New Amsterdam: Season Two Part Two Review
A warning of spoilers as I discuss the second half of New Amsterdam season two...
At the tail end of April, Amazon Prime UK dropped the second half of hit US medical drama New Amsterdam. Like many shows globally, the current season has been cut short due to a halt in production due to Covid-19, meaning the second season has reduced from 22 to 18 episode. Fear not though - it's already scored a massive three-season renewal from NBC, meaning there is plenty more to come.
The first half of second two dropped on Amazon Prime late last year (you can check out our review of season two, part one here) and the second half picks up immediately after the mid-season episode The Island, with three Riker's Island inmates loose in the hospital, forcing it into a Code Silver shutdown. It's a thrilling start to the second half of season two, putting characters on the line, while also allowing some strong character development - not least the surprise theraoy session with Iggy and his husband Martin , courtesy of young Doctor Park, who's performance assessment takes a dramatic turn.
While there are some high stakes - a post-surgery Doctor Lauren Bloom putting her recovery on the line to treat a patient, Floyd Reynolds facing a knife-wielding attacker during a surgery and Max Goodwin and Helen Sharpe trying to lead the runaway inmates into a trap, it's the moments with Iggy that shine the most. Tyler Labine really elevates the second half of the season, starting here as the anger over attempting to adopt another child without Martin's consent leads to the revelation that he his self worth is only maintained by his ability to help others. Iggy's subsequent journey over the course of the season, developing a disturbing eating habit as he fakes a path to wellbeing, is one that never really culminates due to the cutting short of the season, but one that is likely to lead to a darker path for the usually bright, eager Doctor.
Given the death of Max's wife Georgia in the season opener and Lauren's own recovery post-rehab, the usually optimistic nature of New Amsterdam that made season one so refreshing, was absent in the first half. Fortunately, the second half returns to that winning formula, with a number of powerful episodes that tackles the issues with the US healthcare system head on. In The Graveyard is a particularly strong episode that see Max wrestle with terminal patients being consigned to overrun hospices and forming his own hospice wing in the hospital, challenging his team of Doctors to provide individual care. For Helen, this involves helping a dying mathematician coming to terms with the scientific nature of death through magic mushrooms while Vijay Kapoor helps a woman dying lone to reconnect with her past in a living wake, one that yields surprising changes to her life. Best of all, is Max's connection with wheelchair bound Adele Eisenbaum (Marylouise Burke), who becomes a recurring presence as his personal assistant in the final months of her life.
Sabbath continues this theme, as Max struggles to find a way to find a way to cut $2 million from the hospital budget without impacting patient lives, while Iggy champions the change of diagnosis on insurance payouts as the result of mental affliction - in this case the racism inflicted upon a child refugee. That theme continues in Lift Off, which tackles the duplicity of 'Go Fund Me' campaigns to fund medical costs when insurers won't cough up.
But the standout is Double Blind, an episode that tackles private medical manufacturers head on as Max cut ties with the company to tackle the Opiod addiction crippling patients nation-wide. When Max is defeated in his plan to ally with other medical directors against the major Opiod provider and finds the hospital crippled by cuts to a whole host of medication, the goodwill of others fights back. Max's defeat ignites one of his peers to throw out her supplier contract, while the image of hundreds of people lost to Opiod addiction on the wing of the very medical manufacturers is such a powerful message. In all these stories, New Amsterdam triumphs with its optimistic outlook; what might feel cheesy or contrived in other hospital dramas feels a natural part of the narrative here and is a welcome part of the second half of season two; it was sorely missed in the first half.
But the character journeys remain at the heart of the show too. Helen Sharpe goes through a trial by fire, stripped of her positions in the wake of her actions in earlier season two episode What the Heart Wants, going head to head with rival Doctor Valentina Castro (Ana Villafañe) to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of Castro's medical trials. Villafañe delivers a duplicitious performance as Valentina, putting Helen down at every step, right up to the moment her actions are uncovered. Freema Agyeman's Helen remains as much the heart and soul of New Amsterdam as Ryan Eggold's Max Goodwin. Even when she finally regains her position and power, she finds herself continuously swayed towards Max's way of thinking; there is great chemistry between Agyeman and Eggold, though of course the show is playing the long game when it comes to any hint of a romantic relationship between them.
As for Max, the second half of the season tip toes into the potential of a romance with fellow parent Alice (Alison Huff), a widow struggling with single parenthood of a baby like him. Quite realistically, New Amsterdam tackles the guilt and confusion of any potential relationship following the death of a loved one; while there is chemistry between them, the season ends with them walking away from each other. It's a sweet, heart-breaking recurring storyline, one that bookends the harrowing events of the season opener nicely.
Along with Iggy's issues with weight and self-esteem, the second half of the season sees Vijay Kapoor stumble his way through his awkward relationship with Ella. The ups and downs as she adjusts to the idea of raising his grandson in his home is incredibly awkward - and endearing - to watch. Lauren Bloom also finds herself in a period of growth, cutting her toxic relationship with fellow addict Zach out of his life and slowly reconnecting wither her mother. The one core character that is lost in the mix is Jocko Simms's Doctor Floyd Reynolds, who finds himself awkwardly trying to tell Max he is leaving to join fiancée Evie in California and then leaving with very little fanfare.
The original eighteenth episode Pandemic was cut from the season, understandably given the current global issues faced by Covid-19. The new finale A Matter of Seconds opens with a video message from Eggold, explaining the decision to cut it - which was absolutely the right decision - and new recurring actor Daniel Dae Kim, whose character Doctor Cassian Shin was supposed to debut in Pandemic and who caught Covid-19 himself during the filming of that episode. What follows is a series of scenes between Cassian and Helen, that hint at the pandemic storyline that would have taken place, while giving the audience a crash course in the new character.
A Matter of Seconds, then gets straight into business, with Cassian already established and forging a potential romance with Helen. The events of the episode itself, defective auto-filled morphine drips, doesn't quite offer anything hugely dramatic, though the aforementioned ending of Max and Alice's friendship offers a satisfying climax to his season long arc, dealing with the death of his wife Georgia. There are certainly more plot threads, such as Iggy's eating issues, that will surely be tackled when season three begins.
Despite the understandable cut in the episode order, the second half of season two is a much stronger run of episodes than the first. It regains New Amsterdam's sense of optimism, tackling the issues with the US healthcare system with a huge amount of heart. And for that reason, it remains one of the best medical dramas out there.