“Happy Place” is much less jovial than it sounds, as the staff of New Amsterdam finally have to confront some real failures.
This New Amsterdam Episode 19 recap for the episode titled “Happy Place” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Things rarely go according to plan in New Amsterdam, but they usually turn out okay. “Happy Place” is what happens when they don’t; when it turns out that not every medical calamity can be cured with a musical montage. Of course, I’m an unapologetic enthusiast for the show’s flagrant emotional manipulation, and true to form “Happy Place” even manages to find a tearful silver lining in even the most tragic and bittersweet goodbyes, but even I must admit that it’s refreshing to see things take turns that aren’t too easy to move away from.
The major plot of the episode involved a car accident in which a presumed-drunk driver had hit a cop, Maria, but things are never that simple. The driver, Leo, wasn’t drunk; he had a stroke brought about by cancer, which is a bit of a revelation for Maria’s partner, who follows Leo around the hospital and hovers by his bedside, clearly thinking about killing him.
This intersects with a few concurrent bits and bobs. Max’s eternal struggle between his own health and hospital bureaucracy continues apace, as his new doctor is insisting he’s fed through a tube while a budget for the surgery department needs to be calculated. Floyd, being in charge of that particular department, needs to handle it, but he’s also the surgeon who needs to operate on Maria. Meanwhile, the history of Leo’s untreated malignant tumor is revealed to Helen; he was given a voucher from the VA that covered some of the costs, but he was expected to pay the rest out of his own pocket. And he couldn’t, obviously. A former Army Ranger is not the type to swallow his pride and ask for help, so here we are. Max obviously wants the hospital to foot the bill, but advocacy for veteran’s rights isn’t that simple. There’s nothing they can do.
Maria tragically dies on the operating table, under Floyd’s care, which affects him deeply. Him sobbing on the stairs is the kind of scene that New Amsterdam isn’t normally able to include since things usually turn out peachy, so it was sobering to see it, even if I’d rather not get used to it. Of course, the storyline doesn’t yield only tragedy. The hospital is flooded with the NYPD, who have rallied in support of their colleague, taking collections for Maria’s recovery. After she dies, and after everyone has stopped playing the blame game, the decision is made to use the collection to pay for Leo’s care.
Dr. Kapoor’s case in “Happy Place” involved a deaf woman learning to deal with her cochlear implants and coming to understand that she doesn’t really need or want them; it’s a moving storyline, this, touching on personal sacrifice for someone other than yourself, which isn’t always a smart or reasonable way to make decisions. With a little help from Iggy, who also spent time in this episode saying a very emotional goodbye to his long-time patient Jemma, who has realized she no longer needs him, the deaf lady and her partner are able to realize that they were both happier before the sacrifices they made. When the implants are removed, “Happy Place” smartly uses silence to let her happiness speak for itself.
With Max finally relenting to the necessity of his treatment and his relationship with Helen reaching a more stable, platonic status quo, it seems as though New Amsterdam is gearing itself up for a low-key ending that keeps the established dynamics more or less intact. But do we trust it to do that? I’m doubtful. A show that takes such delight in putting its audience through the emotional wringer can’t possibly let us off the hook that easily.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.