“Radical” gives Max another systemic issue to solve, while the show’s personal relationships become much more complicated.
This recap of New Amsterdam season 3, episode 10, “Radical”, contains spoilers.
There’s a rather unmistakable feeling of “Radical” being a checklist of buzzy liberal talking points. The historical oppression of Native Americans? Check. Polyamoury? Check. Body acceptance? Check. Lately, New Amsterdam is beginning to feel less like an evolving story and more like a rubric that the writers plug relevant social issues into each week.
Max is suffering the most. He has always fancied himself a noble crusader, but his harebrained schemes have worked in the past on a dramatic level because they were often small-scale and personal. Now, for something like the third week in a row, he’s trying to single-handedly tackle systemic racial oppression, this time of Native Americans, given voice by a woman who would rather die from a blood clot than be saved by an institution so deeply rooted in the disenfranchisement of her people. These storylines always play out the same way. Max recognizes the issue, attempts to solve it in the most ridiculous way possible — his first idea is just to change the hospital’s name — and then realizes that he needs to listen and feel guilty until a better, more feasible last-minute solution presents itself.
None of this is to say that these stories don’t have their moments — “Radical” put a lump in my throat with the payoff to this thread. But it’s so formulaic at this point that it’s difficult to really feel invested in the outcome. Max’s increasing willingness to make radical changes to the hospital’s policies and programs are supposed to represent an open-minded approach to caregiving that puts the power back in the hands of people who have historically had it wrested from them — if they ever had it in the first place. But the ease and regularity with which Max solves these issues give the impression that he has script-level superpowers. He’s less a character than a well-meaning idea.
When he’s allowed to be a character, he’s great. New Amsterdam season 3, episode 10 has a lovely conversation between Max and Helen on the hospital’s roof that is natural and affecting and almost leads to the kiss everyone has been waiting for. It doesn’t, of course, but it’s hard to imagine it isn’t right around the corner, however often these two insist that they’re better off as friends. The heart wants what the heart wants, after all.
Speaking of which, that’s very much the theme of Floyd’s subplot, which involves a man who has separated from his wife and is currently in a polyamorous relationship with three others, none of whom — including the wife — he can seem to decide between. It’s nice to see this kind of relationship depicted on network television, but “Radical”, contrary to its title, once again takes a self-defeatingly easy route by having everyone involved be very reasonable. There’s no real examination of the complexities and confusion of such a relationship and it includes easily the dumbest “aha!” moment of the entire episode when Floyd figures out the dude’s got parrot fever.
There’s a functional element to this, though, since Floyd’s been sharing some lingering looks with Lauren, and there’s definitely a suggestion here that he’s considering his history with her as well as his breakup with Evie. He’s trying to make a choice himself, and the option to have his cake and eat it, so to speak, isn’t really available to him. Another problem is that Lauren seems to have eyes for someone else.
Yes, New Amsterdam season 3, episode 10 delivers on Lauren and Leyla hooking up, which it has been teasing for weeks. “Radical” is actually bookended by scenes of them kissing. The first one is an impulsive thing, initiated by Leyla, mostly in the excitement of Lauren having facilitated her being able to practice medicine again. It isn’t brought back up until the end when Lauren returns home and finds Leyla packing her bags, ashamed of having — in her mind — chased Lauren out of her own home. But Lauren explains that her surprise wasn’t that Leyla kissed her, but that it felt normal to kiss her back. The second kiss, initiated by Lauren, is a rather compelling request for Leyla to stay put, which she obviously will.
Between this and Helen and Max, love is definitely in the air then. Other subplots feel a bit tokenistic. Helen gets Mina a job at New Amsterdam without considering that the proximity to so much death and pain will only exacerbate the loss of her father; Agnes fires her new hire, who she didn’t actually have the authority to hire in the first place; and Iggy inserts too many of his personal feelings into the matter of an overweight woman trying to get a gastric band against the wishes of her proudly overweight mother. Again, the issue of body acceptance is largely tokenistic here, designed to continue Iggy’s self-loathing arc, and after all that he’s mostly used to set up a cliffhanger ending in which he learns that Martin is working with a new client — Chance, who is posing as a veteran again. I suppose we’ll deal with that next week, along with whatever historical injustice Max feels like atoning for.