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So here we have Mike White doing what he does best: spearheading a project that's one part subversive, one part cynical, one part hopeful and one part lethally and blackly comic.
Enlightened works on many levels because of this but it's also this uber-quirky quality that turns a lot of people who don't have the patience or the understanding of what they're watching off.
Dern's Amy Jellicoe character is not likable, which is a huge gamble from the get-go,especially for a female character; men on TV shows - as in real life - tend to be given far more leeway, to say the least. All the characters on the show are deeply flawed, of course, but these people are not caricatures, they're all three-dimensional and doing the best they can at their respective levels of consciousness.
It's interesting how Amy, beginning in season one, had been trying to find some sort of inner peace but soon as she returns to work at her vile company, that intention flies out the window.Rather than quitting her job, as anyone who genuinely was seeking peace would most likely do, she stays and takes on a new, seemingly better, more 'important' ego identity: agent of change. This is hilarious to me, because in substituting one ego identity for another she is still as lost and as fragmented as she was in the very beginning, if not more so. I'm hoping that White understands this, because I'm not sure how enlightened he actually is(because the actual subject of the title has not been dealt with in anything but superficial terms), but either way it plays as good television.
My favorite episode was the one in season two called The Ghost Is Seen, where White's basically sadsack character Tyler narrates instead of Amy, sharing with the audience about how he feels invisible, how he's lonely, how his life has been empty, until he meets Eileen, played beautifully by the always wonderful Molly Shannon. Ironically, of course - this is a Mike White show, remember - he's in the process of betraying her as they speak, breaking into her computer to get lethally damaging evidence against the company. This episode was brilliantly written and enacted, with White's voice-over narration being profoundly moving.
I only hope he gets a chance for a third season; in light of all the garbage that gets renewed - like Girls, for instance - I think this show warrants another shot, at the very least. UPDATED 3/20/13: Cancelled. Too subversive for HBO, apparently. Not surprised.
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