Reflecting on Enlightened's Excellent First Season

The tenth and final episode of Enlightened’s first season concluded with Amy Jellicoe dousing the offices of Abaddonn Industries—the inconceivably depressing workplace that is simultaneously the root of and solution to all of her problems—in gasoline and setting it ablaze. It was cathartic and spectacular, but it was fantasy. What Amy was actually doing was hacking the company’s internal email system—all thanks to crush-harboring deskmate Tyler, who left Amy the password on a copy of the damning packet of literature she had distributed minutes before in the company’s boardroom. And that’s where Season 1 left us: Amy has gone full-on Erin Brockovich. Like the episode about sexual harassment, Amy might actually instigate some sweeping policy changes at Abaddonn. Or, you know, it could all backfire in a big way.

It was a dramatic finale, though a little cliffhanger-y for a show that excelled most during its quieter moments. The boardroom showdown that preceded the final scenes was riveting, though, with shades of DePalma’s Carrie as Amy was welcomed to present her findings before Damon and the rest of the crew. Once there, she learned that she was there for their amusement, and left the boardroom in humiliation, only to overhear them mocking her the moment she was out of sight. That brought Amy back in to confront them—but instead of electrocuting them with telekinectic powers, she did something better: She threw Damon’s words back in his face, the ones he foolishly shared with her over pillowtalk during their affair, all about “double dipping” and skimming bonuses off the top. It was a delicious moment of comeuppance for a character who is so often made the butt of the jokes.

The episode had begun with Amy seeing Levi off at the airport as he left for Open Air to finally kick his chemical dependencies. Waving her ex-husband off was a triumphant moment for Amy—people are listening to her all over the place!—and it will be interesting to see if Levi comes back sober, or changed at all. After that, Amy returned home to Helen—who we learned so much more about in last week’s beautiful and devastating episode—and the two actually cuddled together in bed, albeit awkwardly. (Helen took care to point out Amy’s split ends.)

And so, as we wait to hear a decision from HBO as to whether or not we’ll have another season of Enlightened (and I really hope we do), let’s now take stock in what it gave us. Mike White played a bit of a shell game with his audience: What started out as looking to be a takedown of things like recovery and spirituality and social activism was actually a quiet celebration of them. Because White is such a brilliant dramatist, Enlightened felt like nothing else on its network. There were no tired gimmicks here (Hung), no shameless displays of sex and wealth (Entourage), no twee hipster preciousness (Bored to Death) or spectacular production values (Boardwalk Empire). No, Enlightened was just an impeccably written, impeccably acted show. It had something to say.

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Couldn't agree more with this review. So tired of defending the show to people who expect it to be a comedy, or who don't think Laura Dern's pretty enough... Fact is, there's nothing like it on TV - it may be a whole new genre in itself: the half-hour HBO drama. BTW, had the pleasure of seeing Mike White live at a Q&A (organized by the Canadian Film Centre @ Bell Lightbox) in Toronto a month ago... He said the Laura Dern character might 'unconsciously' be based on his own father, who was a right-wing Evangelical Christian until he came out of the closet a few years ago. He's still Christian, but now works as an anti-homophobia activist, meeting with Christians across the U.S. to try and open their minds and hearts to homosexuals... Sort of like our enlightened Amy.
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my favorite show; this and Episodes on Showtime; brilliant and creative; very relatable characters; I hope it returns!
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There has to be another season...please...this and American Horror History the two best new shows in years
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I can't even describe how much I've enjoyed Enlightened. I'm so glad you did, Seth.
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I absolutely loved every episode of the series. I'm surprised there is even talk of it possibly not coming back, it is one of the most real and refreshing show to hit tv in a long time (or dare I say ever?) It is also the only show that I actually said to myself "man I'm going to miss this show while it's gone."

Not only am I looking for her to exact sweet revenge on all of her evil co-workers next season, I am also hoping that Krista's baby comes out backwards and has very long fingernails.....
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Not sure if I love it. Not sure if I'm the target audience. But it's definitely a quality show so far.
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What a great show, best writing I've seen in tv in a very long time. If it doesn't get a 2nd season I'll be super mad, especially after that cliffhanger.
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Really enjoyed this show! I hope Levi comes back a changed man! It would be wonderful to see. This show is like a breath of fresh air!
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Friends of Amy J, how do you occupy healthcare?
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personally I found it pretty uninteresting except for maybe 2 or 3 episodes really, but wouldn't you know it, an episode completely interesting from start to finish and it WAS THE FRICKEN SEASON FINALE?! dang. way to pull me in for more seasons.
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so yeah, as a seriously big fan of the show in brazil, i should give you all a link that says brazilian hbo has already announced 'enlightened's renewal during a press conference last week. http://bit.ly/rSSPdy this is gonna be great, and the thing is i'll be waiting very patiently 'cause i just can't get enough of rewatching it over and over again.
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This show is really something. I understand if everyone doesn't like it, but I know I do. I really like the dualistic nature of Amy. On one hand you want to support her and whatever she is trying to do. But on the other hand I do share her colleagues' sentiment: she is annoying. I also like the minimalism of the show, it's always interesting to see a story which is stripped of all the sparkle and just focuses on the core message.
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Enlightened like Amy herself makes us uncomfortable with its many cringe-worthy moments... It is not a comedy and sometimes it is difficult to watch. But like in real life, we stick around in case things might get better... Since it begun I keep wondering whether the short eps are the best format...
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One of the best new shows in recent memory. It would be a crime not to renew it!!
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Excellent portrait of the pricks/bitches in the work place, the cliques, how it makes people feel to be back stabbed like in high school, there is some major stuff wrong with her MOM, poor Amy.....This show makes me want to run away from Amy most of the time, her endless optimism, always believing the best in others, I hope this time (from the last scene) she is gonna make some major changes...Go Amy, can't wait to see what she gets out of the emails, I just hope she doesn't tell on herself



This show I will miss till next season.
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Enlightened is actually my new favorite show. Yes, I do love Homeland and American Horror story but Enlightened has something these show don't have: sobriety. I feel like I'm actually watching real people on screen. I love the chemistry between Laura Dern and her (real life) mom Diane Ladd and Luke Wilson has never been better. Hope HBO gives us another season of what will certainly become a classic.
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I love Enlightened, too, but I don't know about season 2.
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