A couple of weeks ago, Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself was released into theaters, and after it was excoriated by critics, Fogelman suggested it was because white male reviewers “don’t like anything with emotion.”
Alas, I am not that white male critic, and that’s why I refuse to see Life Itself, because as terrible and awful as it might be, I’m the f—king douchebag that will probably cry anyway. When Olivia Wilde’s pregnant character gets hit by a bus and dies, and when Oscar Isaac’s character blows his brains out, if the right song is playing, I would probably succumb. I am weak, and I don’t want to give Fogelman that satisfaction.
See: I have a lot of repressed emotions that tend to come out while I’m watching movies and television shows. In fact, when I wrote in my review of New Amsterdam last week that the series is the equivalent of the poignant last three minutes of every Scrubs episode where The Fray song plays, I neglected to mention that I love those last three minutes even while recognizing the manipulation at play.
All of which is to say, as someone who is mostly incapable of crying or showing much in the way of emotion in my day-to-day reality but who blubbered during the “This Is Me” performance in The Greatest Showman, if anyone is going to succumb to the power of manipulation in New Amsterdam, it’s going to be me. I might look like a Swanson, but deep down, I am a Jerry.
And yet, despite the big, rousing Coldplay cover in the pilot episode, I remained unmoved.
How about episode number two, “Rituals”? I will first concede that I watched the episode only minutes after Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford during a rally, so I was in a fairly fragile state. I was open to it. I actually looked forward to an hour of feel-good TV just to get away from our political reality.
And you know what? The episode goes straight for the tear-duct jugular in the opening, with Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) — who we now know has cancer — singing “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher” to his unborn baby after delivering his first Dad joke (“What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?” “Helleph-I-know.”)
Nope. It’s sweet, and very corny, and really way, way too much, but I remain unmoved.
Let’s tackle the patients of the week.
First up, Dr. Vijay Kapoor (Anupam Kher) and Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) — my two favorite characters, so far — take on a child patient who has been given so many medications that he’s too doped up to properly diagnose. Kapoor and Frome decide to take him off all of his medications so that they can treat him with therapy, but end up having to take the New York School District to court to do so. They give very impassioned testimony in the courtroom that is situated on the hospital grounds (was this a thing at Bellevue?), but after the School District shows video of the boy beating someone up when he’s not on his meds, they are forced to go to drastic lengths and use dialysis to remove the drugs from his system and allow him to give testimony without being under the influence of drugs. His “rage,” we find out, comes from the fact that he believes he was responsible for his Dad’s death (he died of a heart attack while climbing stairs to retrieve LEGOs for his son), and they win the case when the judge acknowledges that the boy needs to come off the drugs so that he can process his grief. Again, a sweet and uplifting story, but the bad child actor (sorry, kid) took me right out of the moment, although when Dr. Kapoor tearfully called his estranged son at the end of the episode I might have been slightly moved had that storyline not come straight out of the terrible tropes handbook.
Up next: Dr. Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims) treats a Haitian aide worker with a literal broken heart (a requisite storyline for every medical drama). Her family wants to perform a protection spell on her, but Dr. Reynolds refuses, saying that it’s religious mumbo-jumbo and he deals in science. damnit! However, when the Haitian woman’s heart repeatedly stops as Dr. Reynolds tries to transport her, he finally relents and allows the protection spell, and it works … until her heart gives out on the table post-surgery. But Dr. Reynolds massages her heart with his human hands and brings her back to life! She just needed a human touch! And a protection ritual! And also a very complicated open heart surgery performed by a very skilled actor playing a doctor.
This too was a nice feel-good moment, but not manipulative enough to take me down. No sir! Strike two!
Freema Agyeman’s Dr. Sharpe, meanwhile, was presented with a cancer patient who was not responding to chemotherapy. Basically, this storyline was all about how Dr. Sharpe feels too much sometimes, but I didn’t feel much at all while watching it. Foul ball!
However, the episode ends with what should be my white-boy kryptonite: Dr. Goodwin — who hasn’t told his pregnant wife that he has cancer, and has been suffering alone with the diagnosis — goes to finally unload this baggage onto his wife, but finds out that any stress that she might experience could be harmful for the baby. So she looks at him expectedly, waiting for him to open himself up. “Just tell me one thing. Just tell me one true thing,” she says, channeling the shit out of Cameron Crowe. However, all that Dr. Goodwin can muster is a long, soulful stare and, “I love you.”
By God, I survived. You thought you could get to me with that Bon Iver song, didn’t you New Amsterdam? It was cheap, but it was not effective. Strike three.
You are now 0-2, New Amsterdam. Better luck next week.