"Who am I?"
It’s a vital question we all ask ourselves. From the day we are born, we are set on the bizarre track to find ourselves--to discover who we are and where we are headed in this beautifully unsettling world. Amy Jellicoe has identified herself as a rare agent of change throughout this excellent, brave little series. But is she really? In the opening of the second season finale, Amy ponders her identity. You’d think a forty-something year old woman would have her identity penned down by now, but no. Not when so much is shifting her perception, challenging her notions of positive change and building her up to face the new series of events that will be the major payoff for everything she’s risked and worked for. Enlightened goes out with an eventful bang and an elating meditation that is probably the best thing anyone has ever seen on television in quite some time. Mike White packs the half-hour with tense confrontations and formidable consequences that build a humming suspense that you’d think would come crashing down on Amy’s head, but not quite. “Agent of Change” is a masterful piece of television that is just as inspiring as it is entertaining and downright thrilling. Why the hell aren’t you watching!!?!
The day Amy has been dreaming about is finally here. Much like her friend, Krista, Amy has been in the process of giving birth to something beautiful. It’s a something that has seen Amy through a lot of grief, worry, distressing circumstances and compromises, all to prepare her for the day where she must take responsibility for something new. There is an amazing enlightenment in that, and also an unrelenting fear that is full for a reality check. All of Amy’s ambitions have led her to this and unlike what she thought it would be, the final outcome is looking grim and full of nerve-wracking consequences. Everything Amy’s been through this season has only prepared her for this. As things fall into place, Amy gets a call from Jeff informing her that the story will be running soon and to prepare herself. Things really come to a head when Amy lets Tyler know that the story will indeed run and that the circumstances have changed, but in doing so stresses Tyler out so much that he leaks the information to his girlfriend, Eileen. If there is any relationship to root for in this series it is definitely Tyler and Eileen, especially seeing how happy and glowy Tyler has been since their relationship began. Tyler has endured a lot all for Amy’s cause--her mission--but here he for the first time asserts in a way that pushes things in a troubling direction and unfortunately traps Amy in an inclosing s***storm. Eileen storms off angrily leaving Tyler alone and crushed, as well as guilty for releasing the incriminating information that could destroy everything he and Amy worked for.
The news of Amy’s involvement quickly leaks to the whole of Abaddonn Industries and to Charles Szidon and another warning call from Jeff sends Amy jumping to wild conclusions which results in another frightening confrontation. Right off the bat, Amy is convinced that Krista was the one who snitched about her involvement to Abaddonn and storms off ready to grill her. Krista is in the midst of welcoming her own beautiful creation to the world with her family, when Amy comes in like a woman on verge of a breakdown, accusing her of a terrible betrayal. I never really realized this before but I think Amy has had just a smidge of baby-envy this entire season. It’s something Amy failed at early in her marriage with Levi, but here Krista is getting something else Amy previously always wanted; a family, her job, her status. I think the reason Amy sticks to Krista so much is because she has something Amy used to want and is still holding onto, which makes this painful confrontation all the more nerving and dramatic and even vaguely humorous. Unfortunately, Eileen is the one who opened her mouth about it, which Amy learns about due to Tyler’s shy worry and guilt. Luckily, Amy isn’t in the position to be angry about it, but rather more concerned with what the final outcome of this debacle will be.…
Amy’s mother isn’t happy about all of this. In fact, Helen is disturbed that her daughter would do something so reckless when she isn’t quite in the position to be an agent of--anything. Amy is in debt, living with her mother, single, and now in the middle of a national expose that could crush her. Amy shouldn’t be surprised at her mother’s reaction, yet she feels like it would be nice to have a little support from her mother. Instead, Helen is so shaken by this expose situation that she insists Amy move out. I don’t think Helen is cold and emotionless for this, but more so worried about what will become of Amy if she keeps doing things like this. In Helen’s eyes, this expose is foolish non-sense. Helen continuously thinks Amy is on a road to self-sabotage and destruction, which will lead her back down the road to drugs, alcohol, and depression and she doesn’t properly know how to assess the situation without incidentally pushing Amy away. So it is just easiest for Helen to see Amy off rather than watch her succumb to her own mistakes again. Part of it is understandable though. The whole situation is ripe with a whirlwind of consequences that leaves Amy in a panic, speeding over to Abaddonn to quickly retrieve her hard-drive and leave the premises only to be intercepted by the goons at HR…
Before the final confrontation, Dougie sits with his Cogentiva tribe one last time giving some outlandish yet occasionally encouraging words to his group of little guys and even gives one last dig at Connie. Hilarious, yet vaguely heartwarming at the same time. With a guy like Dougie, he comes off as a difficult creep, but he’s really come to care about this thrown away group of people he’s worked with and resided over for years. He’s protective of them, which is also evident when Tyler is whisked away by Abaddonn’s higher-ups to be interrogated and no doubt fired for his involvement in Amy’s crusade to expose Szidon's criminal activity. Even more so, Dougie sends Amy off with some final words that on the surface are insults, yet totally translate to full solidarity and personal inspiration. As Amy enters the lion’s den, she is left in a tense silence surrounded by Szidon’s suited and ignorant lackeys in a metal, concrete cancerous palace that seems adamant in destroying our idealistic protagonist. The deafening silence just aches for an eruption. Amy seems to be walking into her own demise--a deathtrap--when Szidon's people bring her up to see the evil dragon behind the madness. Spotting a conflicted Eileen, Amy attempts to salvage her and Tyler’s relationship as one last good deed. Amy isn’t hiding behind anything in these moments. She is forced to face the consequences and she takes it all upon herself, leaving Tyler out of the mess she ultimately created and drug him into.
Amy ends up in Charles Szidon’s office with Abaddonn’s chief legal council ready to slam the book at her. You’d think given Amy’s history to explode, she’d do the same here, but you’d be wrong. Charles asks Amy, “Who are you?”, and Amy simply responds directly with her best rebuttal yet, “I’m just a woman who’s over it. I’m tired of watching the world fall apart because of guys like you. I tried to take a little power back.” Surprisingly, Amy calmly refuses to corporate even as Szidon completely unleashes onto her, insisting what some few oblivious critics of the character might, labeling our heroine as no more than a mental patient who feels but does not think, even calling her a hysteric and frankly a hippie with no idea of how the world (his world) works. Charles ends up coming off as erratic, despicable and crazy, while Amy stands and declares this waste of a meeting done with, becoming the hero she’s been attempting to become this entire series. She’s cool and calm in a situation I know I’d become a blubbering idiot in. It’s a testament to who Amy has become on her journey. A year ago, she might have gone off on the guy and ended up arrested, but here, Amy is king and a dragon slayer! And the only one who comes off like a complete mental patient here is Szidon, as the show makes a fantastic and hilarious reference to the series’ opening scene from the pilot episode. Nice!
Amy leaves the concrete kingdom satisfied, knowing that it will be taken down in a matter of days due to her heroic defiance and all of her risks and her zeal. It’s a moment worthy of applause, but let us not forget the consequences of this victory. And there are bound to be plenty of them. Amy is left bewildered by her confrontation with the dragon, Szidon and Jeff informs her that it’s not over. Abaddonn will be coming after her, which is something Jeff knew all too well about, yet barely warned Amy. I won’t even discuss his audacity to invite her over his place for a one-on-one celebration. Amy ends up at going to the only person she can think of; Levi. Amy is lost and worried, sitting on Levi’s porch realizing that her victory--her dream to destroy a corporate parasite has left her with nothing. She questions herself--Who is Amy Jellicoe?--as Levi (possibly returned to his old ways?) attempts to comfort her.
Is Amy this crazy person who thinks she can really make a difference in this upsetting world? Levi knows Amy more than anyone, even if they are both at odds with one another right now and even if Amy would rather distance herself from him. Levi knows that Amy is an idealist full of hope in a world that has lost theirs. Our society often contradicts itself by giving us all encouraging words such as “Dream big!”, while also telling us to remain grounded in grim practicality. Don’t dream too big to the point of challenging societal authority and rules! That would be foolish. Amy is one of those people who is left conflicted and questioning her own motives, and even her sanity because of those idealistic quandaries that rub people the wrong way. We all fear change and the pain that comes along with it. We’d rather stay comfortable in our faux-American dream than challenge the world and especially ourselves to be agents of change--to do and be better. Our society dictates that we look down on those who have different ideals that challenge the norm. If we’re not guided by glorified symbols on green paper then we are idiots who are only meant to reside in the margins and freaks who are dismissed to the basement and then terminated when they‘ve reached a growing pain.
Amy simply doesn’t apply because she has hope for something that doesn’t destroy minds and our world? That makes her an idiot--a hysteric? No, that makes her a hero! And even if no one can see that now, they will some time down the line. Amy has made a believer out of Levi. It took him some time but, he’s changed. Tyler has changed. He’s not a ghost anymore and that wouldn’t have happened had Amy not entered his life. Dougie has changed and even Helen at the end of the finale seems open to the idea of change, with a admirable smile of support on her face, proud of her daughter’s seemingly hazardous efforts for once. Yes, Amy is occasionally rash, foolish, oblivious, and a bit self-interested, yet here in this victorious moment, she is exactly what she previously set out to be. And there is an inspiring elation and a vague sadness in that. Amy’s continued suffering may very well be the price of her social success and victory. The life of a social activist, I guess. Full of consequences and compromises. Amy’s story isn’t over from here. It’s just beginning. She has become an agent of change and a creator of chaos, which is what I’ve perceived the entire series to be reaching for since its inception…
Probably the world’s most under watched, underappreciated gift to the human race that has ever graced the small screen. There is nothing else like this little underdog series on television. Enlightened has an originality, a bravery and an empathy that has become a glimmering jewel in HBO’s kingly crown and it would be a shame if the premium cable network cut the diamond’s life short in its prime before it got the chance to prove itself to a more grand scale public. A rare show like this only comes along once in a decade and is often short-lived. So far the fate of a third season is unknown, but we wouldn’t be true Enlightened fans if we didn’t hold out hope for its return. Low-ratings have lowered the chances of its renewal, but maybe enough critical acclaim (and it has that!) will be enough to get another season! Pray for it, Connie! This show is quite honestly life-changing. From the immersing acting performances, especially from our lead actress, Laura Dern to the excellent writing from Mike White and even the music soundtrack and cinematography; This series is worthy of ten more seasons if Mr. White and Mrs. Dern have it in them! The finale does the best job of wrapping up this season’s story in the most appropriate, hopeful fashion possible. Every episode gets better and better, but this one might be the best ever! For crafting a perfect feel-good finale of this perfect little series, full of suspense and amazing character moments, “Agent of Change” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013