was no exception. The main storyline of the episode was the writer’s attempt at shining the spotlight on the highly publicized Radonda Vaught case, a woman who was convicted in the US of criminally negligent homicide for administering the wrong medication to a patient. Her arrest was extremely controversial, as nursing advocates wondered what message it would send to the public if nurses were prosecuted for making unavoidable mistakes on the job. This could have been a good storyline for the show to tackle, had they dedicated the time and consistency to do it justice. In the episode, nurse Andrea, who appeared to be kind and professional as she attempted to communicate with a patient in the ER that preferred to speak Pig Latin, was arrested for attempted murder for… you guessed it… unknowingly administering the wrong medication to a patient. The way the show handled the fall-out from this at the hospital was messy and uncomfortable to watch. After the arrest, the nurses at the hospital became afraid to do their job and were either quitting on the spot or actually being negligent. One nurse hesitated to administer medication to a patient who then required a Kidney transplant as a result. This was gross negligence that should have been reprimanded at the very least, but instead, the show focused on Max using his saviour complex to attempt to fix the situation, even pleading with the DA to drop the charges against Andrea. When that didn’t work, Max delivered a very controversial speech to the nursing staff about how patient care must come before concern for their own well-being. As a person with family members who are nurses that are working beyond the call of duty to be there for patients in the midst of a pandemic, this angered me beyond words. The writer’s, however, clearly did not see it this way and of course Max saved the day. His words hit home for the remaining nurses, who decided to remain on the job. The entire storyline was uncomfortable and unethical, which appears to be the trend for the show this season. The sad part is, had the story been fleshed out properly and written with dignity, it could have been a great story to tell. It would have been easy for the writers to loop Lauren and Floyd in on this, instead of deciding to feature them in different storylines in the same episode. The only other doctor involved in this storyline was Elizabeth Wilder, who served no purpose other than to support Max, officially making it clear that the show is writing her as Dr. Helen Sharpe’s replacement. The problem with this is, Dr. Helen Sharpe is not replaceable, a line even stated by Dr. Elizabeth Wilder herself. Helen was not just a support for Max. She was his confidant, his partner, his problem solver and saviour. She was often the outside brain that Max needed. No one can take her place, nor should anyone try. But the writers have decided to erase any trace of Helen and attempt to sell Elizabeth as her replacement, not just in Max’s personal life, but at the hospital as well. It was so obvious that this is the intention, that I could almost envision Freema in the scenes instead of Elizabeth. Almost- because no matter how hard Sandra Mae Frank may try, she is not Freema Agyeman. They bring different qualities to the show and the choice that the writers have made to literally give Helen’s words and Helen’s actions to Elizabeth in a blatant erasure of a beloved character, is an insult to Freema Agyeman, who brought Dr. Helen Sharpe to life in a way that only she could. It is also an insult to Sandra Mae Frank who deserves better than to be written as the new Helen. I have given up trying to understand the why behind the decisions in the writers room. Whether it’s out of spite for Freema leaving, lack of creativity or lazy writing, I’ll never know but I can assure you that I will never understand nor will I ever forget. 

In case the nursing crisis storyline wasn’t enough to keep Max busy, he also had a storyline with Luna that was completely unrelated. The episode began with Max hustling to make Luna’s lunch- sound familiar? Sure felt familiar to me. This time, Luna was actually present in the scene, and this episode was by far, the most screen time she has ever had since the show started. I guess the fact that the twins playing her aren’t fully vaccinated doesn’t really matter much anymore, but I digress…The scene was a series of Max trying to prevent Luna from hurting herself as she attempted to grab everything in sight, earning her the nickname “Grabby Hands,” which is also the episodes title. Luna grabbed a knife and cut herself, and Max took her to New Amsterdam, where she received stitches from her auntie Lauren. Since this was the opening scene, one would assume that the episode was going to be based around the concept of safety with children. But instead, it served no other purpose in the episode. It was simply a stand alone storyline that made no sense. Max does share a sweet scene with Luna at the end, where he tells her that he is her only family. I guess the writer’s are expecting viewer sympathy for Max, but there were other options to keep Helen in Max’s life and instead they opted to leave him in this state, garnering no sympathy from me and likely not from other viewers. Max explains to Luna that he lives in fear because he doesn’t want to lose her, but that isn’t a way to live and that he should embrace her curiosity and let her help instead of telling her she can’t do things. Was this moment of fatherly bonding between Max and Luna sweet? Yes. Was it necessary in this episode? Absolutely not. 

After Luna receives her stitches at the hospital, multiple patients are wheeled into the Emergency Room with suspected sodium nitrate poisoning. This paved the way for the most bizarre pivot I have ever seen in one episode of a show. Out of the blue, Floyd Reynolds shows up in the ER and volunteers to go to the apartment building and confront the landlord in person about the poisoning. In doing that, he finds out that the sodium nitrate was used as a cheap substitute for rat poisoning, and he also learns that this is not the only health issue at the building. Reynolds then proceeds to spend the episode finding ways to make the living situation better for the tenants that reside there. However, his suggestions, including increasing the rent by 50%, just served to show his privilege and how out of touch he is with the reality of the tenants that live in the building. Which begs the question, why was he even there?? Why was this storyline even a part of this episode? At first, I wondered if the building was going to mean something to Reynolds, even Lauren asked him what was up with his fixation on the building. I also thought at one point that it was the building where his dad lives, but no. There was absolutely no connection to any of Floyd’s other storylines. It was just another way for the writers to attempt to address another social justice issue, but because it was one of four other storylines, it was done half-heartedly and felt completely out of place. I may have felt better about it had the writers actually made it the building where Horace lives, but instead it was another stand alone story that did nothing to drive the arcs of any of the characters. There was some continuity with Floyd this episode. He went out of his way to track down the nurse that he flirted with last week. At first, he finds out that she is a travel nurse and will only be there for a few weeks and decides it’s best that they don’t start anything they can’t finish. I was proud of Floyd and happy that the writers didn’t have him fall back into his old patterns…but alas, I spoke too soon. At the end of the episode, Floyd ended up asking her out and they agreed to see where the next few weeks may take them. There are only 8 episodes left and not only does Floyd still need to work things out with his father, but now he is starting up a relationship that is sure to get messy. As stated above, I’ve given up trying to figure out why the writers make the decisions that they do. Floyd deserves to end the series on a high note, I just can’t see the road that this is taking quite yet. 

Perhaps the only character with a consistent storyline this year is Lauren and her arc was by far the only good thing about the episode. Lauren is clearly happy to be reunited with her sister, even reminiscing with her about things they used to enjoy as kids, including eating dumplings from a specific restaurant. Vanessa tells Lauren that she’s happy to have her back in her life and that talking to her sister makes her feel healthier. The only problem is that Lauren still hasn’t told her sister that she is sober. Lauren starting another relationship in her life off on a lie, is yet another example of a character diminishing in growth this season. At the end of the episode, Lauren gets home to find Vanessa holding her 3 year AA chip. Vanessa feels betrayed and true to her character, Lauren asks how she can fix things instead of atoning for her lie. Vanessa hits Lauren where it hurts, telling her that she abandoned her with their alcoholic mother at 9 years old. This sends Lauren into defence mode, stating that the real villains are their mother and Vanessa, leading to Vanessa throwing Lauren her keys and taking off. The fight between the sisters was emotional and served well to highlight the years of unresolved trauma that both have been carrying. I hope that there will be consistency with this storyline, and that Lauren will take ownership for her mistakes and be there for her sister like she couldn’t be all those years ago. It would be great to see Lauren make amends with at least one family member before the show ends. 

Why stop at tackling two social justice issues in one episode, when you can do three? Yes, the writers also had Iggy on an outdoor adventure with his teen therapy group, where he decided to take away their cell phones in an attempt to get them to connect with the outside world. He quickly came to the realization that cell phones and the internet can be helpful and important tools in people's lives. I guess the moral of the story here was that people need to balance their need to connect online, with the necessity of connecting with others in person. Again, I’m not sure why this storyline was included in this episode. It felt out of place and left Iggy looking like a clueless old man who is completely out of touch with the children is supposed to be helping. I would have fast-forwarded through these scenes had I not been watching live, though admittedly, that is often the case with any scenes featuring Iggy these days. 

Only 8 episodes remain and there are so many loose ends, it is hard to believe that any of them can be tied up in a way that is meaningful and that does justice to the characters that viewers have come to love over the show's run. Especially if they keep introducing new characters and stand alone plot lines like they seem to be doing every episode. Sadly, the absolutely careless writing has left me hoping for the season’s end and if the ratings are any indication, it is clear that the majority of viewers are feeling the exact same way. How did you feel about this episode? Were you comfortable with the way in which the storylines were handled? What do you think the writers need to do to keep viewers watching until the finale? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or by engaging with me on Twitter at @ms_c_almeida.

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