New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology” closes the circle that began with New Amsterdam 3×01 “The New Normal,” as it sets up new storylines going into next season. Season 3 of this show started with this idea of trying to find a new way to go forward after the pandemic, which the show skipped completely, except for that 5-minute intro in the first episode of this season. The season ends with the show mourning the things we have to leave behind as we go back to some semblance of the life we had before.
Both things are incredibly hard. In many ways, life will never be the same. The past year was horrible, and so many of us were personally affected, either by illness or by losing a loved one. And yet, so many of us also found peace, family, and in some ways, even the strength to be ourselves during the pandemic. Horrible times sometimes bring good things, and getting out of the horrible times, as good as that is, sometimes feels like giving up on the good things.
It doesn’t have to be that, though. Life is about balancing the bad that will always come, with the good we can manage to make of any bad situation. As a community, we all understand this now, which is why this episode works so well. Most experiences of pain are personal. This, however, is a shared one. We’re all looking forward and trying to figure out what’s coming next. And no one has all the answers.
And what those answers bring to the doctors of New Amsterdam is a story for another season. It’s a story for later. For now, let us examine how New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology” subverted expectations by giving us character-grounded drama, and oh yes, let us celebrate Sharpwin, the ship of dreams, that has finally sailed.
Okay, I lied, I’m mostly going to do the last one – but trust me, the fact that I can do that, focus on Max, Helen and Sharpwin, means that the show pulled off one of the rarest feats on television during New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology,” it made us worry about everyone, it made us feel for everyone, and then …it paid it off with character-driven moments instead of manufactured drama. Whoever said that season finales were only effective when they ended in a cliffhanger clearly needs to talk to the New Amsterdam’s writers’ room, cause they just proved that wrong, wrong, wrong.
IN ALL THE WAYS THAT I’VE BEEN DREAMING OF
I will start with my only gripe about New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology,” and that’s that it feels like we’re missing pieces of the story. How did we go from “us” in last episode, to Helen being in London and Max literally confessing his love over the phone? How does A lead to B? I’m sure the show thought this way of telling the story was more compelling, and I respect that. I might even agree with it. But it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when shows skip moments that could, maybe even should have been significant, and then just wave them off without a mention. Did Max and Helen even say goodbye? Was there a “we’ll talk about this later” talk? I need these answers, and the fact that fans so often don’t get them is the reason fanfic exists in the first place, I promise.
But – despite my previous paragraph, I actually really loved the way New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology” progressed, the way Sharpwin bookended the episode. Max has always been the heart of New Amsterdam, and very early on the show established that for Max to be the center of this show, he needed someone who could be his center. The heart at the heart of the heart, if you will. And that’s unquestionably Helen Sharpe.
Max is often like a golden retriever puppy, so full of energy, and ideas, and love, so lacking in common sense and direction. Helen Sharpe has had to be those two things for him for so long. But Max has grown, he’s learned – even if, at heart, he will still always be that puppy. And more importantly, because this is the thing that actually makes the two of them work, just as Helen has brought the common sense and direction to his life, he’s brought the joy and happiness to hers.
They compliment each other. They’re two halves of a whole. And this isn’t a new thing. Max and Helen were already each other’s better half way before there was even a romantic feeling attached to it. They were already putting each other first when they should have been putting other people first. Their strong foundation of friendship, of always telling each other the hard truths, of knowing how to stop and listen to one another, has made them a great team for three years, and I have no doubt it will make them a great couple.
Even if it takes Max a while. Sometimes it does, he admitted it last episode. He knows what he wants at the beginning of New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology” and then he loses his wedding ring, and that takes him on a spiral. Because Floyd is right, the ring isn’t even about Georgia, at this point. It’s about Max’s guilt. It’s about his shame that he’s moved on. Karen is right, however. Georgia would understand. Of course she would. How can you truly love someone and wish them a lifetime of loneliness? No, if you truly love someone, your greatest desire is that they can love again. That they can find happiness.
But Max isn’t hung up on what Georgia would think, he’s hung up on what it means to let go. And even though he should have just listened to his subconscious, instead, he puts the ring back on as soon as it’s found, gets super awkward with Helen about it, and then just doesn’t know how to return to how he felt in the morning. To how they felt. To all the things he’d been dreaming of. He doesn’t know how to be with Helen. It takes him a moment, remember. To remember. What matters more than anything.
Of course, Max gets there. Predictably, he gets there after awkwardly walking her home in silence, staring at her like a teenager and then walking away because he still couldn’t make himself just accept the thing that he wanted more than anything in the world. This is completely on brand for Max, a man who has never put himself, or his needs first. His whole thing is “how can I help”? and that never truly means helping himself. So, for Max, just reaching for the thing he wants, the person he wants, for selfish reasons, must be the hardest thing ever.
Except I think there’s a point where it clicks for him, when it finally, finally clicks. The thing he wants more than anything in the world is the thing she wants more than anything in the world. How can Max help Helen? By doing what he wants to do. By being with her. That’s how he will make her happy. Incidentally, that will make him happy too. Isn’t it funny how that works sometimes?
The taking the ring off, running back, pounding on her door, and of course, the kiss, aren’t just rom-com material, they are a choice Max makes. Not a choice to feel, he’s been feeling things for Helen for quite a while. Not a choice to show how he feels, everyone and their mother knows how Max feels, if this episode is any indication. It’s more a choice to allow himself to be the man who feels these things and acts on them, and a choice to trust Helen to be the partner he needs in every aspect of his life. Because that thing we say in New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology,” that’s not about getting anything out of their systems, and that’s not casual. It never has been with the two of them. For Max and Helen, it was always going to be forever once they finally gave in.
Now it’s time to find out what that forever looks like. And I, for one, can’t wait.
I’VE BEEN DOING SOME FANTASIZING OF MY OWN
For Helen Sharpe these are big words. In fact, that’s tantamount to a love declaration. She’s fantasizing about Max? My heart just about stopped when those words came out of her mouth during New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology.” And it means so much for Helen’s journey that she got to the point where she could say them, the point where she could trust enough to let her walls down. Because with Helen, it all comes down to trust. It came down to trust with her niece, it’s come down to trust with every romantic relationship we’ve seen her in, and of course, it comes down to trust with Max.
It’s not your normal type of trust, though. Helen trusts Max with her life. She trusts Max with other people’s lives. She trusts Max to do the right thing, to be a good man. But she’s always had a hard time trusting anyone with the real Helen. With her real feelings, her real fears. Little by little he’s broken through the walls she’s put up with a combination of earnestness, kindness and caring, and yet that final step was always missing. But it was never truly about Max. It was always about Helen.
Some journeys aren’t about other people, they’re about you. And this season was just about Helen learning not just that it’s good to let other people in, but learning that sometimes you have to let them in. You can’t really get what you want, what you need – what you deserve from them – unless you do. Which is why Helen let Mina in. She made the decision to lower her walls for her niece, and in return, she got something resembling a family, something that brought her joy and peace.
This all leads back to New York, to her job, to Max. Because Helen and Max have been dancing around their feelings for too long, but it hasn’t just been Max dancing. Helen has seemed more aware at times, more willing to take the plunge, but it was easier to be that when she knew Max wasn’t really emotionally available. The truth is, Helen was just more obvious with her emotions, but she also wasn’t ready to try before. Not in a way that she was ready this episode. Not in the way that means forever.
And it does mean forever. Max is not just part of Helen’s life, at this point he is her life. Her reason to come back to New York, to New Amsterdam, everything. And that’s something the next season will have to explore, as they continue to balance the relationship they’re just starting. Because Helen needs to understand that even though Max has Luna, the opposite is also true for him. Helen is his reason. Helen has been his reason for longer than he’s let himself admit it.
She’s more passive this episode than Max because her choice is already made. She made in New Amsterdam 3×12 “Things Fall Apart” as she walked into the room filled with toxic, poisonous liquid, and refused to leave without Max. She made it in that shower, as she held him against her chest. She made it later, again, in that hospital room, as she held his hand against her chest. Helen’s choice was always clear, and though she didn’t get to verbalize it, there was no doubting it. So this episode was more about Max finding his words – or his actions, we’ll settle for actions, than Helen. But let us not underscore how important it was that Helen said the things she said, did the things she did, and left the door open, metaphorically speaking, though hey, she did literally open the door for him at the end, so he could put his money where his mouth is. Or his mouth where his mouth should be? That saying gets very confusing when you’re actually referring to a kiss.
Either way, Helen’s Sharpe’s journey this season has been our journey this year – a journey of fighting against fear, of trying to find balance even when the world continues to move around us. And that journey is sadly never over, but Helen won’t be alone in her attempts any longer. And though I love Max, and I love the two of them together, I think that’s the thing that makes me happiest about the fact that the S.S Sharpwin has finally sailed, that Helen won’t have to continue to be strong for herself, all the time.
She has Max now. She always did, but now she’s fully let him in. It might not seem like a big deal, people start relationships all the time, but when you’ve had to be everything for yourself for way too long, finding that one person you can fully trust doesn’t just mean something …it means everything.
Things I think I think:
- ONE MONTH
- And we START with that message. Dang it, they’re going for broke.
- Ok, let me just be the one to say I’m super glad the cancer isn’t a thing we’re bringing back.
- And Helen’s listening to the message, so this is all going to go to hell at the end. I know it. I’m ready. Or, okay, I’m not ready, but I’m trying to be.
- I feel like we didn’t get nearly enough of the Helen/Mina relationship. Like, we barely scratched the surface.
- Oh, no. I have a bad feeling about this clinic thing. A really bad feeling about this clinic thing.
- Nothing quite like Lauren’s face when she finds out Leyla didn’t get a post at New Amsterdam. I’d be afraid of her.
- This is a hard episode to quantify. What in the world is going on?
- I really appreciate the reminder that Lauren is in recovery. That’s not the kind of thing that goes away, and it is absolutely the kind of thing that gets harder when you’re under stress.
- Lauren looks super casual after committing crimes.
- This is going to be BAD next year, I know. But for right now, I can’t say I wouldn’t have at least considered doing the same thing. We all make crazy decisions out of love, don’t we?
- Floyd, come on. Didn’t you JUST make a decision?
- Floyd’s “recently” about the wedding ring KILLED ME.
- “Deputy Chair of Surgery.” Go Floyd.
- HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, HER HUSBAND, HA.
- I choked.
- “I don’t want to go back to normal.” ME EITHER.
- “Because it’s not supposed to be easy” is a lousy answer, Iggy!
- “Our family gives me …everything.”
- I’m not sure I believe Iggy’s decision, we’ll see.
- But I do love how at peace he looks.
- Max’s “Do I have to?” is hilarious. He’s a little child sometimes.
- HOW ARE YOU TWO FUCKING THIS UP ALREADY?
- He took it off.
- There’s your choice, Max.
- There’s your choice.
- We always knew.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of New Amsterdam 3×14 “Death Begins in Radiology”? Share with us in the comments below!
New Amsterdam aired Tuesdays on NBC. It’s set to return Fall 2021.
💯 – your gripe is my gripe. And almost word for word my complaint about it. That voicemail felt like A to C, but seriously what happened to B? And if Max were a different, more suave person, maybe I could get behind it. But he’s a bumbling idiot when it comes to Helen 90% of the time. No way he just woke up and decided to declare his feelings over VM 🤣.
Otherwise a solid finale. And that sharpwin ending – made me feel all the feels. It was cinematic. It was effective. It had that take your breath away anticipation that I haven’t felt since Cersei blew up the sept in Kings Landing. I’m not sure they could have done it much better.