New Amsterdam continues to be a charming, energetic medical drama, and in “Rituals” it had some smart and moving things to say.
The clock was ticking for everyone in New Amsterdam hospital during “Rituals”, most especially Max, who has two big problems. The first is that there’s only so long he can zoom around throwing money at people’s problems and firing half the staff before the higher-ups find out what he’s up to. The second is that he has cancer, and a pregnant wife he hasn’t told about it yet.
But he has other things on his mind. An aid worker was caught in a mudslide that caused her so much stress that her heart basically detached – “Broken Heart Syndrome”, this condition is apparently called, and she can’t be moved to surgery without going into cardiac arrest. She’s in the care of Dr. Floyd Reynolds, but she’s also in the care of a traditionalist family who’d like to conduct an age-old ritual to help save her. The doctor is understandably sceptical. He doesn’t want anyone other than him cutting his patient open – least of all when they intend to rub dirt in the wound. But Max seems all for it, and since New Amsterdam must always bend over backwards to prove Max correct in all his endeavours, Dr. Reynolds eventually relents, watching through the window.
The point of this storyline isn’t to suggest that wacky local healing customs actually work – it’s to suggest that people believe they work, and sometimes that’s enough. This point is hammered home by Dr. Lauren Bloom, who astutely points out while Floyd is scrubbing up for surgery that he has his own superstitions and rituals. Whether or not you believe they have a meaningful impact doesn’t really matter; it’s about respect for other peoples’ beliefs and allowing them their small comforts, even if they do make a mess of the floor.
Elsewhere in New Amsterdam, Dr. Iggy Frome was working with a chubby bed-wetter who had been pumped so full of medication that neither he nor Dr. Vijay Kapoor could work out what was actually wrong with him – a powerful and all-too-relevant storyline in a time when more children than ever are on heavy medications with potential long-term side-effects. Frome and Kapoor would like to take him off those medications completely – they’re causing his diabetes, insomnia and bed-wetting – so that they can work to diagnose and heal his underlying psychological issues, but thanks to a violent outburst at school, the kid’s considered a danger and won’t be allowed back unless he’s drugged up.
This is debated in New Amsterdam’s built-in court, where “Rituals” makes a relatively convincing case for both sides of the argument; the idealistic doctors on the one hand, and on the other a woman who is responsible for the safety of thousands of children, many of whom are afflicted by mental health conditions that there simply aren’t enough medical health professionals to deal with.
The resolution might be a bit predictably idealistic, but no matter. “Rituals” is still able to wring some real emotion out of it in the tearjerking montage ending, especially in how it relates to Dr. Kapoor having been dishonest about his own children. New Amsterdam continues to gradually round out its cast beyond their obvious quirks, and the relatively small group of core characters are fine companions in a fine show.