“More Joy” finds New Amsterdam experiencing something of a new beginning. It’s much the same as it always has been, but some bold storytelling strokes suggest this season might be heading in a wildly different direction.
This recap of New Amsterdam season 4, episode 1, “More Joy”, contains spoilers.
It hasn’t been that long since we last saw New Amsterdam, but it feels like forever. I suppose that’s what happens when you spend three whole seasons building up a romance and then fade to black when it finally comes to fruition. The New Amsterdam Season 4 premiere, “More Joy”, starts with a sex scene, of all things, almost a celebratory one, just rewards for everyone who has spent the last few years waiting for Max and Helen to get naked and do the no-pants-dance. It’s a weird scene, part comedic, part sexy, part romantic. Just like that, though, it’s like the show never went away. This is the kind of drama that develops in increments, stretching its overarching storylines out for so long that you could mistake them for parts of your own life. It took so long for Max and Helen to finally get together that it only makes sense for the show to savour it.
New Amsterdam season 4, episode 1 recap
And then it skips ahead three weeks to what feels like a new beginning for everyone. Max is beaming. Iggy, now in charge of the entire psychiatry ward, gives the “first day” speech to the team who’ll help him to “heal souls”, all of whom are squeezed behind desks made for children. Lauren gives a similar speech to the ED newbies, though admittedly she’s a bit less grandiose about it, but she does announce outright that Leyla, one of her new residents, is her girlfriend. Surely there are some kind of workplace guidelines about this sort of thing? No matter. Oh, and then there’s Floyd, whose scenario doesn’t feel like a promising fresh start — he’s now working under Dr. Baptiste, the husband of the woman he has been carrying on a bit of an extracurricular romance with, and who now wants to give him advice about trying to make it work with the woman he’s obviously pining for. If only he knew!
Max, in his usual way, talks openly about new beginnings, about refocusing and reconsidering and finding joy. Easier said than done in a hospital, though, the alarms of which promptly start blaring to announce that the entire building is on fire. Just like that, the sunny new beginnings are clouded. Max’s flashbacks to being in bed with Helen have a different tone; her, stony-faced, responding to his romantic babbling by saying she should never have let him in. Max, in the present day, stood in a burned-out husk of a room, being told that there are traces of accelerant, multiple points of origin, and that whoever started the fire knew the layout and to avoid the security cameras. You see what I mean about this show feeling that it never really went away? Perhaps it feels like that since these people never seem to get a day off.
A day off, by the way, is what Max, in flashback, advises Helen to take when she explains to him that she wants to go home for good, her recent trip back to England having evidently woken up something inside her that she isn’t interested in packing back away. Since the writers of this show seem adamant that we can’t have nice things, Lauren also begins sabotaging her own relationship by blatantly playing favorites with Leyla, much to her annoyance and that of the other residents. And don’t even get me started on Floyd, who just can’t seem to decide between lusty Lyn Malvo and a job that’s actually worthy of his talents and experience, even if it does mean looking her husband in the eyes every day.
The good news about Helen’s apparent departure — she’s nowhere to be seen in the present day stuff — is that Max needs to replace her, and the main applicant is Dr. Wilder (Sandra Mae Frank), an extremely beautiful and instantly compelling deaf surgeon who is obviously overqualified for even a position as lofty as Helen’s. Iggy, meanwhile, meets with an old pyromaniac patient who is currently incarcerated in the hopes of building a psychological profile of the hospital arsonist; she makes a series of frankly implausible deductions based on some photos of the scene — a male of European descent using a homemade accelerant — and an obviously ill-advised request to visit the scene in person, which you just know is a terrible idea for everyone and will no doubt be granted anyway since that’s just what network dramas do, you know?
The beauty of New Amsterdam season 4, episode 1 is that among all this carnage it still manages to find slivers of hope and warmth, and not the kind caused by another explosion going off in the hospital. In another flashback, Max tries to talk Helen into agreeing to a long-distance relationship with such a believable, earnest sense of desperation that both she and the audience can’t help but be charmed by his efforts. Dr. Wilder, barely even employed at this point, immediately starts to take post-blast responsibilities into her own hands. Even Floyd and Lyn share a tender scene that makes their relationship seem halfway believable.
And then we cut back to Iggy and things just get silly and overblown. It’s the show’s usual MO, after all, oscillating between achingly sincere and too ridiculous to be believed. It’s the same thing when Leyla confronts Lauren about her obvious favoritism and it almost immediately leads to Lauren deducing what is wrong with her patient, a former basketball player named Brandon Dover who came in with gout, was medicated, and then almost died. There are always too many coincidences in episodes of New Amsterdam. Increasingly there’s a thread of topicality, too. While “More Joy” thankfully doesn’t succumb to the kind of hapless posturing that the worst episodes of the previous season did, it still can’t help but have Covid be the link between the arson attacks. A disgruntled janitor who Max passingly asked to make one of the former Covid units a bit sunnier is to blame. His wife died in one of those units, and, thanks to regulations and protocol, he wasn’t even allowed inside to say goodbye to her. Now he wants to torch those graveyards to the ground, but he hasn’t realized that one of them has returned to its original purpose as the hospital’s daycare facility, where Luna is.
New Amsterdam season 4 premiere – ending explained
This guy is taken in without any fuss or further destruction. Iggy explains to his staff that there will always be some patients who consume them, who terrify them, who ruin their family dinners and first dates, and that healing souls comes with a hefty price tag. But when he asks for volunteers to work with the friendly neighborhood pyromaniac, Mary W., every single one of them puts up their hands. Lauren, meanwhile, figures out that Brandon is dyslexic, which is why he messed up his medicine dosage, and gives Leyla a telling off in front of the entire ED. Floyd swaps his surgery music from Bill Withers to Cam’Ron, which Dr. Baptiste immediately intuits as him celebrating his love life being on the mend. Dr. Wilder happily explains that, while she would love to work at New Amsterdam, she couldn’t possible replace Helen, and advises Max not to let her go.
But that, fittingly, leads to a bit of a curveball to cap New Amsterdam season 4, episode 1 off. When Helen finally meets Max at their usual spot on the hospital’s roof, Dr. Wilder’s advice is rattling around his head. What he has realized is that, like the title of the episode, what he needs is more joy. And Helen is that joy. So, far from having found a replacement for her, he has found a replacement for him. He’ll be going to England with her. But what kind of show will he be leaving behind?