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New Amsterdam - The Empty Spaces & Don't Do This For Me - Review

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NBC dropped New Amsterdam’s fall finale in the form of two episodes in one night. As usual, there was so much going on and neither episode connected with one another, making the choice to air them both on the same night a little puzzling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have gotten even closer to the finish line for this one, but it was a bizarre move nonetheless. There was one common thread between the two episodes, however. They both proved once again that the writer’s have no clue what to do with any of the characters anymore. Any type of creativity that was in the writer’s room is long gone, and the characters that viewers used to love, have become unrecognizable. 

The biggest issue with the episodes, and the entire season frankly, is the show runner’s need to push Max and Elizabeth together, regardless of the fact that there is zero chemistry between them and nowhere near enough time to do it justice. It’s not even that they are rushing this pairing to the finish line that is the issue, it is that they have basically turned Elizabeth into Helen in every way right down to her clothing. They have even stooped so low as to re-use lines and scenes that were golden Sharpwin moments, instead of writing them a story of their own. In the first episode, Max asks Elizabeth why she said no to the date and the two of them confess their feelings for each other. Elizabeth explains that while she appreciates that Max is learning ASL, he is not fluent in her language. He doesn’t understand her inner thoughts and she doesn’t want someone who can’t fill in the empty spaces. The whole moment between them was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, and the fact that they had this conversation on the bench that Sharpwin shared many a special moment on, was just pitiful. 

In the second episode, Elizabeth meets with her former mentor Bev, played by Marlee Matlin. Bev has come to receive Cancer treatment from Elizabeth, but she also has a proposition. She is opening a school for the deaf and she wants Elizabeth to run it. This moment with Bev is exactly the kind of storyline Elizabeth needed and deserved this season. The writer’s should have focused on Elizabeth’s talent as a deaf surgeon and capitalized on how she can use her talents to make New Amsterdam a more inclusive environment, while doing what she loves. Instead, they decided to reduce her to a love interest and doctor with questionable morals and ethics. Elizabeth is honoured that Bev wants her to take on such an important venture, but she has doubts, because she is not a teacher and surgery is her passion. Elizabeth goes to Max for advice, and walks in on him having an ASL lesson. It was nice to see Elizabeth call Max out for only learning ASL because he has a crush on her. Max is the Medical Director of the hospital. He should want to learn ASL because he employs a deaf doctor and because it’s the right thing to do. This scene led to yet another recycled Sharpwin moment. Max tells Elizabeth he is learning ASL because she doesn’t have limits, the people around her do, and then says, “I see you,” which is exactly what he said to Helen after the decon shower when he finally admitted his feelings for her. What a degradation of an iconic Sharpwin moment, and a further slap in the face to viewers who are already resentful of this pairing. 

At the end of the episode, Elizabeth tells Bev that she is turning down the job. Bev tells her to find the person who makes her feel seen and not let them go. Suddenly, everything Elizabeth said in the previous episode about feeling the empty spaces wasn't important anymore. Nothing changed from when she made her impassioned speech until now, so clearly they were empty words. Elizabeth runs down the main corridor to find Max, and asks him to take her home in a scene that was yet another rip-off of a legendary Sharpwin moment, the season 3 finale. Elizabeth was even wearing the same jacket that Helen wore, only in a different colour. It doesn’t get more ridiculous than that. Just as Max is about to kiss Wilder, he hears none other than Helen’s voice on the television in the lobby. She is in New York promoting the NHS’ Cancer research. Max is clearly thrown from seeing her, and that’s where the episode ended. I’m not sure what’s more insulting, that the show runners thought Sharpwin fans would forgive everything they did to Helen’s character and come back, or the fact that they thought we would be too dumb to notice that the footage of Helen was old footage from season 1. The show runner’s pathetic need to keep using Freema to draw viewers, just proves how the show cannot survive without her. The way that the writers vilified Helen and tarnished her character was bad enough, but giving viewers this ridiculous love triangle that no one asked for, is just another way for them to further assassinate Helen’s character. Schulner stated that he wants fans to know that the show is so much more than Sharpwin. So why throw Max into another romance? Why couldn’t Max spend season 5 actually experiencing some character growth? Instead, he’s become a man that needs a woman in his life for emotional support and let me tell you, no one asked for that. If Schulner thinks this ploy will draw the Sharpwin fans back, he can think again. People are tired of being used by Schulner for what he calls “challenging TV.” No one is playing his games anymore. 

Max has become a man who is incapable of doing anything but lusting over a woman. He has spent no time doing anything to help the hospital, and these two episodes were no exception. Max spent the first hour bent out of shape about Patient Satisfaction surveys as a way to distract himself from thinking about Elizabeth. Does he not have any important work to do? He is the Medical Director of the largest public hospital in the USA and he needs to find “busy work?” If this wasn’t bad enough, his storyline in the second episode felt completely out of place and super bizarre. He took over for an attending doctor in the ICU who was away, and worked with a young team of doctors who we have never seen before and will likely never see again. Again I ask, what was the point? One of the doctors was struggling with the death of a patient. The patient passed away after she had gone home after her shift, and she was having difficulty letting go of guilt. It was an important message, but again. Why do this with a guest character whose name no one likely remembers, I know that I sure don’t. It is clear that the writer’s have no clue what to do with Max, except to have him pine over Elizabeth. Max has had no character growth whatsoever in five seasons, and he has now become unlikeable which is sad, considering he is the lead and the reason that so many viewers fell in love with the show. 

I have serious concerns about the way this show handles storylines with patients suffering from mental illness. Once again, a patient was placed on a Psychiatric hold without a diagnosis or cause for such extreme measures, and once again, Floyd was at the centre of it. He ran into a young lady who was pregnant, Olivette, at the elevators. He was trying to direct her to the appropriate ward, so he asked her who she was there to see. She told him that she wanted to induce labour and have her baby now at 24 weeks, because she is an addict and is putting the baby in danger because of it. Floyd should have taken Olivette to the Obstetrics department, but he decided to handle it himself, with Gabrielle at his side. Why would a cardiac surgeon even attempt to manage this case? It was completely inappropriate and absurd. Floyd takes Olivette for an ultrasound with Gabrielle, and they determine she is less than 24 weeks and therefore cannot deliver the baby. Instead of actually listening to Olivette and trying to understand her needs, he decides to put her in a psychiatric hold. Is this his new go-to when he doesn’t understand someone’s needs? To commit them? I cannot believe that the writers chose to have him do this again, knowing how controversial the storyline with his father’s diagnosis was. Young, black pregnant women already have a hard enough time getting the treatment they need, the last thing they need is more stigma attached. Thankfully, Gabrielle managed to talk some sense into Floyd and demanded he listen to what is best for Olivette. This led Floyd to set up a circle of care for Olivette, which included employees at the hospital attending appointments with her. This, of course, is not realistic and does not solve the other social issues that Olivette is facing, most importantly, her addiction. This entire storyline was completely bizarre and mishandled. It is truly sad that after 5 seasons, the writers still do not know how to write a proper storyline for any of their characters, at least one that is not loaded with controversy. All of the characters that were beloved by viewers before season 4, have now become unrecognizable. Floyd used to be a man that put his family first and wanted so badly to have a traditional family of his own. Now, he has all but abandoned the mother that he loved so much to chase after a father who abandoned him when he was young and he is coming out of a polyamorous relationship, only to enter into what is reminiscent of a high-school fling. The biggest problem with Floyd’s storyline, is that as he struggles through his abandonment issues with his father, he has a daughter of his own living in Colorado that he all but abandoned himself. Do the writers not see the irony here? 

That brings us to Lauren. For the first 3 seasons, she was a tough woman who knew what she wanted and did whatever it took to get it. Now, she lives in constant misery as she tries to swim to the surface of the unending trauma that continues to weigh her down. Lauren has taken the brunt of the trauma dumping and it is getting out of hand at this point. I thought this was the season of healing for her? Instead, it is looking like she is going to end up alone without any support from loved ones. I have never hid the fact that I have serious concerns about the way this show treats its female characters, and Lauren’s entire storyline is unnecessary torture at this point. It is the last season. How does Lauren’s arc resolve when she is in the midst of getting hit from all sides by never-ending trauma? The first episode last night had her helping a young brother, Avi, and sister who lost their parents two years ago due to COVID, and have been living under the radar because they are afraid of getting separated by Child Protective Services. The young girl suffered head trauma and needed surgery, which required permission from a guardian. Avi tried to make up an excuse about where his parents were, but Lauren immediately figured out there were no guardians in the picture. Instead of asking Avi where they were and allowing him to confide in her about his situation, she immediately opted to call Child Protective Services, breaking whatever trust she had developed with the young boy. Lauren is a mandated reporter, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t have taken a minute to find out the complexities of what these kids had been through before jumping the gun. Lauren has developed a pattern of imposing her trauma onto her patients, and that’s exactly what she did here. She assumed that Avi was struggling with the trauma of losing his parents, and could not give himself or his sister the proper care because of that. She let Avi know that CPS would be taking his sister and that he would receive support from the Psychiatry department at New Amsterdam. Avi is, of course, upset. For a 17 year old boy, he seems to have been dealing with his grief as well as a child could and if it were not for this accident, he had been managing to take good care of his sister. Why is it up to Lauren to make these decisions anyway? Should this not be up to CPS to decide? Just because Lauren is dealing with lingering trauma from her past with her mother, doesn’t mean that Avi is. People deal with grief and trauma in different ways. It is completely unethical that she would be allowed to decide the future of these children. 

At the end of the first episode, Lauren and her sister met with a lawyer for the reading of her mother’s will. She is dealt with a shocking blow, when she finds out that her mother left all of her money to her sister, and not her. Yes, Lauren and her mother had their problems, but why would her mother completely exclude her from the will? If this wasn’t bad enough, the second episode really kicked Lauren when she was down, from start to finish. Her sister ended up in the ER because she overdosed and it all spiraled down from there. Vanessa barraged Lauren with the most despicable emotional warfare I have ever seen. It was truly difficult to watch. Lauren discovered that Vanessa overdosed in front of the hospital on purpose, because she knew she would end up in Lauren’s care. Her sister also dealt her another blow by confessing that their mother wrote Lauren an apology note, but she threw it away. When her sister falls back into a coma, Lauren is torn between continuing to care for her sister who is nothing but cruel to her, or finally cutting ties for good. Lauren knows she needs to let Vanessa go, as she will never be able to get out from underneath Vanessa’s black cloud if she doesn’t. What is the purpose of all of this trauma for Lauren? Why must her resilience be tested every single week? Where is Lauren’s catharsis? 

Another character that has become completely unrecognizable from the first two seasons, is Iggy. It is difficult to find a redeeming quality for him lately, but last night we saw a glimmer of season 1 Iggy and I have to say, it was nice. The Patient Satisfaction surveys came in, and Max felt that the questionnaire for Iggy’s unit wasn’t focused enough on quality of care. Max decides a change is in order and changes the questions on the survey. Iggy needs to work on his time management, as several patients are having to wait weeks or even months for appointments. Max decides to make the Psych department open-access, meaning people can walk-in for appointments at any time. This of course leads to chaos and Iggy receiving a 5% score on the new PSS. The problem with this, and I cannot believe the Medical Director wouldn’t know this, is that the Psychiatry unit is funded based on their Patient Satisfaction survey scores. A 5% score would mean that Iggy would lose almost all of his funding. He marches into Max’s office, tells him that he is messing with something that he does not understand, and demands Max allow him to change things back to the way they were. It was nice to see Iggy fight for his patients and his unit, and I enjoyed seeing him put Max in his place. The insufferable Iggy of the last two seasons didn’t go far, though. After his day at the hospital, he went to his house and presumptuously kissed Martin, leading to them sleeping together. In the second episode, the kids walk in on Iggy and Martin in bed together and assume that their parents are back together. Iggy, of course, encourages the kids' excitement, even though he hasn’t even had a conversation with Martin about what last night means for their relationship. Iggy’s brazen moves prove fruitless, because Martin does not want to get back together. He has changed, and doesn’t want to go back to the person he was when he was with Iggy. Martin tells Iggy that he wants to go ahead and file for divorce. All I can say is, way to go Martin. He deserves so much better than a man who projects his issues onto him and blames him for all of the problems in their relationship. Iggy isn’t deserving of a second chance, and I am glad that Martin realizes that. 

Three more episodes remain before the end of the series, and they can’t come soon enough. It is difficult to imagine how much more damage can be done in just three episodes, but I am not looking forward to finding out. Over to you, New Amsterdam viewers. Share your thoughts on the episodes below and engage with me on Twitter @ms_c_almeida.

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