And just like that, the two-hour fall finale left us with a tangled mess of emotions.
They brought out the emotional cases for New Amsterdam Season 5 Episode 9. When we got to New Amsterdam Season 5 Episode 10, we had an excellent guest star in the legendary Marlee Matlin, the official end to Martin and Iggy, and Max and Wilder's romance hurtling forward only to come to a screeching halt because of Helen.
With the cliffhanger of Helen in NYC but potentially not crossing paths with anyone while there, one can't even envision how the final episodes will look. A super-sized midseason finale means a super-sized review, so brace yourselves, put on those readers, and grab a snack.
Jumping into the medical cases is a great way to ease into things because the two-hour finale was light on them for the most part.
Floyd's case with Olivette was interesting; the season has spent much time focusing on addiction. But the standout point of Floyd's case was how his initial solution was to put this woman on a psychiatric hold when he didn't know what to do with her emotions.
He wasn't listening, and while he'd like to assert that he typically does and this time was a rare fluke for him, I'd have to disagree on the latter.
But that marks the second time in a season where Floyd's solution was to ship someone off under the guise of them being mentally unwell rather than figure things out. To have Floyd resort to this tactic on the heels of the controversial storyline with his inadequately diagnosed father was almost laughable.
I need my baby to be delivered today, otherwise I'm going to kill it.Olivette
I'm grateful that Gabrielle was there to talk reason to Floyd. And, yes, we must delve into this again. But there was the undercurrent issue that pregnant African-American women are among the highest percentage of patients who face poor treatment, are disregarded, and whose voices aren't heard by doctors.
Without Gabrielle advocating and mediating on Olivette's behalf, Olivette would've gotten held in a psych ward where she didn't belong until she could reach the proper term in her pregnancy to have a child, with the undue stress of all of that likely exacerbating her addiction.
It wouldn't have been good for either her or the baby.
Olivette knew herself and was trying to do right by her child. She stopped her drug use when she found out about her pregnancy, and up until recently, prompting her hospital visit, she stayed clean. She was putting in the effort, and it was evident that she didn't intend to harm her child.
Do you wanna know why I get bad scores? Last week a woman complained because the woman next to her was dying too loudly. Dying too loudly! It's a hospital.Lauren
The resulting solution that she get prenatal care and follow through to full term for this child, relying on a sisterhood of Gabrielle and other nurses and medical staff, sounded idealistic and lovely.
Whether or not it would be enough for her to keep clean until she delivered and that all it took was a support network she didn't otherwise have is up in the air. But the thought of it was nice enough.
On the other side, we had Lauren, who had some personal investment in the case with Avi (guest star Sky Lakota-Lynch, who was fantastic) and his sister. She jumped to the notion that it was just Avi and his sister rather quickly, and things escalated in a manner that didn't feel necessary.
For some reason, one assumed they'd come up with a winsome solution for Avi that would help him bide a couple of months until his 18th birthday so he could legally serve as guardian of his sister.
It was heartbreaking to hear that the two had been caring for one another since both of their parents died two years prior from COVID.
Two years is a long time for a teen to look after himself and his sister. If they've been at this since he was 15-16, there's something heartbreaking about him losing that ability and his sister going into the system before he reaches the finish line.
Lauren tried to help Avi as best as possible, including setting him up with some help as he dealt with his grief. In her mind, he was still hurting and needed help. She hoped that with the therapy he received, he'd be in a better mental and emotional place to take care of his sister when the time came.
But is it me, or does it feel like this kid losing his ability to look after his sister compounds his grief more than helps it? If he's essentially left to his own devices with no family left because his sister ends up somewhere else, does that help Avi?
Was Lauren projecting some of her issues as an older sibling who had to leave onto this teenager? It's not to say that Avi doesn't deserve or need resources. But can't he have those and still take care of his sister?
Avi's situation isn't unlikely or uncommon. He and many teens and kids like him slip through the cracks daily and have for decades.
Part of me was genuinely distressed to hear that he and his sister would get subjected to a system that chews and spits out too many good kids, often leaving them worse off than when they went in.
Yes, Lauren is court-mandated to report on things, but there was a missed opportunity to unpack all aspects of what Avi faces now and could and will face once the system gets involved.
Lauren: What about you?
Avi: What about me?
Lauren: Who takes care of you, Avi?
Instead, she slapped a label of complex grief on him with no real consideration of what he was trying to avoid as his motivator for his actions, and here we are.
Iggy's case with the penthouse guy with schizophrenia felt like one of those cases that merely gave Iggy something to do. They barely touched on the complexities of this man's PTSD from his experience with electroshock therapy as a child. Somehow, we got to a vitamin deficiency, and things worked out in the end.
Of course, they may have worked for him, but that wasn't the case for all the patients and clients who probably came into the department during the newly implemented open hours only for Iggy to not be available, thus defeating the purpose of the new changes.
Iggy spending an entire day on a single patient is exactly part of why their department is backed up all the time, the patients are unsatisfied, and people aren't able to get the help they need in a timely fashion.
Iggy wasn't wrong when he went off on Max about his hare-brained plans, but apparently, Max wasn't wrong about fixing Iggy's scheduling stuff either.
Oddly, Max was so subdued about Iggy's confrontation, and it was a prime example of how more often than not these days, it feels like Max is going through the motions and they don't have anything for him to do.
He stepped in for an ill doctor, which put him into mentor mode with residents, Mika, in particular. And he spent most of that time getting Mika to understand that self-care is crucial for saving lives.
But that message felt redundant enough for the story not to leave much of a mark. It's a pity since, as the lead, Max deserves to have meaningful stories and storylines, but when you cut down to the heart of it, he simply doesn't at all.
And I don't understand why because there are plenty of aspects of Max we don't know, and they haven't gotten explored in five seasons. Instead, they keep rehashing the same things, which we'll get into momentarily.
Floyd's personal story arc is still hard to invest in, and then they took that a step further by showing us that he and Gabrielle have become a thing off-camera, but we haven't seen any of it.
He and Horace were living out the odd couple with classic meddlesome guest roommate tropes. And Horace had to be the one to point out that Floyd should spend time with Gabrielle.
Floyd admitted that part of his issue with his father was that he was afraid he'd leave him again, which explains why he's behaving this way with Horace.
But Horace assured him that he wouldn't. The closeness they've reached in such a short time without unpacking Floyd's reasonable abandonment issues has routinely made this an unbaked arc, even when we exclude the bipolar debacle.
Floyd's abandonment and daddy issues remain fascinating to consider when we know he potentially has a child out there and has all but given up having strong feelings about that situation.
But he did have some great advice for Lauren regarding her sister.
If there was a takeaway, it's how the series fails its female characters and how glaring and frustrating that has become in this final season.
Lauren: Me leaving her, that's what put that needle in her arm.
Floyd: If you hadn't left, you'd be in the bed next to her. She has someone alive to help her because you left.
Because it's the last season, you can look back on the full body of work and what has come of it from most of the characters, and it's hard not to think about how the women get screwed over.
Let it be known that Janet Montgomery did well with the material and was excellent in this finale. Her performance was at its best from the tear-streaked expressions and raw vulnerability.
But Lauren is such a tragic character. Everything about her gets marred by tragedy as if we're supposed to constantly commend her on her resilience.
Her mother leaving $7 million and the entire estate to her troubled sister was unfathomable. Of course, this ridiculously awful thing had to happen to her.
Then we eased into Lauren treating her sister as she rolled into the ER after overdosing. It's a reason doctors shouldn't operate on their family, and it was frustrating that with their history, not one implemented that or told Lauren to step aside.
During the entire second half of the finale, Vanessa unleashed emotional warfare on Lauren, and it was so freaking ugly that it was unwatchable.
The terrible words, the realization that she deliberately opted to overdose across the street from the hospital because she knew Lauren would be there -- it was all so hateful.
There's a commentary about dealing with addiction and its impact on families, but haven't we done this enough? Did we need more of it?
Vanessa: Being nice to me now is not going to change the fact that mom died hating you.
Lauren: That's not true.
Vanessa: Yes, it is actually, thanks to me. She wrote you a letter a few years ago, an apology, you know, for being such a terrible mother. I threw it away.
Lauren: Why would you do that? Answer me! Why would you do that?
Vanessa: Because you didn't deserve that, Lauren!
If this is some lesson Lauren needed to learn to move forward in her own life, or how she grows and evolves and becomes a healthier person, why must it require a barrage of hardships and tribulations to get her to that point?
She had to make peace with her past, and they took the most emotionally destructive, exhaustive way of getting her to that point. It wasn't cathartic or a satisfying payoff; it made one heart sick.
I don't understand the trauma porn regarding Lauren and who gets off subjecting her to it. It backfires and leaves you desensitized because her bits of happiness they sold to us were a mirage and ripped away.
When Vanessa told Lauren that she deliberately didn't give Lauren a letter their mother wrote to her apologizing because "Lauren didn't deserve it," it reached a new level of undue cruelty.
Lauren does need to let her sister go because she can't save her. And Floyd made a valid point about Lauren leaving. She'd be as bad off as her sister if she stayed.
As for Vanessa, how was she angrier at Lauren for leaving her with their mother than she was at their mother for not being the adult? If we never see Vanessa again, it will be too soon.
Meanwhile, Martin is a gift that always gives. The only criticism about how he handled and ended things with Iggy was that they allowed their children to see them in bed together again as if they were a couple.
Nothing is wrong with a couple having one last roll in the hay before they call things quits for good. It can be challenging and confusing when you still love someone but must let them go.
But all it does is further confuse and jerk the chain of the kids when they go from their parents happily together to them rotating time at the house and separated, in bed together again, to them officially divorcing.
Martin and Iggy are both therapists, so you would think they'd have considered that.
That aside, Martin fills a person with pride. It would've been too easy and a cop-out if they somehow threw Iggy and Martin back together. They haven't resolved any of their issues, and from what we can see, Iggy hasn't gotten the help he should.
Weight-lifting, ironically, something that still relates too much to his body, which is troubling for someone who suffers from body dysmorphia, isn't some instant fix.
Martin: I can't just blindly hope that our problems have just magically solved themselves.
Iggy: I'm not waiting for them to magically solve themselves. I'm working on changing; I have changed. You've seen it. And I'm not just talking about the physical, the outside. I'm talking about inside, I feel different. I'm different.
Martin: Iggy, so am I.
Iggy: Martin, I love you. I'm in love with you.
Martin: I love you so much. But we're not those people anymore. It's time to finalize the divorce.
Martin didn't let the little head overpower the big one when it came to recognizing that they've grown apart, and there's no getting around that.
They love each other, and that won't change. They have a family and will always be family to each other. But as Martin said, they're different people now, and those people don't belong with each other.
It's too bad we couldn't spend more time with Martin to see how he's changed and perhaps even flourished apart from Iggy and how he reached this healthy conclusion. Good for him, though. Martin deserves the world and a healthy relationship.
While it's sad that the series has destroyed yet another relationship, this one was probably the most due, despite how endearing they were in the early days.
And now that we're on the topic of relationships, we must unpack the Wilder and Max portion of it all.
Harkening back to the previous comments about the series failing its women, that applies to Wilder, too. Her storyline was equally powerful, compelling, and infuriating.
Marlee Matlin is a freaking icon, and words cannot describe how exciting it was that she guest-starred in this series.
I'm not even part of the deaf community, and it still gave me chills to see these two deaf actresses sharing the screen, talking about the deaf community, the advancements they've made, the barriers broken -- all of it.
Belonging isn't about what you do. It's about who you are. And if you belonged here you would know that .Bev
Matlin is one of, if not the most prominent, most recognizable, universally lauded deaf actors. There is no denying that she's a trailblazer for the deaf community in the industry. Something was compelling about having her play such a strong character passionate about doing the same.
Bev served as a mentor to Elizabeth every bit like Matlin probably was and is an idol for Frank.
And a cancer survivor like Bev looking to Elizabeth as her legacy and someone worth passing a torch to in hopes that she'd lead the next generation of great deaf and hard of hearing doctors was enough to give you all the feelings.
For Elizabeth and Bev, what they've achieved and represent is inspiring. It makes sense that Bev would approach Elizabeth about running the medical school, and everything she said was right.
Wilder: I'm not a teacher. I'm a surgeon.
Bev: No, you're a deaf surgeon. The first one.
Wilder: Sounds like a good reason for me not to quit.
Bev: That is the reason. You are living proof that nothing is out of reach for our community. When I say that to young doctors, it's a line. But when you say it, it's the truth.
Wilder: There are many deaf doctors who have achieved what I have, including you.
Bev: Lizzie, when I die, there'll be a funeral and a blurb in the Times, but when you die, they're gonna put up a statue. Please stop acting like you're not a hero. Come home.
It's so markedly different when you tell people they can be whatever they want and actually show them someone who has done it.
Bev swooping in and reminding us of the gravity of what Wilder has accomplished, her pedigree, and how she is the creme of the crop was a nice refresher.
It was a reminder of who Wilder was before this season too often reduced her to the pining love interest and reckless doctor with oscillating morals.
Elizabeth Wilder is the badass surgical oncologist in such high demand that she was doing New Amsterdam a favor by being there.
Bev's offer of a lifetime and one near and dear to her heart because of what it would mean for the deaf community, was a solid plot to introduce.
Wilder is more than her deafness but it's such a big part of her identity, one she's unapologetic and proud about, and Bev's offer is something that would be appealing.
Elizabeth, the first deaf surgeon, could run a school that could produce more talented deaf doctors ready to set the world on fire with their passion and abilities.
It's a role that could suit Elizabeth well, but her hesitation about it made sense. She's a surgeon. She lives to cut, and running a school would mean she couldn't do that part of the job she loves most.
It was like Bev didn't consider that aspect at all. If Elizabeth is the first and only deaf surgeon, why would she want out of it? Wouldn't it be a disservice if she weren't cutting?
When weighing the options, there was no wrong choice here, though. It was all up to what Wilder felt strongly about and which appealed to her most.
The only issue with how Bev presented things was when she talked about how little New Amsterdam probably valued Elizabeth. She started projecting her own experiences onto Elizabeth, behaving like those were the only experiences a deaf doctor could ever have in the hearing world.
It played into what seems to be a common point of contention and debate among the deaf community when it comes to operating within or even "assimilating" into a hearing world versus creating one's own deaf one.
Wilder: Becoming a surgeon is all I ever wanted. If I leave it behind, who am I? I'm not a teacher.
Max: You were wrong earlier. I'm not learning ASL for you. I'm learning because of you. And when our hospital interacts with you, we realize what we thought were your limits were actually our own. And you don't think you're a teacher?
Wilder: I thought you would try to change my mind.
Max: I see you.
I loved that Wilder and Bev had these conversations openly, despite the two seemingly having different outlooks. And it was stunning work to have their conversation in the hallway happen with just them, cutting out all the background noise.
All you could hear were whatever sounds they made and the sounds of them signing. It pulled us into their world rather than vice versa. It's a statement technique and one worth appreciating.
The entire scene and sequence were some of the best of the season. The conversation was genuine and an unfiltered one on display.
Bev projected her experiences onto Elizabeth, claiming that her time at New Amsterdam would eventually wear her down. By no real fault of their own, hearing people can't seem to help themselves when their ignorance makes an environment non-inclusive; Bev wasn't wrong.
And here is where this incredible storyline for Wilder lost momentum because they made this opportunity and her experience about a freaking boy.
I wanted this for Wilder, not because I wanted to see her gone, but quite the opposite. She's added such value to this series before they undercut and reduced her to another love interest.
We could've spent the rest of the season with Wilder training a future oncologist before she went off and seized the day, making history and teaching the next generation of deaf doctors. I would watch a spinoff series about just that!
Her choice should've been based on her desires and whether she would sacrifice cutting for teaching. It should not have become about whether or not her job at New Amsterdam was inclusive enough to make her feel "seen" by her colleagues.
It's a tricky balance between these two worlds for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person.
On the one hand, there's a call to be more insular "for the community," rejecting the concept of "assimilating" into a hearing world. On there other, there's the desire to break down all the walls that stand in the way in a hearing world, making it more inclusive for all. Create your own world or bend this flawed one to your will.
Somehow, all of that became about Wilder's feelings for Max. She deserved so much better than that.
Was Bev wrong when you look back on the series history since Wilder got there? While offscreen, Labine and Byrne were among those who learned ASL when Frank joined the cast; we have yet to see things like that reflected within the series.
It took well over a year of Wilder being there before Max started learning ASL so they could communicate with her when Ben wasn't around.
They text each other when she's off the clock and hanging out with the crew. Elizabeth has been part of their world for nearly two years, and we have seen a minimal effort by others to learn her language and learn all these facets and parts of her that you can only get when you can communicate with her on her level.
They're nice to Elizabeth. They respect her and even hang out with her sometimes, but has anyone taken that initiative?
You would think that Max would have implemented something or gone on a tear for the entire staff to learn ASL, not solely for their colleague but for the betterment of all the patients who come through those doors needing it.
Please don't do this for me. It won't work.Wilder
Of all the "very special" issues for Max to tackle over the past two seasons, that wasn't one of them, and it actually seems out of character for him. Max, the man who flaunted his Spanish among the cleaning staff in their locker room to show how much he values connecting with people on their level.
Max didn't start learning ASL until recently, and it's no wonder Elizabeth thought he only learned it to "woo" her because his learning the language coincided with the feelings he started developing for her.
I can believe that Max started to learn ASL because of Elizabeth rather than for her. I can feel that he thinks it. She inspired him to consider something in a way that he hadn't before, but it took so long to get here.
Technically, New Amsterdam and those Elizabeth connected with there have a long way to go before they prove that they do "see" and "hear" her.
It doesn't matter how much we love these characters; Bev was right about her statements when we look at the full picture.
And that's why the reasoning behind Elizabeth saying no to Max's date felt so damn good. To make it better, it wasn't about Helen or even Max; it was about Elizabeth and what she felt she deserved.
It was such an empowering conversation for her to have, end-capped beautifully when Max proved her point by stating he didn't catch all of it, which she knew.
Elizabeth deserves someone who can match her level. Yes, the fact that Max genuinely tries and puts in the work to learn speaks volumes about him and certainly helps wonders.
But Elizabeth is this vibrant, passionate force of nature and doesn't want to slow down. It's perfectly okay and understandable if she doesn't want to suppress herself to get down to his level so he can understand her.
It's asking her to do a lot of emotional labor and work. And that goes for any issue.
Sure, it's beautiful when people earnestly try, and it's commendable, too, but that also doesn't change how exhaustive it can be for the other person who essentially has to wait patiently for the other person to get on their level or teach and so forth along the way.
It's tough when that's the person you want to come home to at night after a long day of bending the world to your will; all you want to do is rest, not face more of the same. Not everyone has the energy for that, and there's nothing wrong with it.
Wilder: I'm crazy about you, Max. The way you look at me with those eyes... I'm a goner. I think about you when I'm not here. I think about you when I am. You've become this huge part of me, in just these small moments we share.
Max: Slow down.
Wilder: No, I can't. I don't want to slow down for you. For anyone. That's why I can't be with someone who doesn't know my language. I know you're learning ASL. And it's so endearing and often hilarious. But I can't share everything I'm feeling in a way you'll understand. I want you to know me, to really know my heart and soul, and have you understand my most silly, convoluted thoughts. My feelings. Because without that, you'll never really know me. Yes, I feel everything that's there between us. But I also feel the empty spaces. And I don't want to live in an empty space. I don't want to fall in love in an empty space.
Max: I'm sorry. I didn't get all of that. I didn't.
Wilder I know.
That Elizabeth got to express that was so powerful. Her comment about feeling empty spaces was beyond poignant, incredibly moving, and resonant. It was one of this character's top five monologues and moments and certainly one of the best of the season.
And that's why it was so irritating that they backpedaled on that great moment by the end of the next hour. WHAT has changed since that conversation and now?
Max told her he "sees" her and encouraged her. It's on par with what Max does. He told her he would let her go for her betterment even if it hurt him in so many words. But we knew Max was like this; it's not new.
Credit where it's due, Max had a nice little stretch of clumsy but solid ASL when he hyped her up, taking the initiative to do it without Ben in the room, an intimate moment between the two. It was his best, strongest presentation of his ASL yet.
He explained how she inspired him to learn and be better, see that they've been the limited ones, not her, and showed how she'd taught them all along.
It was a good speech. Max got it across well enough. But was this gesture and his words enough to backtrack on everything Wilder said? No!
Suddenly, one conversation with Max telling her that he could "see" her was enough to have Wilder declining the job and adding that her experience working in a hearing hospital is different than Bev's because of Max. But was it really?
Wilder got swept away in her feelings for him, and it's supposed to be this romantic moment, with HER chasing after HIM, asking to go home with him in the hospital lobby. Just like that, they stripped her of all this power and again reduced her to a helpless love interest.
Wilder: I'm staying.
Max: What changed--
Wilder: Shut up and take me home.
But then the forward momentum for this romantic relationship, which I will forever maintain we did not need because they didn't have the proper time to build it, got utterly decimated in mere seconds when Max saw Helen on the television screen.
Worse yet, in a hospital lobby, no less, there weren't even subtitles up. All Elizabeth can see from her perspective is her opening herself up and taking the risk of loving a man she's had feelings for and him getting distracted by his ex-fiancee onscreen, opening up old wounds.
Again, this is why we didn't need Max and Wilder. I can think of a million other storylines that Max could have in the final season to bring his character to an excellent close other than the redundancy of this one.
And Wilder deserves so much better than getting reduced to a poor man's Helen.
Helen's voice stopped Max in his tracks, and there's no telling how her presence in New York for a cancer convention and her making the press rounds will impact him as the season progresses.
I already dread this because while there may be some Sharpwin shippers out there who are holding out hope for something nice, or they can easily forgive everything that's transpired if the two get a happy ending, I cannot.
It was difficult to get excited about the Helen sighting when there's trepidation over how they'll handle it. All we know is that Helen hasn't communicated with Max or anyone at New Amsterdam since she left him at the altar.
She returned to NYC for a convention and hasn't reached out to anyone there. If she does now, it'll feel disingenuous. She'll get subjected to everyone's ire for her actions, and who wants to see that when they have already ruined her character?
If she doesn't reach out, they'll double down on vilifying her beyond comprehension and use this to edge Lauren out as the Charlie Brown of the series by disrupting the semblance of happiness or whatever he's had since she left.
And Helen will serve as the interloper in Max and Wilder's progress as a romantic pairing. I don't foresee a single avenue for this where they don't shred the last visages of Helen's character we had left. And it's a disservice to the memory of Helen, as has been the case since her departure.
It's a disservice to Elizabeth, who deserved to be her own character, and is now this woman who lives in Helen's shadow and gets consumed by her proximity to the male lead.
And it's a disservice to Max.
As the lead, he deserved a fresher, better storyline than beating this dead horse and rehashing the contrived drama of him loving two women at once, grieving some form of a loss, trying to move on with someone new entirely way too fast, and not figuring himself out in the process.
It's a pity that the potential reappearance of Helen should be exciting, but instead, it's something to dread.
On that note, who knows what's in store for us when New Amsterdam returns January 3 for the final three episodes? Until then, 'Dam Fanatics, let's discuss the highs and lows of this fall finale below.
I'm curious about your thoughts, so don't hesitate to share below! Happy Holidays to you all!
If you'd like to revisit the season so far, you can watch New Amsterdam online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.