“The Denominator” explored maligned communities and how a desire to do the right thing alone isn’t enough to get rid of cultural and bureaucratic obstacles
This recap of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 4, “The Denominator”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When was the last time you went to the doctor? That’s a question that comes up in New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 4, and it’s one many people would have trouble answering. To Max (Ryan Eggold), it’s a clear problem with an obvious solution. But to the residents of a predominantly black neighborhood whom he expects to simply trust him on face value, his plan to set up clinics in barbershops is ludicrous. He’s an outsider with no real perspective on why someone might be afraid to visit a hospital for a check-up. Like last week’s episode did with Todd, who insisted that Max wasn’t one of the regular people he’s so intent on helping, “The Denominator” also goes out of its way to remind him that just wanting to do the right thing isn’t enough. He has to understand the problem he’s diagnosing first.
It takes a conversation with Floyd (Jocko Sims) to open Max’s eyes to the fact that black Americans aren’t likely to welcome a strange white man into a community he doesn’t belong to. We know Max is sincere because we’ve enjoyed a full season of his weaponized altruism, but these people don’t. To them, his desire to help is deeply suspicious. His earnest desire for community isn’t common beyond the walls of New Amsterdam, which is stocked almost entirely with likeminded do-the-right-thing types who share Max’s utopic liberal ideals. “The Denominator” was a reality check. And the solution was Max realizing he had to hand responsibility for the health of this community over to the people of that community.
The other subplot of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 4 dealt with a community, too — an underprivileged one that had been contaminated by lead-based paint blasted from an old bridge during a neighborhood spruce-up. As city bureaucracy is liable to do, the aesthetic considerations of those driving over or under the bridge were deemed more important than the health of those living in its general vicinity. Thus, the whole neighborhood had been poisoned, so Iggy (Tyler Labine) and Vijay (Anupam Kher) had to turn up dressed like Holmes and Watson to do some tests and accumulate enough evidence to threaten the right people with. It was a very wholesome storyline, really.
Less wholesome was Helen’s (Freema Agyeman) continuing rivalry with Dr. Castro (Ana Villafañe), which resulted in Helen putting her career and one assumes the hospital itself in jeopardy by giving an elderly patient the very unsubtle offer of euthanasia rather than continue to be Castro’s guinea pig for experimental drug trials. Nothing much came of this in “The Denominator”, though one can’t help but imagine it’ll resurface in much the same way that Iggy hugging that one kid nearly cost him his job last season. You can understand why Helen did it — Castro is just awful — but presenting bottles of pills to patients and then leaving the room probably isn’t the best way of her getting the point across.
More on-going issues include Ella (Dierdre Friel) potentially getting rid of Vijay’s grandchild, Iggy adopting another kid even though he clearly only suggested it because he was in a good mood, and Lauren (Janet Montgomery) having to find a new way of managing her pain without a physical therapist to ride between patients. I wonder what she’ll come up with next?
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.