The fall finale of New Amsterdam left us with the usual gut-punch, with “As Long as it Takes” delivering a typically emotional hour and an unexpected cliffhanger.
This recap of New Amsterdam Episode 9, “As Long as It Takes”, contains spoilers.
Wednesday mornings are for plotting the downfall of my many enemies, and also crying at New Amsterdam. Luckily I’m free from the emotional perils of NBC’s medical drama, at least until early next year, since “As Long as It Takes” was the fall finale. We won’t be readmitted for a while. And in the meantime, we get to wonder if Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) is dead.
He isn’t, obviously. The show is scheduled for 22 episodes and pretty much revolves around him, so it wouldn’t make much sense for him to die clutching his throat on a lonely dock in the middle of nowhere – picturesque though the scene might have been. But we can pretend, right? What’s the point in the show bending over backwards to traumatise us each week if we’re not going to at least play along?
What was smart about “As Long As It Takes” is how it masqueraded as a pretty typical hour of New Amsterdam for almost the entire duration. Of course, typical for this show is still deeply upsetting and flagrantly manipulative, but you expect that. This week, a woman was in desperate need of a heart transplant, and it just so happened that the one she already had once belonged to Max’s late sister. Was there a scene in which Max tearfully listened to it beating in the woman’s chest so he could be sure that the spirit of his sibling was just as doggedly tenacious as his own? Absolutely!
But it’s beside the point. Max’s on-going story isn’t that he’s a cartoonishly altruistic do-gooder, it’s that he’s dying of cancer and in his rush to save every life he comes into contact with he’s failing to save his own. It was only a matter of time before the issues he was trying to outrun eventually caught up with him, and in “As Long As It Takes”, they did. Scattering his sister’s ashes into the lake where he skimmed stones as a child, he collapsed. And while he almost certainly isn’t dead, that is, again, beside the point. New Amsterdam usually has something to say, even when it just appears to tugging of whatever heartstrings will twang the loudest. And in this case it’s saying that to help others, you have to be brave enough to help yourself when the time comes.
Elsewhere, Iggy (Tyler Labine) found himself in the show’s most of-the-moment subplot thus far, as he negotiated with a young transgender patient about potentially waiting a while before undergoing significant surgery. His point was that the kid was still growing and developing and had only just started taking hormone blockers, so a period of time was necessary to determine which surgery would be most suitable for him in the long-term. To the kid, who was something of a social media celebrity, this meant that Iggy was horribly transphobic, which he promptly declared to his thousands of supportive followers.
The point here, made rather well, was that social media is a weird self-affirming microcosm that distorts reality and confers an outsized sense of entitlement on people who surround themselves with the likeminded – particularly (though not exclusively) if they’re marginalised. The kid wanted the surgery immediately, and believed that because Iggy was cisgender, he wasn’t in a position to make him wait for it. Because his followers agreed with him, medical realities ceased to exist. Iggy was immediately mischaracterised as a bigot. There could be no other explanation.
Needless to say, there was another explanation. And it took Iggy’s usual patience and open-mindedness to reveal it, even though it was fairly obvious in the first place. When a significant portion of your life is lived for the benefit of others, even if they’re anonymous avatars on a social platform, the weight of their expectations becomes difficult to carry. It becomes easier to blame and vilify than to accept that sometimes you cannot get everything you want in quite the way you want it – even if you feel you deserve it. On some level the kid, Shay, knew this, which is why he didn’t know quite why he responded the way he did. But Iggy knew, and sometimes all it takes it just one person to understand.
On some level, that’s what New Amsterdam is about – understanding. Not just understanding why people do the things they do, but understanding what it takes to help those people when they’re not in a position to help themselves. Max’s catchphrase is no accident. And that’s why it’s important to believe, just for a moment, that he might be in a worse state that he probably is. By coming so close to his mortality, he’s going to learn that he needs just as much help as any of us.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.