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New Amsterdam - Maybe Tomorrow - Review

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New Amsterdam has been known for tackling social justice issues, many of which other shows have not dared to touch. This week, they made an especially bold move by focusing an entire episode around the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V Wade. This is a deeply personal and divisive topic for Americans, and the ruling has caused widespread fear for so many women who are living in states that have now taken away a woman’s right to choose. When I read the synopsis prior to the episode airing, I was concerned about the show's ability to handle such a huge issue with morality and integrity. The dynamic in the writer’s room has changed so much from earlier seasons, resulting in most of the storylines of late being riddled with misinformation, unethical story arcs and gaping plot holes. The show runners did something right, by allowing this episode to be written by a female, Shanthi Sekaran, and directed by another female, Shiri Appleby, which was incredibly important. Both women provided a polarizing stand alone hour with some positive aspects. However, overall it felt like they were trying so hard to get certain messages across that the execution felt staged and at times, confusing. 

The best part about the episode, was that there was one main focus and all of the lead characters' story arcs were centred around it. It was reminiscent of the writing in seasons 1 and 2, where the plot lines made sense and the character’s storylines were interwoven with one another. The show runners should take note that this is what viewers have been asking for since season 3. The show is stronger when all of the lead characters work together on the same issue. It is baffling that no one in the writer’s room has figured that out yet, but I am glad that Sekaran clearly did, as it was nice to see some remnants of the old New Amsterdam that viewers used to enjoy. The issue with trying to go back to this now, is that all of the characters have been driven apart from each other for the past 2 seasons, and several key cast members have departed including Helen Sharpe, Agnes and Mia, the latter without explanation. It is not lost on viewers that the majority of cast members that have been written off the show are BIPOC women. These voices would have been instrumental in an episode like this and were glaringly missed. Lauren and Elizabeth were the female representation for the show, but they are not representative of the types of women who are likely to face the strongest repercussions due to the overturning of Roe. The show tried to fill in the gaps by bringing attending female physicians and nurses to the forefront in the arc with Wilder. The problem is, no one even knows who these characters are and therefore it was impossible for viewers to empathize with them. They were also not BIPOC women and that again was a huge mis-step for this episode. 

The episode started with a poignant marked silence as each character learned of the news of the Supreme Court ruling. This was a great move by Shiri Appleby, director, as it captured the feelings that many people had in that moment- a complete loss for words. Although it was a little dramatic, for example Max staring at Luna and dropping his cell phone as he pictured the ramifications that the decision may have on her future, it was a strong start to the episode. Cue to Karen Brantley, who was deeply affected by the ruling for personal reasons (more on that later), turning to the white saviour, Max, begging him to do something. She gave him a ton of resources carte blanche so he could try and fix the situation. If there was ever an episode for Max to just sit back and listen, this was it. Not only is it ridiculous to think that a medical director at a hospital could do anything to fix a major court ruling, the show also missed a huge opportunity to have a woman take the lead on attempting to make things better for the people that they serve, instead of a man. It was clear that the show wanted to demonstrate that the overturning of Roe is not just a women’s issue, that men are affected as well, but it just did not hit the mark. It would have been better to have Karen spearhead an idea with Max’s assistance and not the other way around. To have him take charge in this situation was just not appropriate. Max’s plan also made very little sense. The past few episodes have had him solving issues outside of New Amsterdam, which is problematic since New Amsterdam has plenty of its own issues that Max could be working to solve. In this episode, Max decided to find a way to help those impacted by the ruling not only outside of the hospital walls, but outside of the state of New York. Max turned to Seargent Todd who has been a vastly underused character, to try and help military personnel in Texas, a state that has been deeply impacted by the ban, to access safe abortions. This felt so out of place and so grandiose that it was absurd. How would a doctor from New York City make effective change towards a Supreme Court ruling in a different state? Was there not a way that Max could have supported women’s rights in New York? His plan was creative, I will give him that. He wanted to create floating abortion clinics on federal waters that would service the areas around the states that are most affected by the ban. His plan ultimately failed, no big surprise, and he was left to do nothing but listen, which is what he should have done in the first place. He listened to Karen share her story of a friend in college, who had to have an unsafe abortion in a back alley clinic. Her account of the story was heart wrenching, as was her frustration for how in 2022, America has ended up right back where it started. This story should have spurred Karen into leading a charge for effective change at New Amsterdam. Instead, we once again saw Max take on the problems of the world and make it all about himself and how he can help. It brought me back to season 3, episode 6 when Max thought he could fix systemic racism and Helen gave an empowered speech about how that very thinking is the problem, and encouraged him to spend more time listening. Clearly Max hasn’t made any progress on that front, which is a shame This is just another example of how his character growth has been completely diminished this season. 

Elizabeth had another questionable storyline, as she attempted to treat a pregnant patient, Michelle, who had aggressive Uterine Cancer. The best course of treatment was for Michelle to have an abortion, which would allow for her to have chemotherapy and treat the Cancer. Michelle refused, stating that she spent the morning before her appointment celebrating the overturning of Roe V Wade. It was clear that Michelle’s character was designed to embody the feelings of those that are pro-life. The problematic part of this storyline was that Elizabeth bent over backwards to give this woman an alternative treatment, using hospital resources to perform a surgery that she knew was risky and likely would be unsuccessful. Her decision here contradicts her entire character arc this season, since she spent the past few episodes convincing patients to have surgeries despite their desire not to. Her character has made quite a few unethical decisions this season and this was yet another. She knew that the surgery wouldn’t work, but she wanted to give this woman what she wanted so badly, she chose to do it anyway, resulting in the woman having long term complications such as a colposcopy bag, when the reality is that the Cancer will ultimately kill her. It was all very uncomfortable and messy. Clearly the show was trying to point out that people on the pro-life side have their own convictions and reasons for believing so strongly against abortion. Unfortunately, the unethical nature of the storyline erased any semblance of making a solid point. By now it is clear that the writers have no clue what to do with Elizabeth’s character, which is ridiculous considering the diverse talent of the actress. There was a beautiful storyline building last season with her brother. Why hasn’t that been revisited? Exploring her family dynamics further and solidifying her role at the hospital could have easily been a final arc for Elizabeth on the show. 

Perhaps the most bizarre arc in this episode came from Lauren and Floyd. They were set to host a tour for new medical students, when Lauren dropped a bombshell on Floyd, that she had an abortion when she was addicted to Adderall. Floyd quickly did the Math and realized the abortion occurred when he and Lauren were together. I have to wonder why the writer chose to use the character that is already carrying the most trauma, to be the one to have had not one, but two abortions as Lauren reveals she also had one in college. Helen Sharpe used to be the character to dump all the trauma on without any resolution. It appears that Lauren is now the lucky recipient of that mess. It is amazing to me that this woman is still standing, despite all of the things she has to go through. Lauren fans are hopeful for some resolution to any of her many arcs, but with only 6 episodes remaining, it is difficult to believe this will happen. The other issue with the Lauren/Floyd situation, is they used poor Floyd, who was completely shocked by Lauren’s news, as a way for Lauren to give an impassioned speech about sexism and women’s rights. Yes, Floyd was upset by the news, but not because she had the abortion, he was upset because she didn’t feel like she could tell him about it. Although Lauren’s points were valid, they did not land because it was obvious that they used Floyd and his reaction simply to make a point.

Iggy had a memorable arc as he faced charges for punching a pro-life protestor who was being aggressive with a female protestor on the other side of the issue. The man told Karen that he would drop the charges if Iggy apologized, but Iggy refused stating that he did nothing wrong. Bring in Martin, who Karen called to come and reason with Iggy. Martin was fantastic with his approach. While he supported Iggy, he needed Iggy to see the bigger picture. Now that Roe has been overturned, it paves the way for other bills to be overturned as well such as gay marriage, which would have huge ramifications for Iggy, Martin and their children. Especially if Iggy were to have a criminal record on top of it. Realizing this, Iggy swallows his pride and apologizes to the man. The bigger message here is that sometimes people have to suck up their feelings and go against their beliefs in order to protect themselves. This is especially true for marginalized populations which is absolutely unfair, but unfortunately a sad reality. 

Despite the questionable delivery methods, the overarching message of the episode was clear. Decisions are going to be made that are out of our control. These decisions have an impact on our entire lives and the lives of those we care about, no matter what side of the debate we are on. While we can’t control the outcome, we definitely need to find ways to go on and try to affect change in the best ways we know how by making our voices heard, and voting like our lives depend on it, because in reality, they do. What were your thoughts on the episode? Do you think the show did a good job of representing the issues with the overturning of Roe v Wade? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below, or by engaging with me on Twitter @ms_c_almeida.

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