New Amsterdam returned for its winter premiere this week, and it would have been better if it just stayed away. I have tried every week to be fair and neutral, despite my feelings on the decisions made by the writers and show runners to vilify a character that made the show what it is today. It is now impossible for me to offer any positive praise for a show that has so blatantly made the decision to ruin a beloved character for no reason whatsoever. Though we do not know the real reason Agyeman left, and we may never get that answer, the truth is that it doesn’t really matter. The writers and show runners have made it very clear that instead of focusing on ending the show on a high note, they are instead going to use every opportunity to tarnish the name of Helen Sharpe in any way that they can. The episode is titled “Falling,” and I can’t think of a better name for it. The downfall of New Amsterdam has been unlike anything anyone has ever seen on television. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. The downfall of this show needs to be studied, it truly does. How does a show that was once so beloved, become one that viewers despise?
Regardless of why Freema Agyeman left, she was a series veteran. She was part of a strong ensemble cast, and her immense talent helped New Amsterdam become a hit TV series. Freema stole the hearts of so many viewers and became a huge part of why people watched the show. It was her innate chemistry with Ryan Eggold that steered the direction of the show into a storybook love story between Max and Helen. Though the Sharpwin dynamic was powerful, Helen was a strong character on her own apart from Max. She was a protagonist who fought for her patients, for what she believed in. She endured childhood trauma, uprooted her life to start over, faced hardship after hardship, literally lost her ability to speak and through it all viewers rooted for her. They wanted her to overcome her trauma and experience the good that life has to offer- motherhood and a lasting romance. Helen was beloved. There were so many ways that the writers could have written her exit. Instead, they chose to vilify her. To have her abandon their white saviour at the altar via a handwritten letter circa a generation that has long since passed. That decision by the writers alone, angered fans to the point that millions of them stopped watching. The show is now lucky to generate 2 million viewers an episode at best. The vilification of Helen should have ended there, but it didn’t. The show runners decided that instead of using their 13 remaining episodes to develop the storylines of the 3 remaining leads, they should instead spend it further vilifying Helen and destroying whatever character development Max has had throughout the series.
The entire winter premiere centred around Max’s choice between Wilder and Helen, in a love triangle that absolutely no one asked for. After seeing Helen on TV and receiving a text from her asking to meet up, Max decided that he needed to get away to clear his head. On a whim, he decides to take his head doctors on a country retreat. Don’t even get me started on how unbelievably ridiculous a storyline this was. In what world would a medical director be able to take all of his doctors away on a retreat at the drop of a hat, especially in today’s world where hospitals are extended beyond their capacity? Regardless, Max spent the episode pondering what he should do and receiving advice from everyone including Wilder, who tells him he should meet up with Helen so that he can truly know where his feelings stand. In the end, Max goes to the restaurant to meet Helen, sees her through the glass doorway and walks away without even going inside, ultimately choosing Wilder and sealing it with a kiss. Clearly the show runners realize the impact of Freema leaving and how their decision of how to write her off has had on its viewers. They spent the past few weeks baiting fans into thinking Agyeman was returning, in desperate hopes of increasing viewership for the last few episodes. What a ridiculous slap in the face to true New Amsterdam fans who were smart enough to realize that the footage of Freema was old and that she was not going to be coming back. It was almost like a cruel joke. Baiting Helen fans into watching the episode, just so they could watch as her character was vilified, trashed and stomped into the ground, even being compared to a drug and a deathly allergy by characters who were supposed to be her friends. That is perhaps what is the most upsetting. After being a source of strength for all of the lead characters, they spoke about her like she was a plague on their lives. The writers didn’t even have the decency to have Max at least speak to Helen prior to making his decision, not that it could have happened since the footage of Agyemnan was old. The Max that viewers have come to know over the last 5 seasons would never have just let Helen go in the first place, let alone not have a discussion with her before deciding to move on. Over the series, Max has been developed as an empathetic man who fights for what he believes in and the people he loves and we are expected to believe that he would just let Helen go without at least talking to her? It is as if the writers disregarded the immense impact that Helen had on Max’s life, seemingly forgetting that she saved him, cured him of his cancer, helped him through the darkest moments at the hospital, took care of him, and mothered his daughter. The writers tarnished all of that, and her legacy on the show has become the evil woman who left Max and his daughter and then came back to twist the knife in one last time. What was the point? There was no reason for any of this except to attempt to erase the legacy of Helen Sharpe from the show one last time. Even Kapoor received a better send off from the show. He was killed off but his legacy remained intact. Why couldn’t they do this for Helen? They literally silenced a woman of colour yet again. They brought her back without her being given the opportunity to speak her peace. They vilified a woman of colour so that their white saviour could move on with a white woman. This may not have been the intention, but the optics of this are horrendous.
Is this what the show runners wanted for the final season? For Max to revert back to who he was in season 1, erase all of his character growth and not spend a single episode focusing on the good he could be doing at the hospital? Why did the show runners not spend the remaining 13 episodes, establishing Max’s legacy at the hospital? Isn’t that what New Amsterdam is all about? To have the final season be based on an ill-timed romance is just ridiculous. Season 5 had the potential to be a fresh start for the show. The writers could have focused on what made New Amsterdam special to begin with, which is the work done with patients and wanting to change a broken system. It is laughable that Max’s tagline is “how can I help?” when he hasn’t helped anyone in a long time. When was the last time we saw him actually work with a patient? Max also has a troubled history with his parents that was mentioned a few times in earlier seasons, but was never brought up again. This season would have been a great opportunity to dive into what happened with Max’s parents that caused him to pretty much disown them. They could have ended Max’s character arc by offering closure about his family. There was so much potential to end this season by bringing in some of the magic of earlier seasons, but that opportunity was squandered away when they decided to spend time on a transparent ploy to destroy the character of Helen Sharpe rather than salvage a show that once stole the hearts of so many. And what about the other lead characters? It looks like closure for their storylines will be rushed or won’t happen at all seeing as how the last two episodes focused solely on the Wildwin will they/won’t they.
Floyd…poor Floyd…he has been dealt a bad hand since last season. He hasn’t had a solid storyline since season 3. This season was supposed to be about him reconnecting with his dad but that turned out to be him diagnosing his dad with a mental illness, forcefully committing him and then all of a sudden he isn’t seen again on the show. Now they are pushing Floyd into what can only be described as a cheap romance with a travel nurse, whose character they have spent no time developing at all. Do viewers even know her name? I certainly can’t remember it most days. There has been no development of this relationship on screen at all. In this episode, Floyd was about to have sex with her in his office until they were interrupted, and that is the most we have seen of them together since they introduced her character. Are viewers supposed to guess that they have already established the fundamentals of a relationship? Trust? Commitment? Love? Floyd deserved a better ending to his story. I truly hoped he would get at least that this season, but I should know better by now than to have any expectations for this show.
Then there is Iggy. There is no part of Iggy that makes me think he is an outdoorsman of any kind, but apparently he is since this is the second storyline that has him traipsing through the woods having epiphanies about his life. This time, he spent the episode in a hallucinogenic state after sustaining a head injury. He was met by a younger version of himself, who spent time giving Iggy a verbal lashing, with the theme being that Iggy needs to let things go so that he can move forward. Iggy came to the realization that he should sign the divorce papers, only to ask Martin to start dating again. There is no way that Martin should take Iggy back. He has shown no redemption since the cheating incident, and has definitely had no personal growth. In true New Amsterdam fashion, here lies a storyline that leaves viewers wondering, what was the point? What was the point of separating Iggy and Martin and having Martin present Iggy with divorce papers if they are just going to end up together in the end? It makes no sense whatsoever. Iggy has childhood trauma that led to disordered eating. None of that was ever truly resolved. Would it not have made sense to focus on resolving his trauma in the final season? That would have been a better way to close off his character arc, but I digress.
That leaves us with Lauren. I have no idea what the conclusion of her storyline arc will look like, since it has been all over the place this season. They brought her sister back and killed off her mother, perhaps as a way for Lauren to realize that she needs to focus on her sobriety. Having Lauren become a sponsor for another addict is a good step in terms of character growth, but there is so little time left, how will this lead to a happy ending for a woman who has endured trauma after trauma since last season?
A two-hour episode is all that remains of this dumpster fire and I for one could not be more relieved. It has been literally painful to watch a show that I once treasured, crash and burn to the ground. Hopefully the networks have paid attention to the downfall of New Amsterdam, and think twice before taking on any new shows by these show runners. The TV world would be a better place if we never heard from them again. I’d love to hear from the remaining viewers of the show- what are your thoughts on the episode? How have you felt about the downfall of this show? What are your hopes for the final episodes? Let me know your thoughts below and follow me on Twitter @miss_c_almeida.