“Pilot” (Episode 101)
September 25, 2018
New Amsterdam is the Fall show you didn’t know you needed in your life. When I first saw a trailer for New Amsterdam, I thought, “this looks interesting, but it’s another medical drama. Do I really need that in my life?” The answer was, yes. This will be the show that keeps me begging for more and leaves me satisfied at the end of each episode.
I grew up watching ER with my family and Grey’s Anatomy has easily gotten me through the last 14 years. I didn’t think I needed another medical show in my weekly lineup, but New Amsterdam is so refreshing, it’s like a breath of fresh air. From the very beginning, I found myself cheering on the characters and sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what happens next.
Dr. Max Goodwin’s (Ryan Eggold, Blacklist) simple statement, “How can I help you?” resonates throughout the entire episode. You can already feel that it’s the mantra, the heartbeat of the series. In a broken medical system, Dr. Goodwin tries to reinvent the wheel; only time will tell if he will succeed. In the meantime, audiences will root for the new Medical Director and the doctors ready to turn the system upside down.
The Pilot opens with Dr. Goodwin getting ready for his day. Beautiful shots of New York City are intermingled with staging shots for the episode as he jogs his way to a hospital, New Amsterdam (more on the hospital in a moment). We see a young boy walking out of the airport with two big bags in his hands, the state of his clothes and bewilderment suggests this is his first time in America. Another scene captures an ambulance leaving the secured gates of a prison. I also loved the shots of several dignitaries throwing up their guts outside a building, the cause as we would find out, being carbon monoxide poisoning.
When Dr. Goodwin makes it to the hospital he finds the nearest locker room, which happens to be the nurses’ and janitors’ changing room. As the staff discuss in Spanish, and take bets on, how long the new Medical Director will last, Goodwin is seen in the foreground quietly getting ready for his shift and presumably his first day. He is quickly outed as the new Medical Director when a hospital liaison locates him. Looking back at the staff that was just talking about him, he smiles, and responds to them in Spanish. He assures them he is on their side and even pulls out a $20 bill to bet on himself in the pool.
We cut to Dr. Laura Bloom (Janet Montgomery, Made in Jersey) walking into the hospital Emergency Department, past a patient being brought in with evident rigor mortis. Just as they are about to put a sheet over her, Dr. Bloom calls for a resuscitation team. She is adamant that this very dead person is not dead at all and her quest to save her life begins.
As Dr. Goodwin is walked through the hospital, Dora, the liaison informs him of the rich history of New Amsterdam. It was the first public hospital in the country and contains a public school, prison ward, and facilities for the UN. They performed the world’s first C-section and also had the world’s first maternity ward. Every patient is welcomed, and insurance is not required to be seen. With this wealth of information, it makes you excited for all the possibilities for storylines in future episodes. Dora then drops the bomb that they’ve had 5 medical directors in the last 5 years. This is going to add some great tension for this season. Will Max be able to handle the pressure?
One of my favorite scenes is the introduction of Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman, Doctor Who and Torchwood) as she strolls through the hospital lobby. With her designer clothes and high heels, she is the sharp contrast of Dr. Goodwin who has been in scrubs since he entered the hospital. She is jet setting to tape TV interviews and speak at various medical conferences. As she leaves, she informs him she’ll be back next week, and they will have lunch at the Tavern, her treat. The proceeding interaction made me fall in love with both doctors at the same time.
Dr. Goodwin: “Unlike the previous medical director, I actually expect you to practice medicine at this hospital because, I don’t know, it’s your job.”
Dr. Sharpe: “You’re funny.”
Dr Goodwin: “You said that”
Dr. Sharpe: “I’ll tell you what. I’ll continue giving speeches all over the world because you can’t afford the kind of publicity I give this hospital. And I’ll continue my on-air appearances with Ellen, Oprah, and anyone else powerful enough to go by one name because someone has to remind New York that even though New Amsterdam is an underfunded public hospital, we can still go toe to toe with the privates from basic care to state of the art procedures. I will be back next week, we will lunch at the Tavern, my treat.”
As Dr. Sharpe turns and walks out the door, Dr. Goodwin turns to Dora and simply states, “I like her. If she comes back, let’s keep her.”
Dr. Goodwin then picks up his phone to make a phone call to, who we later learn is his wife, Georgia (Lisa O’Hare, Castle) who stopped her dance rehearsal to answer his call. We soon learn there is a divide in their relationship. We can infer that Max might devote more time to his job than to his relationship with her and, as if to prove the point, he must end the call to return to hospital duties.
Those hospital duties include introducing himself to the staff of the hospital. Dr. Goodwin enters a room full of doctors and what happens in the next five minutes will set the tone for the series. The meeting starts with Dr. Goodwin telling the doctors that both him and his sister, Luna, were born at New Amsterdam and that his sister died there 8 years later from a hospital acquired infection. He explained that having an opportunity to save someone else’s sister, or daughter, and working at New Amsterdam, is a dream come true. We then hear his mantra for the first time, “How can I help?”
When no one responds he decides to shake things up by firing the entire cardiac surgical department for focusing more on billing than patient care and for inflating their charges. He then advises the remaining doctors that he will hire 50 new attendings to help the department heads. More people exit the room at that statement. Once more he asks, “How can I help?” and finally he starts getting responses. Dr. Bloom wants to get rid of the ED waiting room and move patients straight to beds. And Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) would like healthy food available in the hospital. Max says yes to both.
He then ends the meeting by putting a fire under the feet of the doctors.
“You know we all feel like the system is too big to change, but guess what, we are the system and we need to change. So just tell me what you need, what your patients need and I don’t care if it’s not covered. I don’t care if the board said no. Let’s get into trouble. Let’s be doctors…again.”
After dismissing the doctors, Max asks Dr. Bloom to perform a throat biopsy on a patient, that patient being himself. If only he could stay still during his biopsy but he is busy thinking about the rest of the day. It’s during this biopsy that Dr. Bloom sticks up for Dr. Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims, The Last Ship), a cardiac surgeon, who was a part of the mass firing by Dr. Goodwin.
Jemma’s Story. We now get to start to see the patient stories unfold. Throughout the Pilot, they focus on three main patient storylines. We first see the story development of young girl, Jemma (Lizzy DeClement), demanding to see Dr. Frome in the psychiatric department. Without knowing her story, you can tell that Dr. Frome is one of the few people she trusts in this world.
A short time later we learn that Jemma has been abused in the foster system for most of her life. Dr. Frome’s approach to her care is to suggest she be committed to the psychiatric ward until she turns 18 instead of letting her return to the system that allowed her abuse.
When leaving her classroom, she is informed that pens and pencils are not allowed outside of the classroom. Jemma responds with the fact that it is attached to her journal. The teacher advised Jemma that she would have to give up her journal for the time being. Jemma loses it, as the journal is hers and she doesn’t want anyone to take it away.
During a meeting with Dr. Goodwin and Dr. Frome, Jemma is asked what she wants to do, stay at New Amsterdam or return to the foster system? Jemma doesn’t want to stay at New Amsterdam but feels like she never has a say in decisions regarding her life, so they might as well choose for her. She leaves her journal behind with them because it doesn’t really matter what she wants.
Dr. Frome feels stuck with how to treat her. His job is to return patients back to baseline and put them back into the system. Dr. Goodwin advises him that if he can’t help her as a doctor, that he could help her as a human being. This scene broke my heart because there are thousands of children in our country going through this exact same scenario. They are simply cogs in the system and they never come out as winners.
Dr. Frome sets off on a mission to find Jemma a loving home. With her journal as a key, he locates Blanca (Nathalie Carvalho), the daughter of a former foster mom of Jemma. He advises her that her mom was the only home that Jemma felt safe and loved in. Blanca informs him that she was estranged from her mother and that she didn’t know that her mother took in foster kids. She advises him that she couldn’t be Jemma’s foster parent. Dr. Frome decided to leave Jemma’s journal with Blanca so she could see that her mom gave Jemma all the love that she couldn’t give her.
At the end of the episode, Blanca goes to New Amsterdam to talk to Jemma and see if things might work out between the two of them. It looks to be a promising ending to a sad story and as much as it gives you all the right feels, you can’t help but realize this is television and not how most of the foster kids stories turn out.
Never one to leave things alone, Dr. Goodwin, with Dr. Bloom’s words in his head, walks into Dr. Reynolds’s office as Reynolds is packing it up . Goodwin had read through his files and discovered that Dr. Reynolds had the lowest billing rates of the entire department and performed half as many procedures as his colleagues. Dr. Reynolds retorts that his patients didn’t always need surgery and that there are other ways to treat patients besides opening them up. It’s this revelation that confirms what Dr. Goodwin already suspected, that Reynolds is a good doctor who has the patient’s interest at heart. Dr. Goodwin offers Reynolds the job of running the Cardiac Surgical department and to build a team of doctors that put the patients first.
About halfway through the Pilot, Dr. Bloom and Dr. Reynolds have a meaningful scene together as they discuss their current relationship and previous romantic encounters. Dr. Reynolds had been avoiding Dr. Bloom for most of the day and is obviously trying to get his space from her without telling her why. He finally caves in and informs Dr. Bloom that he can’t be with her because she isn’t black. He always pictured himself with a black wife and felt that he needed to find himself a wife of his same race because too many other black men have married white women.
At one point during the episode, Dr. Goodwin was walking through a hallway, and comes across an Ambassador who is up in arms about not being discharged from the hospital. Using his best negotiating skills, and perhaps a few white lies, Dr. Goodwin convinces the Ambassador to stay and earns the respect of a fellow Ambassador from Mexico for his excellent negotiating skills.
Dr. Sharpe is back in the picture when her driver brings her back to New Amsterdam to meet a waiting Dr. Goodwin. Dr. Goodwin advises her that she is a good doctor and he wants her back at the hospital treating patients. He advises her that if she wants to keep her job that she needs to return to New Amsterdam in 48 hours.
Patricia’s Story. As it has become apparent throughout the first half of the Pilot, Dr. Goodwin is always on the run and is off to meet the patient, Patricia (Rose Bianco Syzmanski), who was brought into the ER, apparently dead. She is now unconscious, in a hospital bed, but no longer suffering the effects of rigor mortis. We are introduced to Dr. Vijay Kapoor (Anupam Kher, Silver Linings Playbook), who advises Dr. Goodwin that he has been practicing medicine at New Amsterdam for 25 years. His approach to patient care is taking things slow and digging into patient history to get results. This approach is the exact opposite of Dr. Goodwin’s and should provide a great balance and contradictory opinion throughout the series.
Dr. Kapoor is a neurologist who believes his patient is being over-drugged and for the wrong disease. His goal is to find her true illness and bring her back to a state of living a normal life. Through his process of discovery, he uncovers her true illness, a tumor in her heart.
Dr. Kapoor informs Dr. Goodwin that by slowing down, he discovered her true illness and bought her a year or two of life. Dr. Goodwin concedes that he was wrong and asks how he can help to which Dr. Kapoor advised he can help him break the news to her that she was dying.
Later, when they break the news that she was dying, Patricia informs them that she wants to go home and see her family. She hadn’t seen her daughters in 11 years and she wanted to see her mom and dad again. Her husband reiterates that they can’t go home because they came to the US without papers and if they return they will be arrested. Dr. Goodwin quickly locates the Ambassador of Mexico and asks him to repatriotize two of his citizens, so Patricia and her husband could go home to see their family.
Alain’s Story. After getting introduced to Jemma and Patricia’s stories, we finally get to dig into the story of Alain (Jason Kisare), the boy who deplaned in New York from Liberia, as he collapses in the ED waiting room. His symptoms could be from several different serious diseases which includes Ebola. Alain is quickly moved into isolation and the doctors treating him must wear a series of personal protection equipment and walk through specific steps before they are allowed to enter his isolation room and treat him. Since they are treating a patient with a potential deadly and communicable disease, Dr. Goodwin must call the appropriate authorities to investigate the case.
A NYPD detective and FBI agent show up at the hospital and inform Dr. Goodwin that his patient is a potential terror suspect. ISIS created a video stating that they sent someone from Liberia to New York, infected with the Ebola virus. When questioned, Alain informed the agents that he was approached by a man in his village asking him to travel to America to sell shirts in Time Square. He was taken to a doctor for traveler’s vaccinations before he was put on the plane. Dr. Goodwin asked Alain where he was supposed to go when he arrived and Alain replies that he was supposed to go to a youth hostel in Times Square. Dr. Goodwin wants to know why he went to New Amsterdam instead? Alain responded that New Amsterdam was the only hospital in America he had heard of.
Dr. Goodwin then made his point that Alain was not a terrorist with the logic that he would have gone to Times Square and not the hospital if he really was a terrorist. He advocates for his patient in a way we all hoped we would be advocated for. He asks, or rather demands, that they stop treating him as a terrorist and for them to look into his story instead of jumping to conclusions.
Alain’s condition deteriorates when he struggles to breathe and begins coughing up blood. Dr. Bloom is quickly trying to put on her PPE when Alain falls off the bed hemorrhaging blood. She breaks protocol by running into his isolation room without her gear completely secure. After she stabilizes him, Dr. Goodwin notices that she cut her glove when trying to take care of Alain. The realization hits them all that she is now stuck in isolation too because she has been exposed to his unknown, but potentially dangerous, disease since she has Alain’s blood on her hand.
During this realization, Goodwin suddenly gets a call from Georgia saying something is wrong with her baby. A short time later she is rushed into the ED as Dr. Goodwin is holding her hand trying to be a strong support system for her. They are informed that if they couldn’t stop the bleeding that they would have to do a cesarean section. Knowing that she still has 12 weeks to go, Georgia is adamant that it is too soon to deliver. That concern is quickly forgotten as the nurse is unable to find a heartbeat. After a few tense moments the sound of a baby’s heartbeat echoes throughout the room and the tension is broken. The doctor asks if the baby has a name and Georgia responds with Luna.
That moment leads into a beautiful montage that starts with Dr. Bloom and Dr. Reynolds leaning against opposite sides of the glass isolation room, waiting for answers. Dr. Frome introduces Blanca to Jemma and he looks relieved that something might be going right for her. Patricia and her husband deplane in Mexico to their waiting daughters and her parents. The ED waiting room is dismantled and a fresh food market is set up in the lobby. The FBI agent shows Alain a picture of a man and he nods his head yes, that was the man who paid for him to go to America.
Dr. Goodwin then informs Alain and the room of anxiously awaiting doctors that even though the men who gave him the shot thought they were infecting him with Ebola, they were actually infecting him with the Lassa virus. Dr. Goodwin explains that the Lassa virus is just as deadly but is completely treatable with antiviral medication.
Dr. Bloom is relieved that she can come out of isolation and the room fills with applause for her because she saved Alain’s life. As she exits the isolation room, Dr. Reynolds asks her if she wants to grab a drink. Apparently, the thought of her having a deadly disease changed his opinion on having a black girlfriend. This should lead to a great storyline as these two figure out if a romantic relationship will work for them.
The final scene starts with Dr. Goodwin staring at an ultrasound picture of his baby while sitting in an empty hospital room. He is surprised to see Dr. Sharpe enter the room. He informs her that his sister was in that room a long time ago and he was introducing her to someone as he showed Dr. Sharpe the photo. The two chit-chat about the farmer’s market and the changes he made while she was gone. Goodwin says he was surprised that she came back and Sharpe agrees, she was surprised too. Max asks if so much death at the hospital got to her, but Hana responds no, she became immune to the death which was worse.
Max asks her why she came back? Hana says it was because of him.
“People are excited Max. For the first time in a long time they are excited to be doctors again. I want to be excited too.”
After her explanation, the mood in the room shifts to a serious tone as she tells him that he needs to slow down. Goodwin brushes her comment aside and Hana tells him that he has cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma. He already knows. While Max looks back at her with a loss of words, still clutching the ultrasound picture in his hand, Dr. Sharpe looks him in the eyes and sincerely asked him, “How can I help?”
Max, struggling to find a response to the words he so often spoke to others today, simply looks down at the photo of his daughter and back up at Dr. Sharpe as his eyes begin to water.
Thoughts. You really felt the weight of that final moment, a man, excited to meet his daughter caught with the realization that he may not get to watch her grow up.
I definitely cried a few tears as I watched Max struggle with the reality of the situation he faces. So many things were crashing down on him at once. A daughter on the way, a new job as a medical director, and the desire to shake up the health care world as he faced his own medical crisis.
New Amsterdam promises to be the must watch show this fall. With plenty of opportunity for weekly storylines, this show will become anything but predictable. The relationships between the main characters will prove to provide a great connection to each other without going overboard and focusing too much on romance and hookups. New Amsterdam is the clamor we all want in the medical field with the hopes that one day this could be reality without it just being a television show.
I have the feeling we will soon all be walking around asking people, “How can I help?” and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Maybe New Amsterdam will help up see beyond ourselves and truly look for a way we can serve others while also providing high quality entertainment.
Big, scary things await Dr. Goodwin as he faces the complications of his wife’s pregnancy, the weight of his role in the hospital, and the fact that he must handle it all while fighting cancer. The question that must be answered through this season is the fact that Dr. Max Goodwin needs to be so many things to so many people, but will he have the ability to take care of himself too?
Don’t miss a single Tuesday night of New Amsterdam, you wont regret it.