It’s something you can’t contest — New Amsterdam Season 3 has no qualms about tackling all sorts of issues without apology, and it isn’t pulling any punches.
The series is taking some big swings, and New Amsterdam Season 3 Episode 6 dedicated most of the hour to exploring systemic racism and discrimination.
It also had Helen making some life-changing and surprising choices.
I have to give New Amsterdam credit where it’s due; the series wasn’t afraid to showcase Max’s flaws and put them on full display. They even went as far as to challenge the foundation they laid out for Max while convincing us that he’s the greatest man.
And it’s not to say that he’s an awful person. Obviously, he isn’t. But despite Max’s idealism and ambition, there are many things that he doesn’t get at all.
A common criticism for his character is how he’s the White guy who thinks he has a fix for everything. He doesn’t just have a Savior Complex, but he has a White Savior one, and as well-meaning as he is, there are so many cases where he’s out of his depth.
Instead of the hour trying to convince us that he’s “Woke” and with it and that his efforts are laudable, it doubled down on all of Max’s “Maxness.”
He woke up that morning and decided he wanted to end systemic racism, as if it’s this novel concept, and he’s the first person to think of it. However, he didn’t have any concrete plans to “fix” or “cure” racism.
And every last call he made was more cringy than the previous one. He thought enlisting Helen’s help and somehow charging a woman on the receiving end of systemic racism and sexism with the task of implementing fixes was a wise idea.
Do you not see the irony of asking someone who suffers from systemic racism to fix it?
In Max’s mind, it’s a matter of him trusting Helen with everything. She’s often someone who indulges him, and he can rely on her for all of his needs, but there’s no way he should’ve thought placing the burden of fixing something that Helen is already experiencing was a wise idea.
Karen wasn’t even trying to hear his latest hare-brained idea, and you can’t fault the woman, despite him jumping on the chance to make a Karen joke.
She did direct him to a delightful new addition, Isobel. And the Max dragging commenced. Isobel has been at New Amsterdam for years, and she’s spent Max’s entire time there emailing him about all of her suggestions and changes.
As an equity officer, he didn’t have any use for her until he knew the problem. She didn’t hesitate to point out that if he was deadset on fixing systemic racism at the hospital, he first needed to look in the mirror.
Max: For the first time since I got here, I have absolutely no idea what to do for the people of this hospital.
Isobel: You’re not supposed to do things for people. You do things with people, that’s what starts a movement.
Despite Isobel giving him that advice right at the top of the hour, Max still proceeded to partake in the most performative acts of anti-racism that he could think of as if he could fix the issue in one day.
And he kept looking outside of himself for all of these answers. Tearing all of the pictures of the doctors from New Amsterdam’s past did nothing. Sure, the wall only honored old white guys from the past, but erasing New Amsterdam’s racist history does nothing for the present discrimination.
Painting Black Lives Matter in the hallway was as empty a gesture as anything. Floyd couldn’t even take him seriously, aside from his annoyance that he slipped and fell on the paint.
Who cared about paint on the floor when there were more important issues like the fact that the staff members of color, including the doctors, got paid less than their white counterparts.
Of course, Max’s solution for that was gathering the white doctors together and requesting that they cut their earnings to pay their colleagues a fair wage, and none of them were game for that.
They didn’t want to feel punished for making more, and they didn’t want to feel as if they were giving someone reparations for something they had no parts in enacting.
Casey stole the scene with his comment about the secret white doctor meetings. Once again, Max’s attempt to fix racism came across as racist on the outside looking in.
It also prompted Lauren to bring up a complaint about how women aren’t getting paid as much as males either. It was such a Lauren thing to say, and the timing of it was odd.
Traditionally, the lesser discussed facts about anti-discrimination attempts, such as that affirmative action traditionally benefited white women the most, suggest that racism still never gets fixed.
Max wanted to address that Floyd, their top neurosurgeon, gets paid less than his white counterparts, including Lauren.
Max brought all the top-earning doctors into a room, which still included four or five women, and Lauren’s response to the racism was to point out that the women are suffering too, thus distracting from the initial issue.
Her getting paid less than the males still puts her above people of color of all genders. The women of color are still getting paid less than her and ALL of their male counterparts. Lauren’s White Feminist moment on the heels of Max’s White Savior one was laughably bad.
I knew there were secret White doctor meetings.
And then, Max circled back around to trying to fix racism by giving more women of color positions in power, which he felt meant handing over this taxing position of Medical Director to Helen as if that isn’t more work on her plate.
Helen dragging Max from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet was beyond satisfying, and she told him everything he needed to hear. He had to get his head out of his ass and stop treating discrimination as if it’s something he’s exempt from and can fix in a day.
She summed up everything wrong about Max’s approaches, however well-intended he is, and it was a notable moment for the series.
Listening was a huge step. The montage of a diverse group of staff members and patients giving brutally honest statements about the discrimination they endure and their grievances was mostly great.
What started as a conversation about systemic racism shifted to all forms of discrimination. Truthfully, there’s good and bad in redirecting a specific discussion about racism to broader discrimination.
On the one hand, all of it deserved recognition. On the other, shifting conversations and lumping everything together is often an issue in and of itself and can be a different type of disservice and form of erasure.
But Max listened to everyone, and it’s funny that a man who makes it his mission to ask “how can I help” never considered that right out the gate.
I loved that we got to revisit many of the background characters, who could have an entire sideshow of their own. And Nurse Brunstetter is OK!
Floyd: How about the fact that Black doctors get paid 35% less than White doctors too.
Max: Not here?
Floyd: Yeah, here.
Max: Even you?
Floyd: Even me.
Isobel is the MVP, though. She set up an office beside Max, and maybe this means we’ll see more of her as the hospital and Max takes active measures in solving things bit by bit.
Isobel came in with advice as sage as Helen’s when she reminded him that it’s a good thing that he doesn’t know what to do, and he should work alongside and with people.
It feels as if she’ll step in as someone who keeps Max honest as the distance between Max and Helen grows.
Max was spilling his guts to Helen about how everything is better and easier when she’s beside him, and it’s another reminder of how much he leans on her.
Helen and Max’s relationship always goes back to this place where he NEEDS her and doesn’t know how to function without her. Except Helen has taken measures to put some boundaries up.
Work was the one thing they had going for them, and now, that’ll change too.
Helen stepped down from her position as Deputy Medical Director to take care of her niece, Meena. She also ended her relationship with Cassian to focus on raising the teen.
Helen is making some decisions for herself, and in some ways, I applaud her for focusing on her family and not feeling obligated to make Max happy.
I’d argue it was a time when she felt compelled to bend over backward for Max. She couldn’t help herself, but she’s learning to put her needs first.
You’re not going to fix this because, and I can’t believe I have to say this but, systemic racism is not about you. You want answers? Then just hold still, be quiet, and really listen to the people you say you want to help. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not going to be a quick fix. And if you can’t handle that than you’re not an ally at all. You’re just another semi-woke white liberal with a white savior complex.
However, it’s odd that she’s making so many changes in her life to accommodate her niece. She says that Meena needs her complete attention and devotion, and I worry that Helen is willing to put herself and her happiness on the back burner to play self-sacrificing aunt/mom to a teenager.
Meena isn’t a child. Why did Helen need to break up with Cassian to focus on Meena? He offered to help her and support her. Helen doesn’t have to do everything on her own.
It’s a storyline that could be gratifying and beautiful or somewhat tragic, with Helen alienating herself from friendships and support systems. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
Both of the cases of the hour were entertaining.
Superman was precious, and all he wanted to do was make a difference. He got on Lauren’s nerves at first, but during a time when we’ve all felt helpless, it’s admirable that Murph wanted to do good and take matters into his hands.
It was devastating when he was declared brain dead, but he was able to do good. As an organ donor, his final act saved lives.
And in an unexpected turn of events, Iggy’s sociopathic young patient, Juliet, is capable of caring about someone else.
Like Iggy, I instantly assumed the worse and figured she was the one who hurt Louisa. She already had a history of harming her brother, so it wasn’t a stretch.
And it made me wonder why Juliet was allowed to socialize with other kids with limited supervision.
Emma M. Hong is an exceptional young actress. The girl gives me chills, and she plays the hell out of her part.
She and Freema delivered the most incredible performances of the hour.
Shockingly, Juliet didn’t hurt Louisa. Instead, she told Louisa how to hurt the boy who was harassing her. While it’s inadvisable to encourage violence, and it’s still disturbing that Juliet has no qualms about inflicting it or telling others how to, her caring about Louisa is a good sign.
And hell, even if most of us wouldn’t actively hurt someone harassing our friends, it’s perfectly normal to want to, so Juliet’s attachment to Louisa may be the closest she’s come to behaving like the average person.
Over to you, ‘Dam Fanatics. Are you shocked by Helen’s decision to break up with Shin, step down from DMD, and take in her niece? Should Isobel stick around?
Hit the comments below.
You can watch New Amsterdam online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.