New Amsterdam - Pilot - Review: Patients First + POLL By madstvwriter (September 26, 2018, 3:00 am)
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
New Amsterdam has the arduous task of debuting into an oversaturated genre. It is yet another medical drama competing with Grey's Anatomy, The Good Doctor, The Resident, and Chicago Med. In addition to treading over the graveyard of a plethora of other medical dramas that didn't make it past one season in the recent years due to said genre bloat. So what does New Amsterdam have going for it to set it apart from its competition and predecessors?
The premise is fairly simple. New Amsterdam is one of America's oldest hospitals but it has fallen into disrepair and been overrun by greedy doctors more interested in a paycheck than giving their patients necessary care. Doctor Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), is an agent of change aiming to shape the hospital into the place he knows it is capable of becoming.
What I think will set New Amsterdam is its keenness to delve into a fractured healthcare system. I think there are definitely parallels to be drawn between the specific epicenter of this hospital and the medical world on a grander scale. New Amsterdam focuses on environment more than bolstering doctoral careers and career achievements. Out of this crop of characters, none of them are prodigies. They don't all have fancy pedigrees. It feels like everyone is on level ground and therefore they're growing from the same place. Max wants the hospital to focus on bettering care for patients specifically.
The set of this show is something to marvel at. The production did an excellent job at making New Amsterdam feel realistic and grounded. They've created a set that truly feels like an old hospital that's seen its fair share of wear and tear over the years. There are a lot of long walking & talking tracking shots, almost like a little homage to The West Wing, and something I noticed more of in the second episode than the first but they help maintain an immersive experience for the audience and generate space for the actor's to move within. I appreciated how the hospital rooms looked worn in and high-tech or glossy like we see on other medical dramas.
NEW MEDICAL DIRECTOR
Max (Ryan Eggold) is the show’s main focus for now. He is the central character and the one we learn most about in the pilot. His tenure as medical director begins with a hospital-wide forum in which he tries to generate suggestions as to how he can help his doctors make the hospital better and more specifically, how he can help them help their patients. Max's motto is, “I work for you so you can work for your patients.” He wastes no time in trimming the fat by firing the entire cardiac surgeon team, due to their negligence and greed. Then he promises to hire fifty new attendings and accepts Doctor Lauren Bloom's (Janet Montgomery) proposal to nix the waiting room in favor of getting patients straight to a bed. It's easy to see Max's passion for this ailing place. He and his sister Luna were born there and a few years afterwards, Luna died there. Her cause of death? A preventable hospital infection. He uses his own tragic tale as a cautionary one. No one should have to die over something avoidable.
To his credit, Max does indeed spend the entirety of the episode assisting patients and doctors alike. He steps in when necessary but he is not omnipotent. Max is allowed to make mistakes. He's human, he oversteps, he makes assumptions, but he also does the best he can. The medical drama bread and butter is doctors with god complexes but this show avoids retreading, at least where Max is concerned. Ryan Eggold's surprisingly genuine and affecting performance probably helps.
Max certainly has struggles of his own too, outside the hospital. He and his pregnant wife, Georgia (Lisa O'Hare) are estranged and Max is having a health scare of his own if the throat biopsy he gets done at the beginning of the episode are any indication. It turns out he does indeed, have cancer. Then, towards the end of the episode, Max gets a panicked call from Georgia. She's bleeding on the bed and scared about the baby. Luckily, everything turns out okay. The baby was in distress but the doctors were able to stop the bleeding and find the heartbeat. We even get a name for the little girl. Luna.
A NEW HOME FOR JEMMA
The resident child psychologist, Doctor Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine), has his hands full with a foster child named Jemma (Lizzy DeClement). She’s been in several foster homes and in almost every single one of them, she was abused. Iggy desperately wants to find her a new home where she might actually be comfortable and able to flourish. He has a crisis of conscience as he thinks about his job description: to get these troubled kids back to a baseline and then stick them back in the system. It’s clearly not sitting right with him but many of his superiors have their hands tied. Iggy has to do some work on his own to track down the only woman Jemma ever felt comfortable, a Spanish woman named Camila. Unfortunately, Camila has since passed away but Iggy hopes her daughter, Blanca (Nathalie Carvalho), might be willing to create a home for Jemma.
Iggy winds up leaving Jemma's notebook with an apprehensive Blanca. A notebook where she has recorded pages and pages about her time spent with Camila. There is a sweet sincerity in the way Iggy informs Blanca that Jemma received all of the love Camila could not give to Blanca, he wants Blanca to see her love did not go to waste. You can see why this show is a great fit to be paired with This Is Us.
AN EBOLA SCARE
We follow a young kid from Liberia from the beginning of the episode up until he winds up in the New Amsterdam waiting room and passes out. It turns out he got roped into a scam and was injected with a virus in Liberia before being flown back to America. The NYPD shows up and proclaims the kid, named Alain (Jason Kisare), is an agent of terror due to a video released by ISIS proclaiming they sent someone with Ebola to the states to infect everyone. They think this supposed agent is Alain. Max disagrees, if that were the case he could have stayed in a youth hostel in Times Square like he’d initially planned and infect far more people, but instead, he came to New Amsterdam because it was the only American hospital he had ever heard of.
Luckily for everyone, especially Lauren, who wound up in the contamination unit without the proper equipment due to an act of reckless bravery, he was injected with the LASSA virus which, while still very dangerous, is entirely treatable with antiviral medication.
A NEAR FATAL MISDIAGNOSIS
At the beginning of the episode, Lauren saves a woman from being tossed into the morgue after she is mistakenly presumed dead. The woman, Patricia, is given to Doctor Vijay Kapoor (Anupam Kher). It looks like Patricia (Rose Bianco) has a case of Parkinson’s disease but Kapoor isn’t so sure. He takes his sweet time with Patricia, running tests, asking plenty of questions, to the point Max threatens to take Patricia away because he isn’t treating her Parkinson's.
Vijay refutes this claim by explaining her misdiagnosis. In fact, her current course of treatment worsened her condition. Patricia actually has a tumor. A tumor so small no one caught it before but it laid ruin to her immune system. Had Vijay continued to treat her for Parkinson’s she would have gone into cardiac arrest and died. His acute and thorough examination has bought her another year of life to spend with her family.
THE C WORD
As foreshadowed in the beginning of the episode and mentioned at the beginning of this review, Max Goodwin has cancer.
Enter, Doctor Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman), a woman Max had initial misgivings about because she spends more time flying around the country giving lectures and going on talk shows rather than actually practicing medicine. He issued her an ultimatum, either she return to the hospital within 48 hours or she doesn't return at all. She decides to come back and practice medicine because of Max. She says Max has people excited to be doctors again and she wants to feel excited too. She left because she felt she had become immune to all the death and trauma doctors experience every day. Max gives her hope and in return she is there for him to come to terms with his cancer diagnosis.
I loved their scene together. Freema and Ryan have excellent chemistry and while I’m not sure if they’ll end up being romantic, I would love to see their friendship develop. I think they could be a great support system for one another.
Is New Amsterdam worth checking into? Personally, I think so. I found myself enjoying the episode much more than I expected to, although the episode is somewhat bloated. There were a few story threads that should have been given more time to develop and a few that could have been held until future episodes. They cram a lot into one episode but I still liked it. I do hope future episodes flesh out the characters more, I feel like I know who Max Goodwin is but the rest of the main cast I'm not as sure about yet.
It is a little melodramatic, you can certainly feel the Grey's Anatomy inspiration but it's almost unavoidable nowadays given the behemoth of a show it has become. The ending montage with Fix You by Coldplay felt like it was lifted straight out of the Grey's playbook. Still, there is something special here and I think the This Is Us crowd will warm to it in particular.
- Have to say, I'm impressed by Ryan Eggold's performance. I had only seen him previously in 90210 and while he was charming enough on there I didn't expect the emotional range we get from here, especially carrying into the next episode. Freema is a stand out for me too, although I'm hoping Helen will have more to do as the show continues. Really, the whole cast is quite good. Janet Montgomery is another one I'll be keeping an eye on, I could see Lauren becoming a fave of mine easily.
- Doctor Lauren Bloom is agreeable to Max’s changes, except one. She wants him to re-hire Doctor Floyd who is “different from the rest.” Max takes her advice and checks out Floyd’s folders. He admits he may have made a mistake and re-hires Floyd as the new head of the cardio, the cardio department which no longer exists due to his mass firing but it's okay, Floyd has been instructed to build a new one and build it better. We don't learn too much about Floyd's character in this episode so I hope the opportunity he's given to rebuild the cardio department will give him a chance to flourish.
- I am curious to know more about Lauren and Floyd. Lauren shows up to work rather disheveled, possibly hungover? But we don’t really learn more about her backstory beyond that. We do learn she and Floyd are sleeping together and their relationship is complicated.
Max: Any department who places billing above care, no matter how much money you make this hospital, you will be terminated.
Iggy: Can we do something about healthy food? Max: What do you want to do about it? Iggy: Uh, have some.
Max: You know we all feel like the system is too big to change, but guess what, we are the system. And we need to change.
Floyd: If I were you and I analyzed our performance I would have done the same. Max: By performance do you mean the highest mortality and infection rates in New York City because that’s like, the Beyonce of performance, if Beyonce, you know, killed people.
Floyd: You do know the whole systems rigged, don’t you? I mean they’re not gonna let you come in here and just help people. Max: So let’s help as many as we can before they figure us out.
THE NEXT EPISODE of NEW AMSTERDAM titled “RITUALS” will premiere TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2ND at 10 PM EST on NBC. Check back here for my review after it airs!