New Amsterdam: Season One Part Two Review
This review covers episodes 13-22 of New Amsterdam, which became available on Amzon Prime in the UK earlier this month. Click here for our review of the first 12 episodes of season one.
New medical drama New Amsterdam, focused around charismatic medical director Max Goodwin and his team of staff at a fictional public New York hospital, made its debut earlier this year. While it was still beholden to many of the classic hospital drama tropes, it stood out as something rather special - with its optimistic look at life. With well-rounded and absorbing characterisation mixed with hope and heartbreak, New Amsterdam was a show that had an edge of its competitors without going down the dark and gritty route.
The second half of season one dropped on Amazon Prime here in the UK this month and it remained as absorbing as ever, with the some engaging characters and powerful storylines that continued to reflect on the intricacies and issues with the US medical system. Anyone who wonders what would happen if the Right Wing got their way and dissolved the NHS, should look to the challenges Max and his team faced.
There are still many big, bold cases of the week. The case of the teenager with cystic fibrosis stopping to take her meds so her pregnant mother can focus her attention on the next child is genuinely heart breaking. The trauma of a NYPD officer hit by a veteran suffering with cancer and denied treatment is a will gut punch of a storyline, complete with some big conflict between the hospital and the NYPD and a strong focus on the lack of affordable medical care offered to many people in the US, decorated veterans included. Iggy's care for a young boy facing rejection, attempting suicide and then revealing his abuse by his aunt offers the same highly emotional drama that was explored in his earlier care of Jemma in the first half of season one.
And in the midst of it all was an intense two-parter that saw New York ravaged by the worst blizzard in decades and the hospital running without power as the staff struggled to keep its patients alive. Doctor Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims) to save his patient in a raging blizzard and then an operating theatre with no power was nail biting stuff. And new ED head, Doctor Candelario (Nana Mensah) certainly makes her mark with her field surgical skills and her role in many a crisis during the second half of season one. Mensah is another strong player in what is an excellent main cast.
But there was also a much heavier arc running through the second half of the series as many of the main characters were put through their paces. Doctor Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) faces her drug addiction early on, forcing her to confront her past and the issues it has created with Psychiatrist Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) in a powerful, intense episode that forces her to retreat from New Amsterdam and enter rehab. Montgomery really lives up to the material offered her and really sells the pain and growth she experiences, resulting her potential departure from the series as she makes the brave decision to move on.
Freema Agyeman continues to take a prominent role as Doctor Helen Sharpe, battling the conflict of being Max's friend, doctor and partner with her attempts to have a child. The episode where she nurses a sick baby to health and is then forced to give her up is heart-breaking but her relationship with Max really shines, bringing with it some romantic tension and genuine tension. And poor Iggy is put through his paces after his 'hands on' approach to his child patients sees him reported for inappropriate behaviour, an incident that seems to take a toll on him in the finale as he finds himself questioning his instincts as a doctor and therapist. If Agyemen and Eggold are the core of the show, then Labine really is the heart, delivering an absorbing, warm, funny and touching performance that plays to the optimistic nature of the series.
But the biggest and most gut-wrenching storyline in the second half of season one is Max's deteriorating state as his cancer progresses and he continues his treatment. Eggold remains as charismatic as ever, but absolutely conveys his broken spirit as the treatment takes its toll. Over the course of the remaining ten episodes we witness him physically and mentally deteriorating, culminating in him raging against Floyd over a post mortem investigation into the death of a patient. Seeing Max become everything he isn't is rather disturbing and Eggold absolutely sells his madness.
With a season two renewal already confirmed, the end of season one delivers an emotional and dramatic cliffhanger that throws Lauren back into the heart of the drama as she desperately tries to save Max's wife and baby, before delivering an even bigger blow with an ambulance crash that sees at least a couple of character's lived at stake. New Amsterdam's ability to deliver absorbing and well rounded characters means the audience's emotional investment in those stakes are higher than ever and I can't wait to see what happens next.
As I said in my review of the first half of the season, New Amsterdam is still at its core a medical drama and if you're not a fan of those, there will be nothing to convince you otherwise. But the passion, the optimism and the emotional journey of these characters make it a cut above its peers. Even if the darkest aspects of Max's cancer, Lauren's recovery and Iggy's case, it still is fundamentally about hope. And as much as we all love a good gritty, hard hitting drama, New Amsterdam still manages to be refreshingly optimistic even in a troubled world.