New Amsterdam‘s Max didn’t exactly get the closure he was seeking from his ex-fiancée Helen in Tuesday’s fifth and final season premiere. The episode opened with a montage spanning the months post-their breakup, during which Max marked Luna’s birthday and his friends consoled him. Meanwhile, former cast member Freema Agyeman’s voice was heard over the sequence, reading a letter that Helen wrote to Max.
“What I did was unforgivable, to you, to our friends, to sweet Luna. It was never my intention, none of this is what I intended,” the note read. “Everything I ever said to you was true, everything we had was real. But so was this thing that kept me in London, that kept me from marrying you. I wish I knew what it was. I wish I could rip it out of me, obliterate it, so I could be with you, because you deserve all the happiness in the world. I wish I had an explanation to help ease your pain, but none has come.”
Moving on following that letter will be “a slow process” for Max, executive producer Peter Horton says in the above video. “It’s not something that happens quickly.” Initially, in the premiere, Max can only recall the good times he shared with Helen. But once he started to remember all the red-flag moments in their relationship, “I think finally being able to answer those questions for himself allows him to not be obsessed about it, allows him to move on,” showrunner David Schulner shares. “It’s not something that we’re going to be playing throughout the season of Max [being] like, ‘Why did she leave me?’”
For the brokenhearted doc, “it is not totally clear why she left from that letter, and I think that’s perhaps something we’re going to get into later,” star Ryan Eggold adds. “But I think [he’s] realizing that he’s sort of looking at it with rose-colored glasses, that he’s focusing on these moments that were perfect and that everything was always great, and not really being aware of any problems that existed or her desire to sort of pull away or things like that. I think he wanted it to work so badly that he was sort of blind to that a little bit. So I think waking up to that brings him into the present very much, and it allows him to, I think, start moving forward again instead of staying stuck.”
While even Helen can’t explain in her letter why she couldn’t go through with the wedding, the signs were there all along that something was off between “Sharpwin,” as witnessed by the countless flashbacks in the episode, going all the way back to last season’s premiere. So was it just fortuitous that the producers had those scenes in their back pocket? “We didn’t even know that we would have Freema for Season 4. Freema was thinking of leaving after Season 3. So Season 4 was a gift to us,” Schulner previously revealed to TVLine, now adding that “we planted those moments throughout Season 4 so we would have them as an explanation. The sign posts were there if you were watching.”
Eagle-eyed viewers may have also noticed that as all of Max’s friends stepped up to support him in his time of need, he and Dr. Elizabeth Wilder (played by Sandra Mae Frank), in particular, shared a few looks that could be construed as having chemistry. Oh, no. There’s nothing there at all,” Horton says (sarcastically?) with a smile. Eggold, who directed the season opener, says, “We did the push-in on her and that look [at the end of the episode], and I couldn’t call, ‘Cut!’ because she was so amazing in it and alive and connected, and it was bewitching to watch her do that moment. So I think I rolled on it for like 10 minutes. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we need it for two seconds, right.’”
“So speaking as Ryan about Sandra, I can say she’s an absolute joy to work with and so talented and so smart and brings great things to the scenes and is so fun,” Eggold continues. “In terms of Max and Wilder, Wilder was there for Max as a friend even, I think it was Wilder’s first episode, she was giving him advice about Sharpe and saying, ‘Don’t let her go’ and stuff. So there’s been a cool connection with them, I think, from the very start.”