Not since Six Feet Under and Big Love has there been a show I’ve loved as much as HBO’s Enlightened. Right now there’s a campaign to get the show renewed. Its fate hangs in the balance as we speak, and so I felt compelled to say a few words on its behalf. Bottom line: I NEED another season. I need more time to study the fascinating female lead, Laura Dern. What an actress! She delivers a bravura performance in her portrayal of the passionately principled Amy Jellicoe. Dern brings incredible emotional intensity and expressiveness to the screen. She is a such a fine actress, and always has been (See: Smooth Talk, Wild at Heart, Citizen Ruth and many, many more) but this series really gives her the space to do her thing and it’s something to see.
One thing I appreciate about this show is its nice stylistic sheen. The soothing music by Mark Mothersbough washes over you like high quality conditioner through the hair. The panning shots of skyscrapers against blue skies, and the geometric beauty of office parks make impressive visual statements. There’s a great aesthetic throughout. The framing, the lighting, set design- all of it is top notch. Now,these are just ordinary, everyday settings we’re talking about here: home, office, parking lot, street. This isn’t a recreation of a Tudor palace. But the scenes are shot with so much thought and care that you see these familiar places from a new, illuminating angle.
Laura Dern is the standout and the star on the show, but her cast mates are also very good. Her boss, Dougie, played by Timm Sharp, provides wonderful comic relief as her ridiculous, blustery boss. Amy’s mother, Helen, played by Laura Dern’s real life mother Diane Ladd, is subtle and devastating in the muted blows she levels on Amy. You know, stray comments on her hair, her ex, things like that. Mike White, who writes all the episodes, also stars as Amy’s co-worker and collaborator in crime. Writing AND acting. I could almost hate someone so talented, but I’ve learned to turn those type of thoughts over to a higher power and I leave it at that.
Durmot Mulroney is good as Jeff, a shaggy, muckraking reporter at the L.A. Times. The show takes a nice crack at this whole social media/print news intersection. That’s a rich vein to mine. Would love to see where that could go in another season. To catch you up in case you haven’t been following along, Jeff and Amy are working together on a bombshell story that could bring down elected officials, corporate heads and the company itself. This is the kind of story Jeff has been waiting his whole Noam Chomsky- reading life for. Amy wants to stick it to the company that has mistreated her too long. I wouldn’t say her motives are necessarily “enlightened” but they are understandable considering everything she’s been through. Digging up the corruption at her work is the opportunity in front of her, and she’s throwing herself into it, but I want more for this character. I want her fly far from that office basement. I want her to start her own Fortune 500 company. I want her to get her own place! I want a Season 3!
Now, you know you’re in deep with a show when you begin developing strong opinions about the characters’ sex lives. I must be far gone because I do NOT think Amy and her journalist friend should have slept together. The sex scene felt like a dissipation rather than a celebration of their combined energies. There was more evident intimacy between the two of them during their conversation about Jeff’s divorce. They were really connecting there. But you could tell from the look on Amy’s face during sex that she wasn’t really into it, and I don’t like to see that. I think they should have waited. Anyway, we definitely need another season to work out this situation. Clearly, there are some complicated issues in play, and there is just no way tomorrow night’s episode is going to be sufficient to put them to rest.
The ever-adorable Luke Wilson makes a spicy turn as Amy’s ex-husband, Levi. In the most recent episode, he comes back from rehab and tells Amy he wants to try again with her. You can imagine how tempting it would be for her to fall back into life with Levi. Now that he is clean, maybe they can make it work. But now she’s torn between the two guys. I could make the case for either one of them, but the fact is, these are important life decisions which can not and should not be made in a half hour episode. Another season is the only satisfactory outcome here.
There is so much Amy could do with her life and I really want to see her explore those options. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see her take meetings with the movers and shakers in the environmental movement? She could give her own speeches at fundraisers. Or start a non-profit organization. She could do anything! I want to see her succeed. Succeed BIG.
I’d also love to hear more specifics about her spiritual quest. How did she arrive at her philosophy of life? Who are her influences? Next season, and, let me repeat, I certainly hope there IS a next season, I’d like to see more of a focus on all of that. The show is called, “Enlightened,” after all. So, how does one become enlightened? What does that mean? I want her reading list. I want to know what psychic hotlines she’s hooked up with. I’m taking notes.
The fact is, I’m devoted to these characters. If HBO doesn’t renew the show, I don’t know, it’ll be like a bad break-up, with lots of unfinished business that haunts me for the rest of my life. Why go there? I really think the show could be very inspirational to a large audience. We need MORE examples of brave people empowering themselves to make positive changes in the world, not less. If it’s canceled, that will be like that bitchy lady in the board room will have won, and that’s not a good message to send to the country at this time. Enlightened is all about the little guy getting his. America needs a show like that. Let this series live! Watch it in its entirety and ask HBO to renew! Thank you!