‘New Amsterdam’: Will Max’s Risky Decision to Fight His Cancer Work?
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1, Episode 20 of New Amsterdam, “Preventable.”]
Despite his cancer diagnosis and his body and mind telling him he can’t, Max (Ryan Eggold) still wants to do it all.
And that’s why he may be making the wrong decision about his treatment on New Amsterdam.
The episode begins with Max having a nightmare about a young girl unable to find her mother in the park. When a woman asks where her father is, she says, “I don’t have a dad. My dad died.” When he wakes up, he realizes his hair is falling out.
Following a visit with Dr. Stauton (Judith Ivey) — though we don’t learn what’s discussed until the end of the episode — Max becomes increasingly frustrated throughout the day. He doesn’t want to waste his time on “arbitrary” meetings, and he’s quite the thorn in Reynolds’ (Jocko Sims) side during the M&M (morbidity and mortality) conference regarding his patient’s death.
Max is the one to suggest that Vijay (Anupam Kher) move a patient into the presidential suite to make her as comfortable as she can be. When Helen (Freema Agyeman) learns this, she asks if Max seemed like himself. “He seemed erratic, annoyed, then excited, then distracted, all in quick succession, and if it was anyone but Max, I would have got worried,” Vijay tells her. Should they be worried? Yes.
Helen then turns to Iggy (Tyler Labine) for his opinion. “Every cancer patient struggles, but in the past few days, he has been exhibiting behavior that is erratic, unstable, even angry,” she says. “That’s not Max.” He suggests it’s because she is no longer his oncologist. While Max may respect Dr. Stauton, he believes in Helen.
Helen’s investigation into Max’s behavior leads her to Dr. Stauton for answers, which she then shares with Reynolds. Max’s cancer isn’t responding to chemo or radiation. “It’s bad,” she says, and he found out that morning.
That’s why he pushed Reynolds so hard. “Life, death, it can’t be arbitrary,” Max insists. “I just thought maybe there was something that we missed. Maybe there was something that we could have done differently. Maybe I could have done a lot of things differently.”
He doesn’t want his death to be “arbitrary” either, and Reynolds tells him to keep fighting. Max’s decision to follow that advice leads him to agree to an aggressive treatment option.
Dr. Stauton tells him about DDC, dose-dense chemo. “It’s the same dose of cisplatin that you’re on, but we would administer it twice as frequently,” she explains. “By amping up the quantity and frequency of your treatment, we could interrupt the rapid growth phase of your malignant tumor cells.”
It’s “the equivalent of napalming your internal organs,” she warns him. “Essentially, it’s a human scorched-earth policy.” That means all the side effects he’s been experiencing will just get much, much worse.
Rather than take time to think it over, he asks to start immediately. On the one hand, he’s going to keep fighting.
But on the other hand, this is an extreme treatment, one that could do more harm than good, and fear of missing out on his child’s life after that nightmare likely played a role in his quick decision. In the promo for Episode 21, “This Is Not the End,” Helen is worried he won’t last three more weeks — and she may be right.
However, New Amsterdam has been renewed for a second season already, and the series wouldn’t kill off Max, would it? Or will his nightmare come true?
New Amsterdam, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC