New Amsterdam 4×17 “Unfinished Business” is the type of episode of television that deserves all the praise it gets. But it doesn’t have to be be, probably shouldn’t be, the model for “big” episodes of television.
That probably sounds like a pair of contradictory statements, but it’s not. Far too often, TV gives us its best moments through its worst ones. There’s so much pain and angst. Then, the joy is the aftermath. Maybe that’s the story of most of our lives, that our joy is fleeting and never enough to offset our tears. But that’s why it’s a difficult pill to swallow when we turn to what is supposed to be an escape, only to suffer more.
So, where is it?
Certainly, it’s in the hope for a future, in a proposal that was both perfect for Sharpwin and made under exactly the type of circumstances we never wanted for them. It’s in the rekindling of a friendship, and in the expression of love outside of all the bullshit and lying that broke both of those relationships to begin with. Joy comes from seeing our new favorite tackle the deplorable guy who ruined everyone’s…well…joy from their big night out. We even, pettily enough, found some joy in watching our least favorite character get his comeuppance.
But is it enough?
Is all the pain, all the suffering, and yet another ending that leaves us demanding the next installment…worth it? From a purely analytical standpoint, with all the messaging, the perfect way certain pieces of the puzzle fit together, and just killer performances: Yes. New Amsterdam 4×17 was full of so many praiseworthy bits—things that make us happy to see on television, at a time when too much quality gets thrown away before it has a chance to thrive, when so many series do what is safe and comfortable instead of daring to explore.
Then again, maybe that’s why New Amsterdam is one of our favorite series to begin with. There’s nothing simple about the human experience. And so, this show doesn’t over-simplify.
“Please don’t be my doctor. Be my partner.”
We knew New Amsterdam 4×17 was going to bring us plenty of Sharpwin angst. We still weren’t prepared. Being prepared was never an option, as they say.
Top to bottom, there’s nothing I can say about Freema Agyeman’s performance here that will ever—could ever—do it anything resembling justice. Helen’s journey in “Unfinished Business” was one of fear, one of bravery, of determination, of uncertainty, of hope, of joy, of sadness, and…of pure terror.
Agyeman hit every note, expertly. And then some.
But why? What was the reason?
Don’t Black women suffer enough, both in real life and in fiction? Especially when it comes to matters having to do with pregnancy, childbirth, and the lack of choices related to all of the above? They’re about “three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.” That’s assuming they even can become pregnant—that nobody steals that choice from them.
When Helen makes her decision to go with the riskier treatment for her clots, rather than a hysterectomy, history weighs on her mind.
“…they’ve been over-performed for decades on people who look like me.”
What New Amsterdam 4×17 did really well here: It showed this Black woman knew the pros and cons of all her options, made a choice, and stood her ground. The episode also gave her visible support from her significant other. And “Unfinished Business” was realistic about the dangers of blood clots and how quickly “hey, we made it through” can change to “omgwtfishappening” in a matter of seconds. The surgery scene was just what you’d expect from a medical drama: high stakes, edge of your seat…all that good stuff.
On the flip side, did anyone need these painful reminders? I’m not sure. I’m probably neither the right person to ask, nor the right person to answer, that question. All I can say is the body autonomy story around reproductive health is triggering even for people who look like me these days. I’d also point out that TV loves a good “reproductive trauma” story.
And seeing Sharpwin find their joy, with the ring and all that love on display between them…only to end the episode where we did…I don’t know how well I can stomach that. It’s certainly not the level of unnecessary trauma seen elsewhere, but that particular bar is unbearably low.
Lauren lost everything when she became a manipulative, lying liar who lied. But now, she’s in a different place.
Now, the two people she lost are in different places, too.
There’s that old saying about setting what you love free. It applies to both friendship and romance. So, it was kind of perfect that New Amsterdam 4×17 showed Lauren rebuilding both of her most important relationships. It certainly wasn’t easy. Casey almost died before Lauren could have her best friend back.
But by the end, Casey’s back. And he was happy for Lauren every step of the journey, even as he was fighting to survive, because he saw who was by her side when it counted most.
Actually. The real joy in “Unfinished Business” came from this, right here. Leyren realized the distance between them might not be too much to travel after all. They may have been broken, yet not irreparably so.
Leyla asked Lauren for the help she needed—didn’t even really hesitate. That’s all Lauren ever wanted to do anyway: help the person she loved. She just went about it in the stupidest possible way. If only she’d had the same type of conversation with Casey back then as she did now…
But sometimes, you have to learn the hard way. You have to let things fall apart before you can make them into something stronger, better.
“I’m in awe of you, starting out in a new country, never backing down—even when faced with obstacles that would probably break me. I love you. And not just in the way that I know that I need to get over. I love you as a person, and I want to do whatever I can to help you be that person.”
Look: Nobody really knows where they’re going. But wherever it is, with so much raw honesty, it has to be better than where they were before. Lauren might not need to get over anything at all…Right?
…will catch up with you
Before we even watched New Amsterdam 4×17 “Unfinished Business,” we were like, “whatever happens to Iggy, he probably deserves worse.” And boy, does he deserve worse.
Here’s some joy: Martin caught his ass, and called him on all of it.
…but then, there are children involved. And those children had to hear their parents fighting. They had to feel the tension in that household, have probably felt it for months. For what? So Iggy could feel pretty and flirt with the attractive guy at work who hit on him during his interview?
We can’t always control our feelings. Sometimes, parents fall out of love. Maybe they weren’t right for each other to begin with. But none of that really seems to be the case with Iggy’s emotional affair. He’s just…he needs to fix his shit.
She’s the hope
I’m pretty sure I’ve said this often, but: I would die for Dr. Wilder. Would also kill for her, help her hide a body…Anything she asked me, I’d do it. In a heartbeat.
If we put Freema Agyeman on a pedestal, rest assured: Sandra Mae Frank is right up there with her. She’s a force of nature and has proven it, repeatedly. Same goes for her character, episode after episode. Frank and Dr. Wilder are badasses, every outing. New Amsterdam 4×17 was no exception.
We can talk about that sweet moment between Dr. Wilder and Ben, when she asked him to please just tell her brother she was OK. Or maybe there’s a whole discussion to be had about the perfection in Ben being the one to find Elizabeth, when Max found Helen, Leyren found Casey together, and Floyd—outcast because he ratted out the resistance—found fellow outcast Mia.
But, of course, what stood out most was Dr. Wilder’s fire in confronting the sketchy bartender. She slipped her hospital bed, having still not fully recovered, and hunted that asshole down. As someone should have. And thank all the TV gods it was her because she just…she destroyed him. Him and us, really. Because there was vulnerability in that confrontation, too.
“I make myself vulnerable every time I get out of bed. Every time I step into a world that wasn’t made for me. That actively works against me. And the one time I let my guard down, you have to prove that I should be scared. That I can’t ever relax.”
Even as a dancer, I don’t have the tools to explain how the way Frank used her body language and her voice while using her signs was so excellent. I can’t name what it was about it that was so emotional, why and how it affected me so deeply. All I can say is there was something fundamentally raw and human here…something no one else could have delivered. In short, it was very, very good.
So, too, was her story about how everything has changed for doctors. They were heroes one minute, enemies the next. It might be too soon to see this play out on television. But…it was done so well.
Especially when you think about how Karen was there for Dr. Wilder…She was part of the support team—didn’t really fit one place or another, so she was there when and where she was needed most. After all, Max had Helen covered. Leyla and Lauren were enough for Casey, and Floyd took care of Mia. But Elizabeth Wilder needed a little extra, and that’s what Karen brought her.
“Sorry, kid. But you’re the hope. It’s just you; it’s all you’ve got.”
When did she become someone who made us cry for all the right reasons? We’re not sure, but we’re glad she did. Maybe Max Goodwin taught her a little bit about helping somewhere along the way.
Unfinished New Amsterdam 4×17 thoughts
- “How can I have hope in a world like this?” Mood.
- Hear me out: The almost identical tension when Leyren watched Casey’s surgery? Iconic.
- It’s not that I didn’t ship it before? But wow, Leyren never hit me like this until now.
- The whole “your ship gets to talk about making babies, but suffering has to occur first” thing is giving Dick Wolf meets Chris Carter. Don’t.
- To be clear: Nobody at New Amsterdam is anywhere near that level. But still. Don’t.
- “Guess money doesn’t solve every problem.” “That would appear to be the case.” They have jokes.
- “I hope the only death is Iggy’s marriage.” Truly, the best commentary on the episode, courtesy of our own Lizzie.
- No, but when Dr. Wilder threw that glass…
- Ryan Eggold’s whimpered “that was close” will be the death of me. Also. His eyes.
- Floyd deserves to be the father he always dreamt of being. Just…not like this. Is this terrible storyline over now? Can Jocko Sims get the good material already?
- Sad about the first ultrasound. But it’s ok! Sharpwin can still have their first HIDA scan over a gallbladder…See? Max inspired me to have corny jokes, just like him.
- “There she is.” And there are his heart eyes.
- I, too, would like to “just live in the possibility,” Max. BUT THE TV WON’T LET ME.