New Amsterdam gave us a lot to think about in this week’s episode, “The Domino Effect”. The title’s a fairly technical reference – in the medical world a “domino surgery” involves multiple individuals donating and receiving organ transplants as a part of a chain of surgeries. The surgeries are conducted more or less at the same time but each person donating and receiving has to be an exact match and if even one thing is off, the entire string of surgeries will fail. Hence, the domino effect.
This is the premise of “The Domino Effect”, and it’s actually not the first time a medical drama has incorporated it into their story. Back in 2008, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy had an episode in their fifth season, “There’s No ‘I’ In Team”, in which a domino surgery hung in the balance after one of the participants found out her husband had an affair. In New Amsterdam this week, “The Domino Effect” has a similar storyline and the domino surgery is being threatened by the emotions of the people involved.
This is an aspect New Amsterdam relies heavily on – emotion. Every week there’s a storyline that doesn’t just present itself for the sake of the episode, but rather dives deep into the psyche of the characters involved. In “The Domino Effect” there is a similar approach, since not only does the hospital have to tackle a domino surgery, but Max has to agree to be absent for all of it because he has health problems of his own to tackle, especially now that his wife is in the know about them.
This presents a dilemma for Max because that violates the core of who he is and it’s what the entire series is based on – Max’s willingness to go above and beyond for patients in a way other doctors don’t care to. Seeing him make a selfish decision speaks volumes for the simple fact that sometimes we have to put ourselves first, and we can’t forego what we need for others, even if they are our patients.
When it comes to the domino surgery, Dr. Sharpe is the one responsible for organizing and bringing it altogether and before Max heads off to get surgery of his own, a phone call takes place to go over the details one more time. Something to admire about the character is that in light of Max’s health issues, he doesn’t waver in being optimistic and trying to make stressful situations more bearable. When he cracks a joke on the conference call, it is not received well and all he gets is complete silence on the other end. Despite that, he pushes forward to the point but doesn’t ever let go of that sunny optimism. It’s something to love about Max’s – so complicated, but when it comes to his work, he does what needs to be done, and with a smile on his face. Sure, television has plenty of characters who are motivating and uplifting, but there is something unique about Max that feels genuine and real, and every week is a testament to his relatability.
As the doctors prepare for the domino surgery, they run into a complication that could throw off the entire plan. After doing a psych eval on one of the patients, Dr. Frome concludes that she is not doing the surgery of her own free will and there seems to be something deeper and problematic going on between her and her brother (who she would be donating to). This throws a wrench in everything – but brings up a good point about free will and guilt. This particular patient quite possibly agreed out of guilt or shame because her brother is hurting but given that it could mess her up to take such a drastic step and give a piece of herself away, it’s certainly not the right decision. Of course, the other doctors want her to just agree to do it because it would keep the domino surgery intact, but is this really fair, even though it means putting multiple lives at risk? It’s such a difficult question to answer – but it is important to remember that the domino surgery is made up of individual parts and each patient has their own demons that can’t be disregarded.
New Amsterdam tackles such complicated cases, in a different manner than other medical dramas tend to. If this was a Grey’s Anatomy or The Resident episode, this problem would be inflated and bloated to be a very dramatic twist and angle to the entire episode. It would take away from the humanity of it versus focus on what it truly means, and this is why New Amsterdam tends to stand out so much and why every week it’s so easy to say that this episode is the best of the series. There’s just something so thought-provoking with the way New Amsterdam episodes are written that somehow allows the audience to feel the pain and relate even if they’ve never been in that situation.
“The Domino Effect” figures out a way to make the domino surgery work by relying on other family members and strangers to make it all come together, which brings us to another point. When in desperate need, many strangers came together to offer their help aka donating organs, and it’s a reminder that even if this is a television show, good people do exist. In a world that is full of so many saddening events and heartbreaking tragedies, there is good out there, and New Amsterdam did a marvelous job reminding us of this through it’s story.
It’s always a surprise where each new episode will take us but it’s always something to look forward to because of the lessons we’ll be taught, the wisdom that will be passed on, and the situations that will make us see medicine in a completely different light. New Amsterdam is not intimidated by the myriad of medical dramas out there that have basically covered anything a show can think of, but instead takes those same situations and puts a twist on it that pulls us in to the heart of it, rather than the drama. And for that, we thank it.
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