New Amsterdam season 3, episode 2 recap – “Essential Workers”

March 10, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

A familiar face returns in “Essential Workers”, a character-focused episode that improves over the premiere.

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3.5

Summary

A familiar face returns in “Essential Workers”, a character-focused episode that improves over the premiere.

This recap of New Amsterdam season 3, episode 2, “Essential Workers”, contains spoilers. 


The return of Floyd Reynolds after Max sent out the Bat-signal last week is undoubtedly the main hook of “Essential Workers”, but there’s much more going on besides that in what turns out to be an impressively character-focused episode that doesn’t take the easy way out of having a plane crash-land in the East River to occupy everyone’s attention. Themes of guilt and personal accountability are running rampant throughout the hospital, and the callbacks to previous episodes and storylines are plentiful. It’s a classic later-season installment, something that could only exist on the strength of a couple of years of careful character development and drama, and it’s stronger for how it pays off long-running storylines.

But, yeah, Floyd is back, and the episode even opens with him arriving at the hospital in a taxi just so we get lingering shots of NYC life so we can appreciate what he’s returning to. He’s given a visitor’s pass, admittedly, but he feels right at home here, and one expects that he’ll stick around, especially with a closing moment that finds him staring wistfully at the memorial board lamenting how he should have been here for the worst of the pandemic (it’s quickly established that he had a relatively easy time of it, whereas New Amsterdam, and Lauren in particular, were hit very hard.)

But Floyd’s back for a reason, which is to save Vijay’s life. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy. He can’t perform a miraculous operation, and his alternative measure doesn’t take. “Essential Workers” employs the usual rhythm of seemingly coming up with a solution only to pull the rug at the last minute, and it culminates in a scene in which I genuinely thought Vijay might pass away. Luckily, though, while he’s unconscious on the operating table, he sees a vision of his wife who tells him he needs his strength for his grandchild. Just like that, his eyes lumber open. He’s alive!

And it’s just as well, since Ella realizes in New Amsterdam season 3, episode 2 that she’s in labor, which is a problem since she has convinced herself that if she leaves the chair outside Vijay’s room he’ll die in surgery. But needs must. Her OCD makes her premature labor incredibly complex, and it’s Helen, of all people, who is on-hand to help her through it, in large part as a means of therapy while she continues to fret about her relationship woes with Cassian. Despite an epidural that doesn’t take and the fact that Ella has psychologically linked her ability to give birth with Vijay’s survival, she’s able to deliver a healthy baby. Fears that we’d gain one life and lose another turned out to be unfounded, but it was definitely touch-and-go for a while.

Elsewhere in “Essential Workers”, Lauren is alerted to the fact that Iggy is out on his feet, but it turns out not to be Covid, or flu as he claims, but the fact he’s starving himself. This is a powerful subplot, with Lauren being ideally positioned to help him through his eating disorder thanks to her own struggles with addiction. It also gives Iggy the chance to open up about his obsessive, abusive father, his middle school suicide attempt, and his horror that he might be projecting the same anxieties onto his own children as his father did onto him. It gets nasty, as such things tend to, but it works out well. Perhaps Iggy should see a therapist. He knows better than anyone how helpful that can be.

And then there’s Max. New Amsterdam season 3, episode 2 finally does something that the show is always reticent to do by holding him accountable for his harebrained idealist schemes. When an orderly is caught stealing oxy from the dispensary, he realizes that his insistence in previous seasons that New Amsterdam prescribes fewer opiates is actually doing more harm than good, but Karen is horrified at him denouncing the policy because it got the hospital a lot of good press. When Max has another of his ideas, holding a video call with patients who have been denied drugs they need and suggesting opening a special clinic for them, it doesn’t go down well. When he then decides to distribute the prescriptions using bike messengers, he’s arrested. By the time he has finally hit on the idea of marking the drugs with fluorescent fibers, eliminating the possibility that they can be lost in the wild, he has had a serious reality check. It’s probably about time.

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