An uncharacteristically downbeat episode, “Preventable” ruminates on the general unfairness of life, death, and everything in-between.
This New Amsterdam Episode 20 recap for the episode titled “Preventable” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Cleverly, after almost a full season of implausibly uplifting medical miracles, New Amsterdam has suddenly decided to reinvent itself as the most ruthlessly miserable show on television. What’s refreshing about this — aside from how it rightfully tortures the telly-watching masses, a fate I’m sure they deserve — is that it repurposes everything that was most artificial and unconvincing about the show in the first place. For instance, Max Goodwin’s relentless pursuit of medical truth was once the charming quirk of an altruistic do-gooder determined to save all of God’s glittery children; now the same thing is the neurotic flailing of a man terrified of his own impending death. Fun!
That’s the big reveal of “Preventable”, which I suppose is an ironic title. Max’s cancer isn’t responding to chemotherapy or radiation. In honor of this, he has allowed his beard to become even more unruly, increasingly redolent of Old Testament ferocity, donned a beanie to obscure his escalating hair loss, and is prowling the corridors of New Amsterdam being aggressive and belligerent to everyone he encounters, with particular ire reserved for Helen, whose perceived abandonment of him was the beginning of his downward spiral, and Floyd, whose copper patient last week died in circumstances that are bound to be investigated further by the higher-ups of the NYPD.
Elsewhere in tragic happenings, Iggy’s troubled teenage patient Avi is due to be moved from New York to Missouri with his supposedly life-ruining mother, midway through therapy that Iggy believes isn’t complete. And there’s evidence to support that theory; once Avi learns the news, he starts setting things on fire. His obvious irrationality is nonetheless completely disregarded by his social worker, who for some reason decides to conduct a personal crusade against Iggy, opening an investigation into his conduct after he gives Avi a goodbye hug. This, to me at least, seems like a rather ludicrous way of ensuring another fan-favorite character has some end-of-season uncertainty around their fate, but perhaps it’s really just a subtle commentary on the cold hands-off care to which the American healthcare system subjects its vulnerable youth.
The mandatory lighthearted subplot of “Prevention” was once again handed off to Dr. Kapoor, although even that took a turn for the worrying. After discovering — thanks to Helen — that his new sleep study patient has been leaving atrocious one-star reviews on New Amsterdam’s Yelp page, Vijay puts her up in the hospital’s luxury presidential suite, where it was eventually determined that her discomfort wasn’t being caused by insufferable self-importance but a genuinely life-threatening medical condition. Vijay is able to save her with risky brain surgery, which one can hope will feature in the next review.
Thematically, then, “Prevention” was pretty explicitly about the arbitrariness and general unfairness of life, death, and everything in-between. Max took out the bulk of his frustrations on Floyd because he couldn’t accept that a person could simply die for no reason, despite everyone’s best efforts; him realizing thanks to Floyd that they actually can is partly what helps him to accept his own fate, agreeing to an experimental double-dosage treatment rather than risk his life even further by continuing to deny reality. And Iggy, doing his best in a situation beyond his control, learned that some people are just awful for no good reason. An important lesson, I’m sure you’ll agree.