New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal” is an outstanding, emotional season premiere, not just because of what it does to honor the medical heroes of a pandemic we’ve all lived through, all suffered in one way or another, but also because of what it does to reframe the show to honor the last year in our lives, and still deliver poignant, interesting storylines.
Let’s be clear, New Amsterdam was facing an uphill battle. Tackling the coronavirus pandemic, something it felt like they couldn’t truly avoid, was always a slippery slope. It’s too soon to tell the stories of miraculous saves, and devastating loses. We’re still in the middle of it, and we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to engage with possibilities. But ignoring it seemed even worse.
New Amsterdam’s solution was a 5 minute intro that hit absolutely every emotional note and then some, from the song, to the scenes that were almost pulled from the news, to the send of hope we were left with at the end of it – despite Dr. Kapoor’s coma. The tunnel was very, very long, but we’re all seeing the collective light right now, and it feels amazing.
Of course, Dr. Kapoor’s storyline is there for many reasons, not just because it’s believable, not just because the show needed to add some stakes to something that killed half a million people, or bring back Dr. Floyd Reynolds, but because we should all remember that the light at the end of the tunnel is great, but we’re still in the tunnel. And we should still take every precaution possible.
So, let’s go into the individual storylines of New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal” as we discuss what happened, what comes next and where these characters stand now:
AND I THINK TO MYSELF …WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
It’s a little too early for pandemic catharsis, but as we all check convulsively for our more vulnerable friends and family to possible get a vaccine, it was super poignant to get the reminder of what we went through, where we are, and maybe, even, what is left to be fought for.
This reminder didn’t always work for me. Love in the Time of Corona came in the middle of the pandemic, and I could barely watch it. Connecting …however, struck a chord with me, because it was more about the regular people than the disease. And the 5 minutes New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal” dedicates to the pandemic, though way too little, end up being just what we needed.
A medical show based on a real hospital couldn’t avoid this, but no one should truly be diving into the medicine of it, into the horrible decisions that had to be made, into the mistakes and triumphs, not for entertainment sake, not while people are still dying. And that the show never attempts to turn the pandemic into a storytelling angle, just takes a moment to quietly honor the people who sacrificed the most to get us here, makes it just the right amount of emotional for me.
And, of course, it’s also important to note that though the show does “move on” from it being coronavirus 24/7, you don’t move on from the last year of our lives just like that. They’re not going to move on as easily, either. And that’s not only okay, that’s the way it should be.
YOU SAVED US TOO
Lauren Bloom has PTSD, it’s as simple as that. She went through hell in the ED, and ran her department during conditions that were basically war-like. So, for Lauren coming up for air is both a welcome respite and such a tremendous shift that she doesn’t quite know where she stands. She’s been in survival mode for so long that survival mode is all she knows.
She didn’t really want a pandemic, but once the pandemic hit, she felt useful. Her entire life of training as a doctor felt meaningful, and Lauren has always worked so much better when there’s meaning to what she’s doing. And now, all the sudden, it seems like her meaning is gone, her reasons. That she, of all people, is having trouble adjusting, is pretty dang normal, and actually kind of reassuring to see.
Not because we want it to happen, but because we don’t want the show to sugarcoat the reality.
As it often happens in the ED, it’s Casey who ends up having just the right words for Lauren in New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal.” “It’s okay to miss the fight,” he tells her, rightfully comparing her experience to war, and then, just when we thought we were fine, he lets her know that she isn’t done saving people.
She saved him. She saved everyone around her. And she’s still doing that. Not necessarily by being a doctor, but by being Lauren. And that …that means a hell of a lot.
SCARED OF NORMAL
Helen’s storyline in this episode, and presumably for the next few, is about the fear of what comes after. For medical professionals, in particular, the pandemic was brutal. Fear was an everyday companion, and they were always much more aware of all that could go wrong, and all the precautions that needed to be taken. So, people like Helen just …put their heads down and worked.
They didn’t think. They didn’t live, not really. They couldn’t afford to.
And now …things aren’t back to normal for her, or for anyone, but maybe, things can start heading in that direction. Except, how do you pick up the threads of an old life? Is there even anything to pick up? Can you truly go back? Or do you just need to go forward and find a new you in this new normal?
We don’t know Helen’s answer yet, but just the fact that she’s dealing with these fears reframes the whole pandemic as something that didn’t just disappear – won’t just disappear. The fears will stay, and even if we push through them, that doesn’t mean they just go away. That doesn’t mean we can ever truly go back to the people we were.
Helen has changed. The question, of course is …what does this new Helen want? Does she still want the same things old Helen did? Helen doesn’t know the answers to that, and neither do we, but that’s okay. We got time to figure it out.
One thing that New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal” makes clear remains the same as always is Helen and Max. Whatever it is they have, whatever it is they might one day have, that spark, those possibilities, are still alive and well, and if anything, their connection feels even deeper at this point. They both have changed, and yet they haven’t. They went to war together, stood side by side as they fought, and they survived. They already had a bond, and now they have that to fall back on, forever.
But there’s also so many other things, brimming under the surface. What Helen wants and the journey she must take to not just discover what that is, but to get to a place where she can want what she wants, freely, and go for it. What Max wants, or what he allows himself to want, and how that might change if he feels he’s losing his one constant.
All of those feel like things New Amsterdam is getting ready to explore in season 3, though I don’t anticipate this relationship is going to turn full on romantic anytime soon, and if we’re being honest, as much as I get super tired of will they/won’t they couples, I don’t really need it to.
The endgame seems clear. They’re setting the board now. And you can’t rush checkmate. In fact, you don’t want to.
I can’t end this section without talking about Max’s whole “Sorry, am I boring you?” the second Helen looks down at her pager, because he’s always super sensitive to her, and because she’s the only person he truly lets in, so he needs her constant reassurance that she he is, in fact, not bothering her. This might seem like a tiny thing, but it speaks volumes to how much Max cares, how much Helen means to him. He might think he isn’t willing to jeopardize what they do have for the possibility of more, but who knows how he would react if he thought he could lose what they have now.
Buckle up, Sharpwin fans, this is going to be a fun season.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal”? Share with us in the comments below!