New Amsterdam: Dissecting Sharpwin!

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"Max, we need to talk about us ... this thing between us."

It was with those words from New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 16 that the 'Dam fandom erupted into a frenzy.

After a long hiatus, New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17, the second part of a thrilling episode, returned and by the end of the hour, fan's questions about Sharpwin were answered. 

Braving the Storm - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 16

The series choosing to address the elephant in the room has split the 'Dam fandom in two, with many in an uproar over the mere suggestion of anything brewing between Max and Helen and a legion of Sharpwin 'shippers squealing in delight over the confirmation of the spark between the two leads.

Make no mistake; there is a spark. The series bolsters an impressive cast who gel so well together it feels as if everyone has worked together for years. It's noticeable, and a strong cast enhances the series for our viewing pleasure.

Related: New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 16 Review: King of Swords

Ryan Eggold and Freema Agyeman are at the forefront of the series. The best you can hope for with a dynamic duo is natural chemistry. Their chemistry is what one would describe as electric, and the series lucked up with it.

Now and then a series strikes gold. Think along the lines of Hargitay and Meloni as Benson and Stabler on years of Law & Order: SVU. Some dynamics are very captivating.

Besties - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 14

Sharpwin is one of those dynamics. The overwhelming consensus is everyone loves the two characters and their dynamic, but the controversy is in trying to place a title on it.

Are they doctor/patient? Are they employer/employee? Are they best friends or is there something more?

The pair is juggling a few different titles and hats when it comes to their relationship, so it's hard to find one definitive answer.

Oddly enough, up until this point, Max and Helen didn't even know what they were. They didn't appear to give it much thought until outside forces demanded they confront the vibe between them once and for all.

Marlene: I just sense a strong vibe. Honey, I'm sorry, but it's never going to work out between you and Max.
Helen: I don't need it to work out between me and Max. Max is married. I have a boyfriend. Most importantly, I am his doctor.

There were many fans thrown for a loop over this supposed vibe they never saw and chemistry they never felt. Whether you got sucked into this forbidden 'ship or not, the amount of people who seemingly overlooked the Sharpwin thing is puzzling.

The makings for Sharpwin were there since New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 1. It's true; the premiere had the pair at their most combative and platonic as Sharpe was on the brink of leaving the hospital due to Max.

He offered her something she couldn't refuse, valued her skills as an oncologist, and begged her not to jump ship. It kicked their relationship off, but Helen being responsible for diagnosing Max's throat cancer is what solidified their bond.

Making a Plan - New Amsterdam

A secret is what bound the pair. Most of the people in Max's life were unaware of his cancer. From the beginning, Helen was the only person who knew, and they kept it between themselves.

The second installment had Helen trying and mostly failing to get Max to take better care of himself. Their rooftop scene together was particularly striking.

The bond between them happened so quickly by New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 2 it already felt like they were friends for years. It wasn't only the secret bonding them, but they had vulnerable moments and open dialogue with one another.

Helen: The changes you made are going to help thousands of people.
Max: What about the one I married?
Helen: Oh Max, you haven't told her you have cancer, have you? What are you waiting for?
Max: To not have cancer.
Helen: You can't carry this load by yourself. Not as a medical director. Not as a patient. Certainly not as a husband or father. You've been telling everyone: put the patient first, so why don't you take your own advice? Consider this our first appointment, and your first order of business is to tell your wife you have cancer.

They became each other's confidant. Max freely confided in Helen about things he couldn't and wouldn't speak to his wife about, and Helen confided in him about things she wouldn't share with others as well.

The emotional connection between the pair is so palpable it was difficult to ignore. The effects they have on one another are the same.

Only two women in Max's life have an innate ability to get through to him and handle him; his wife, Georgia, and Helen, this woman who has become his something. His person?!

Helen and Georgia - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 7

They are the Max Whisperers, and when they say something to him, he heeds their words. The genuine concern Helen and Max developed for one another in a short period fueled the fire of this chemistry between them which never diminishes.

For the record, the majority of Sharpwin 'shippers don't wish ill upon Georgia, nor do they root for some infidelity plotline which would be a disservice to all characters involved and would be out of character for both members of Sharpwin.

Max loves his wife, and it's understood. However, in comparison, it took some fans a little longer to love her too. Georgia had the misfortune of lacking significant screentime for most of the season, especially the early part of the season which counted most.

A Consultation - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 7

They didn't spend nearly as much time together because of their estrangement, and the chemistry between them paled in comparison to the prominent and electric vibe we often saw between Helen and Max.

Related: New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Every Last Minute

It took a while before we understood what caused a fracture in the married couple's relationship. Max spent most of the first half of the season fighting to rekindle things and get back in the good graces of his pregnant wife and fans were aligned with him.

Max's efforts were not something Georgia was receptive to at first. She didn't seem invested in making things right in the early days of the series.

Winning Her Over - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 3

Georgia had her reasons for being hesitant, and much of her issues were out of real concern for Max and their family, but it also doesn't seem as though Max changed enough to meet Georgia's needs.

He is still overexerting himself, work-oriented, and more. They are qualities he always had, which at times makes Georgia's requests unrealistic.

They have grown closer, and Georgia has been supportive of Max during his cancer. She's immersed herself in the 'Dam family, and things seem OK with the pair. In many ways, it feels as though their issues are unresolved and put on hold.

Lovely Couple Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 6

As a result, there is an unfortunate level of ambivalence when it comes to Georgia which has little to do with the talented actors and more to do with how their love story was formatted.

In the interim, we have Max and Helen whose inexplicable something fosters intrigue and is such a force it's impossible to ignore.

New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 6 Review: Anthropocene

It's not that fans are valiantly pursuing this 'ship storyline be damned, but we also can't NOT see the type of chemistry between the two characters of which other couples have developed on less.

Sharpwin Forever - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 7

It's uncharacteristic for a bond as unique as Helen and Max's to come out the gate so strong and fully-realized and developed. Less than five episodes into the series fans were clamoring to find a term to describe them: best friends, colleagues, kindred spirits, soulmates, and it was never up for debate that Helen became his work wife.

Fans wanted something to categorize this relationship which was multi-layered and intimate.

Helen had to know about Max's cancer as his oncologist, but the line of doctor and patient or even colleagues was crossed nearly from the beginning. Helen confiding in Max about her fertility issues on New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 5 solidified how close the two had become.

Healing Hugs - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 5

Max sharing so much with Helen and the two of them being so in tune with one another is how Helen became as much of a support for Max during New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 9 as Georgia.

She read Max like a book, stood firm when he lashed out at her, and she knew he would go on a crusade to save the woman who possessed his sister's heart.

It was an hour which reaffirmed again that while Georgia always has Max's ear and can set him straight, ironically, so does this woman whom he has only know for the better part of a couple of months.

Consultation for a Personal Case - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 9

When you consider Georgia was in her third trimester in the series pilot and is still very much pregnant now, the time frame of the series is astounding.

Helen running point after Max's health scare on New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 10 made sense given she was the one with knowledge of his conditions, but she is also the person whom he entrusts with nearly everything out of Dora's hands at the hospital.

We especially saw it in New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 11 when he made her his deputy, and despite reluctance, her concern and dedication to Max outweighed her wariness about taking on the role.

Helen: We paid enough for those chairs. Our Medical director can sit in them.
Max: I don't want everyone to see me so weak, you know? That's why I can't let Georgia come. That's why I can't sit in that chair. Everyone is going to see me.
Helen: The answer is yes, Max. I'll be your deputy.
Max: Really?
Helen: Go, be weak. Sit.

Helen is a kind and caring person, but she's fiery enough to not roll over for anyone but similar to what Panthaki alluded to during 'King of Swords' with Max, she can barely bring herself to say no even when she is placing his needs ahead of her own.

However, going back again, New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 10 was an hour which beautifully showcased the Goodwins' journey, and yet one of the most intimate scenes of the hour remained one in which bedridden Max shared another wordless but meaningful moment with a teary-eyed Helen while holding his wife.

NA 1x10 pt 1
NA 1x10 pt 2

It is those little moments which stir up something more people would willingly acknowledge if Max wasn't a married man with a child on the way or some other disingenuous reasoning for not wanting to see Max and Helen's connection.

The physicality of their relationship did nothing to discourage fans either.

Maybe you can chalk it up to Eggold's soul-stirring peepers, but there is a litany of scenes of Max and Helen exchanging deep and/or longing glances which do nothing to discourage the 'shipping lot.

Something On His Mind

Their intimacy is conveyed in ways beyond the words they exchange with one another. At the very least Max's fondness for Helen however you choose to interpret it is there and shown often.

And so it doesn't come across one-sided, the same can be said for the myriad of emotions Agyeman can convey in a single look.

Without a question of a doubt, Helen cares about Max, and their every interaction from the most vulnerable moments they have with each other, to the times when they are at odds and bicker like siblings (or a married couple) show that.

The give-take of their relationship is one of a spectacular friendship, but you can't fault fans for reading it as more either when the material is there for them.

Withdrawal - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 14

Helen reined Max in when he was too invested in the case with Luna's heart, but he did the same when she became attached to a baby while working on a case on New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 14.

Helen was at her most raw and vulnerable yet again, and again Max is who was keyed into her state the most. They work together, of course, but there is something about the level of intimacy between the two which they share in these quiet moments that would naturally fan the flames.

It was in how raw and pure Helen was clutching this infant like a lifeline while providing skin to skin contact and speaking about destiny and fate bringing her to this sweet baby girl.

Helen: The Nutella didn't spread.
Max: I should stop calling it Nutella. It's not Nutella, it's cancer. I should start being honest at least with myself.
Helen: I want to have a baby.
Max: OK.
Helen: But I'm single and on the wrong side of 35. I have to do injections and deal with epic mood swings if I even want to give myself a chance. I don't know why I would want to bring a child-- a brown child, into this world. There are a thousand reasons not to, but the only way to beat death is life.
Max: There's a word for it.
Helen: Surrogacy?
Max: Hope.

It was how open she was to revisiting the open wound which is her fertility issues, and showing how much maternal energy she possesses and how much love she has to give.

It was in how Max peered in on this quiet moment which felt as though it was just the two of them and baby Zurah. He enjoyed the moment but was concerned about Helen experiencing heartbreak and dashed hopes.

Helen is Attached

Max and Helen are many things to one another, but there is no suitable term for them. As a result, I was leery about how "King of Swords" would address their chemistry. Their relationship was shrouded in mystery and ambiguity.

Related: Season 1 Episode 14 Review: The Forsaken

At the forefront the subtext was present, and something the characters and fandom didn't give much thought to had to be faced.

"Why can't they be friends," were among the cries of fans who felt blindsided by something which always felt as though it was simmering beneath the surface.

Cancer Puns - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 15

It's a fair inquiry, and we needn't parse the motivations and reasons for feeling so strongly about the sentiment. Max is a married man regardless of how shaky his marriage was at the beginning of the series.

He is her boss, and Helen is happy in her relationship with Panthaki and so on.

However, something to note is that you can be friends with someone and have strong or indescribable and jumbled feelings for them.

Pathanki: I just wondered if the things you guys have made it very difficult.
Helen: Excuse me Max and I don't have a thing.
Pathanki: The Vibe?
Helen: What are you talking about? There is no vibe.

You can have feelings for a person without acting on them or even consider it. One doesn't exclude the other; it is by no means an either or type of thing.

Feelings and relationships are more complicated and yet simplistic at the same time. You can say they are merely colleagues, but their intimacy when discussing their lives and feelings makes them more.

You can say they are doctor/patient and employer/employee, but the mutuality of their vulnerability and sharing makes them something beyond that as well.

Friendly Chat

You can settle on friends, and it's the safest and most palatable given extenuating factors. However, there is something to be said about the quick nature of their bond which danced on the lines of an unintentional emotional affair due to circumstances outside of their control.

"King of Swords" presented us with the complicated nature of Max and Helen's relationship and how it occupies space in more than one category.

The pair were pushed by cosmic forces to confront their vibe and what it means for them. It's presumptuous and a stretch to jump to the worst conclusion that the two could embark on a scandalous journey of infidelity or a torrid love affair.

Helen: Do you believe in all that stuff?
Max: I don't know. You?
Helen: I don't know either. Max, we need to talk. About us.
Max: Okay.
Helen: This thing between us ...

It would tarnish the series and what both characters represent. Ironically, even Sharpwin 'shippers don't want nor hope to see the series head in that direction.

There is something worth discussing between Max and Helen, and the series headed in that direction. Helen was in a complicated position where she operated many roles, but it is affecting her in ways she didn't anticipate.

She was Max's doctor, which should come with some form of authority, but he dismissed her advice whenever he responded to her like his friend and employee.

What Are They?

When it comes to their relationship, Max has reverence for Helen in some areas, but New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17 confirmed that she felt dismissed, disrespected, and frustrated in others. The various roles made their interactions muddied and complicated.

There are connotations there to get 'shippers going, and give non-'shippers something to point out to reaffirm their belief that romantic Sharpwin is not going to happen, but it's not as simple as that.

Related: Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 20 Review: The Whole Package 

Helen puts her all into Max. She devotes a lot of energy into their relationship, and for someone so strong-willed it may get overwhelming finding herself in a relationship with someone where they have an inexplicable hold on her.

This Isn't What I Meant By "Rest!" - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 11

When it comes to Max, within reason, she cannot say no. She gives in and submits in a way a person does for someone they care about deeply. And no, even that type of bond isn't specifically romantic.

For his part, Max takes Helen for granted. It's not deliberate or malicious, but he subconsciously knows he has a hold on her and uses it. For example, he knew she would follow him out into the storm.

He takes for granted she has his back. In some ways, he does to Helen what he did to Georgia, and it's something he has to work towards unlearning.

I am going to go, and I am going to take care of myself because I love my doctor.

Max

It's that lesson he may have gleaned from what Marlene told him. He doesn't want to lose Helen due to his inability to appreciate the connection they have; however, he's going to lose her in some capacity. By the end of the last installment, he already did. 

Related: New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17 Review: Sanctuary

He hasn't respected her as a doctor the way that he should've, and it's why he insisted on telling her how much he appreciates her in that regard the second Marlene's message sank in. It was too late though; his behavior displayed during his meltdown was evidence that he has a long way to go in listening to Helen's opinions.

Max has spent all season relying on her as his second in command, and his confidant and friend too. Unfortunately, something had to give in their relationship.

Work Wife - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 9

We still don't know what Helen wanted to address before the lights went out. I touched upon it during my New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17 Review: Sanctuary, but it felt as though Helen had more to say but didn't broach it upon the events of the blackout. She said things without really saying them.  

Related: Grey's Anatomy Promo: Rom-Com Goodness!

Helen couldn't get through to Max as his doctor, but she could take control as his deputy, and she discovered quickly how necessary it was that she did so. In addition to his health getting the better of him, Max's flaws were front and center. 

Max Meltdown - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17

He's incapable of making decisions and calls when his options are limited. He wants to uphold his idealism and hope for the best because, as Helen said, Max wants it all. 

It was the most helpless Max came across professionally, and it seems Helen may have taken pity on him and made the difficult decisions on his behalf -- the decisions he refuses to make. 

It's unfair and exhausting for Helen to play so many roles in Max's life, but it's worse when she has to fight so hard in certain roles to be taken seriously by Max. She can't be the person fighting harder for Max's healthcare than Max is fighting for himself. 

Helen: I've tried. I have tried to be all of the above. I can't. I can't be your friend, and your doctor, and your deputy, so I have to choose. I have to triage us. You can expect Dr. Stalton to take over for me. She's an exceptional oncologist.

In the best scene of the season, and a stunning, angsty Sharpwin scene in what has become their place, Helen chose to stop being Max's doctor. She had to draw some boundaries for both of their benefit because she could not succeed as his doctor when he wouldn't listen to her.

Director and the Deputy - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17

She may opt to remain his colleague and friend, but something tells me she may distance herself emotionally from him, too. Everything from the previous hour suggests there are layers to their bond, and even with Helen's decision, they have barely scratched the surface of their relationship though much is alluded.

-Related: Stream your favorite British shows anytime, anywhere, commercial free with Acorn via Prime Video Channels! -

As a Sharpwin fan, it will be painful to watch since their connection is so endearing and one of the highlights of the series, but it's a natural progression for a pair who have come to grips with the convoluted nature of their relationship.

Helen's Decision

Max didn't handle Helen's choice well. He's not happy, and he sounded like a desperate man who is afraid of change. Marlene's prediction coming true must have scared the crap out of him.

For someone who is a harbinger of change, he doesn't care for it when it affects his life. After a hellish day where they nearly lost many people, he had to reconcile with his role in the events but also in Helen making her decision.


Related: The Village Season 1 Episode 4 Review: Heart on Fire 

It was a strange bubble he allowed himself to be in with Helen, and now the bubble has burst. He wants her as all of the above, but it's no longer a possibility.

Helen will probably distance herself from Max, and he'll struggle with it while trying to respect her wishes. They'll both probably try to parse through whatever their relationship is until they find a happy medium which works best for them.

Lack of Power - Tall - New Amsterdam Season 1 Episode 17

Helen had to decide what was best for herself, as she's aware of how lenient she is with Max and how she gets swept up in his idealism and charm, but she also had to do what was best for Max and everyone else. 

If they have a shot in hell of Max following the proper plans and taking care of himself, then he needs a hardass doctor who won't take any of his crap. While Helen is capable of that, she's not capable of that with Max. 

Max: But what if I want you?

Helen: I'm afraid that's no longer an option because we all want you.

Regardless of what they are to one another, they're teammates first and foremost. They work best when they work together. Hopefully, this new stage in their relationship won't have a negative effect on that. The show is at its best when we have Sharpwin! 

So, over to you 'Dam Fanatics.

What are your thoughts on Helen and Max's relationship? Did the nature of it surprise you?

Would you consider yourself a 'shipper?

Did Helen make the right call?! Hit the comments below with all of your thoughts!

Until then, you can watch New Amsterdam online if you need a refresher.

Jasmine Blu is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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New Amsterdam Quotes

My sister Luna and I were born here in New Amsterdam, and eight years later, Luna died here. Hospital-acquired infection. Entirely preventable.

Max

Max: Unlike the previous medical director, I actually expect you to practice medicine at this hospital because I don't know, that's your job.
Helen: You're funny.
Max: You said that.
Helen: I'll tell you what, I'll continue giving speeches all over the world because you can't afford the type of publicity I give this hospital. And I'll continue my on-air appearances with Ellen, Oprah, and anyone else powerful enough to go by one name because someone has to remind New York that even though New Amsterdam is an underfunded public hospital, we can still go toe-to-toe with the privates from basic care to state of the art procedures. I will be back next week with lunch at the Tavern. My treat.