New Amsterdam 3×06 “Why Not Yesterday” is both a really good episode, and a really frustrating episode. For us, for Max, for the Max/Helen relationship, for what comes next. And perhaps that’s exactly what it had to be. We are, after all, used to seeing the good in Max. We’re used to Max fixing things. We’re used to his whole “how do I help?” spiel to lead to actual change. Except Max cannot fix everything, not by himself.
And sometimes, there’s power in understanding that.
The episode is jarring, at first. Why did Max suddenly wake up this day, of all days, and decide to “end systemic racism.” Why hadn’t he noticed it before? What, exactly, made him think this was something he could just fix? These are all good questions that the episode examines via Max’s conversations with his sounding board, best friend, and Deputy Medical Director, Helen Sharpe. It’s just that, by the end of the episode, Helen is only two of those three things.
But let’s stick to Max’s lofty goals for a bit before we examine what Helen’s decision means. As Helen rightfully point out, systemic racism isn’t within Max’s powers to fix, not even if Max contributes to the problem, because the problem goes much deeper than Max, much farther. It’s not even a question of Max stepping aside, because that could mean someone who doesn’t even understand there’s a problem taking his place.
Max doesn’t find an answer in this episode. There’s no solution. As it should be. But at least Max finds something it’s clear he didn’t have before, awareness. He’s uncomfortable, he’s lost and he doesn’t have any answers, and that’s good. That’s where the work begins. Because yes, it’s not up to Max to fix it all – he can’t. But it is up to him to try to help, make a difference, at least for the doctors of New Amsterdam.
Which leads me to Helen, to her decision. Helen has chosen Max, or at least the hospital, over and over again. And in this episode, Helen finally chooses herself, she chooses her family – even if that family doesn’t look anything like she dreamed it would. She chooses her niece, and she chooses to give everything of herself to that, which means taking a step back from what she’s become to the two most important men in her life: Max and Cassian.
Both of them respect her choice. Cassian walks away, Max lets her walk away. But the thing is …despite the fact that Helen seems convinced she needs to do this alone, that her niece being around will require everything she has, the truth is …as Max very well knows, you can’t do everything by yourself. At some point, Helen will need someone, a shoulder to lean on, a partner, a friend.
And that, I see clearly, is when Max will finally get a chance to be what Helen has always been to him. Again, it doesn’t have to be romantic, just yet. But the relationship, as much as they help and balance each other out, has always been a little lopsided, if for no other reason than Helen is so used to putting other people’s needs first. This time she’s putting herself first, and I think she will be surprised to learn that doesn’t mean people just …leave. Doesn’t mean people stop caring.
There are many ways New Amsterdam could have gone with the short lived Cassian/Helen/Max love triangle, and this is an unexpected, but welcome one. Because this isn’t about the men at all, and it shouldn’t be. This is about Helen. And though I believe her entire hypothesis about what she needs and who she needs to be to have a family is wrong, that still doesn’t mean Cassian was the right partner for her going forward.
Either way, Helen made a choice. Right now it might seem like the choice is neither, but choices are never static, just like life isn’t. And if this episode has taught us anything is that we don’t need to have all the answers, we just need to be aware of the questions, to start moving forward.
Personally, I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Things I think I think:
- “I want to end systemic racism.” Don’t we all, Max. Don’t we all.
- A part of me wishes they’d pointed out Max’s privilege at not seeing this before. To some of us it was obvious, but there are always people who need things spelled out.
- The HAVE a Chief Equity Officer.
- Did Max just like …discover inequity yesterday?
- Chin smiles?
- The way Helen looks at Max is a whole ass MOOD.
- Max preaching to the choir is sweet, but ineffective.
- “Don’t you see the irony of asking someone who’s suffering from systemic racism to also fix it?”
- Super cute to see Max trying, but he needs some guidance pronto.
- “Being a hero’s got nothing to do with size.” I saw this storyline coming A MILE away, and I still got emotional.
- Lauren’s whole “when’s that meeting?” about the gender gap was kinda hilarious.
- And Max asking Helen if she’d ever heard of intersectionality? Dear God, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
- “Be my partner.” That hit me HARD.
- Be her partner, Max. This goes both ways.
- “I’m always better when you’re around.”
- “Systemic racism isn’t about you.”
- And the whole “it’s been hard, but it’s been easier knowing that you are here.”
- MAX, IT’S YOUR TIME, PLEASE DON’T TAKE TOO LONG TO SEE IT.
- These two are a team and this is the perfect setup for it to continue, in deeper ways.
- “It’s not about me anymore.”
- I get what Helen is saying, but she’s going to need someone too. Just …not Cassian, it seems.
- No complaints here.
New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays on NBC.