Revenge or Justice?
The supreme underrated underdog series (perhaps of the past decade) Enlightened, has finally returned and sustains its hopeful, passionate glory. Mike White’s little series premieres to a breathtaking second season that puts Amy Jellicoe on the path to take down the corporate kingdom that once ruined her: Abaddonn Industries. And this time she gains a bit of much needed help. “The Key” wastes no time reintroducing us to the mission Amy is on to eradicate the constructed poisonous environments built upon the dreams and hopes of the little guys that ultimately make this corporate plaza work. The first season of the HBO comedy series, set up a moving, inspiring, human and enraging story that highlighted corruption within this American kingdom and also realized the underdog pawns that suffer, while the kings and queens indulge in its egregious splendor. The second season explores the means of enacting justice. But are there a few ulterior motives under the surface of this great, fateful battle against the corporate dragons and witches that put glorified symbols before humans? Maybe…
In the Season 1 finale, Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern) finally got access into confidential corporate e-mails that revealed a ton of incriminated, amoral activities happening right under everyone’s noses. Amy and her apprehensive partner in crime, ex-IT guy, Tyler (Mike White) set out to do the impossible, yet are clueless on how to do so. Amy finds the help of a journalist with an aptitude for writing great corporate exposes, Jeff Flender (Dermot Mulroney) and her enthusiasm escalates from there. The extreme feeling of being the one person to make things right in a whole world of wrong is a new high for her. As a recovering addict, this couldn’t be truer. She use to be one of the big shots at Abaddonn and after her very public meltdown in the office, she is now a lowly wretch doing grunt work in the basement with the other dregs of humanity in this odd Cogentiva project. A project that Amy fins out is going to be eliminated, which will in turn result in major job loss for everyone Amy works with in Abaddonn’s basement. This is literally shocking to Amy. She must not realize that this is how things are being run now. No one is saying it’s right and she has a right to be appalled and disgusted. Her mission to bring justice to this place is admirable, yet there is some indiscretions that come along with it.
Thing is, Amy feels so destined to be the one to take down the corporate, capitalist hellhole that is Abaddonn that she may loose sight of why she’s even doing this. Amy has got fiery passion and her zeal is something to be rivaled, but the fact that she wavers between manic and a goofy child on a secret mission that might not be as explosive as she thinks, is a bit dangerous. Not to mention that Amy’s loneliness is another conflict in the situation. She doesn’t particularly have a very nurturing mother and her ex-husband, Levi (Luke Wilson) is away at rehabilitation. Amy doesn’t really have friends after everything she’s been through at work and socially. She is bound to be lonely during her fight to do what’s right. And this journalist, Jeff is handsome, intelligent, and interested in what she is trying to do, however misguided she may occasionally be. Amy may not recognized it, but when she goes to meet Jeff at his apartment, she is interested in more than just the story. She doesn’t even want Tyler accompanying her to this meeting because it might “confuse” Jeff of who he is to Amy.
The journey Amy has been on is imperative to her. She feel like she’s doing the right thing by defying the rules of corporation and “normal U.S. capitalism”. That journey--that ambitious fight for something better can be a lonely endeavor, especially when no one believes in it. It makes one feel unworthy of love or companionship. It’s isolating, because no one else gets it or will even listen to what you have to say. That in itself is reason enough for some people not to make a fuss about it. Not to mention the possibility of losing what one has by making a ruckus about the corruption within their job. It’s just like the risk individuals took by being a part of Occupy Wall Street. Many people got fired for standing up for what they believed was right and attempting to right the many wrongs within a greedy society that lusts after money and puts the people last. But Amy has a lot of stake and self-interest in this mission to take down Abaddonn as well.
Again, this is the company that destroyed Amy and made her look like she was some crazy woman who deserved only to be locked up in a loony bin . She worked there for fifteen years and then is thanked for it by being thrown into the basement of this cold corporation. There has to be some harsh feelings accompanying Amy’s mission to take down Abaddonn and the various faces that inhabit the industry’s four walls spewing their venom and standing on the shoulders of the little guys. Amy has not been developed as a whole and healed woman. She’s also human. Flawed, with some of the best intentions, but definitely human. Amy might be leading with her cause as a mission of justice, but there is at least an iota of vengeance running through her head when she embarks on the Abaddonn takedown. And it’s not like she doesn’t want recognition for it either. Amy is already publicizing her big takedown and it hasn’t even begun rolling yet. She wants to be the hero of it all. The white knight who comes in at the right moment to slay the horrible dragon that is turning the people into alienated zombies.
Tyler is a direct product of an isolating corporate system that is sucking the life out of its workers and isn’t even paying them well enough to make it slightly okay. Which is why it’s so tragic to hear him admit that he is content with where he is and that he’s never known anything else. Tyler hasn’t lived, he hasn’t loved or been loved, or done anything worth revealing. Not to sound so overtly anti-government, but Tyler is just another detached pawn who is being used by the system. And if anyone deserves to take down Abaddonn, it is him. Amy might be full of self-satisfaction concerning her want--her need to be this legend’s hero, but her cause is important. The emptiness of being a pawn in a system is disconcerting for anyone. So when Jeff informs her that the information she has is not enough to destroy Abaddonn for good, she is distraught. Amy is absolutely honest during her brief meltdown in Tyler’s car, as she admits that she’s tired of being and feeling nothing. “It felt good to feel alive for once, and not just dead and plastic and numb.” But Amy might get the chance to continue her crusade, as Jeff informs her that he thinks Abaddonn execs have been paying off federal officials. Amy and Tyler must delve deeper into the inner workings of the corporation, raising the stakes and embarking on a new daring quest. Ending with ominous shots of the cursed kingdom full of skyscrapers and towers made of iron and concrete that we have created at the cost of people, Amy’s mission for justice has only just begun.
Enlightened is a special little series that deserves a lot more recognition than it currently gets. Mike White and Laura Dern make some widely compelling and excruciatingly true observations about human relations and class. The righteousness and genuine crusade to do right is often a lonely one and others will look down on a lonesome crusader. It is unsettling how much worldly and human sincerity and worry is established just in this premiere that does an amazing job of preparing us for what is to come this season. The key to saving the little guys from this poisonous corporate spell may come in quite a few different forms, most of which might be surprising. If there is any underdog series worth viewing and rooting for, this one is it! “The Key” is a satisfying response to last season’s finale and gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013