An “Enlightened” Review

Last night I watched the season (hopefully not series) finale of Enlightened. I have fully realized just how damned impressed I am with this show. And I am begging for a 3rd season.

Enlightened, on HBO, stars Laura Dern, Diane Ladd (Dern’s real life mother), Luke Wilson, Timm Sharpe and Mike White (who also writes and directs the show). Sunday ended the second season and it is unknown if the show will be returning. While it has gained much critical acclaim, viewership is sadly low. And once again, the viewing audience may be left holding their di…I mean remote in their hand. Boy does it infuriate me when such a high-caliber program gets the boot because of shit advertising and a public which refuses to give something intelligent a chance.

Enlightened is woven beautifully with humor, angst, inspiration and realism. The writing is pure and not at all pretentious. And I just love that each character has qualities you adore and ones you can’t stand. The acting – perfect. To see this go would be a shame. Although there are many fans who feel the two seasons were all that were needed. They think the finale left the story in a good place. And I can agree with that. White did a wonderful job writing an ending that could leave fans satisfied while also opening a door to many possibilities.

I was first introduced to Laura Dern in a film titled Rambling Rose which, incidentally, also starred her mother, Ladd. At 16, I love it and just thought she was the best actress ever. And since then she has been in a bagillion movies and television series.

Dern plays a woman who has quite a number of issues including narcissism, extreme naivety and impulsivity. She watches this world as though she is the lead character. Now this doesn’t mean she is a bad person in any way. In fact, she can be quite the sweetheart. She means well in with every action and word – even though it can at times be misguided. And she has almost an obsessive desire to make a difference in the world. In fact, a main theme of the series is her finding her path; her enlightenment. She is the ultimate do-gooder in thee most obnoxious way. Her car’s bumper is plastered with “save the world”-ish stickers. Her Twitter feed is full of charity organizations. She really is a good person – but very socially awkward. Very.

Dern’s character, Amy, worked for a large and powerful corporation. After coming across some questionable information, she soon learned that the CEO was buying off politicians and was an all around crook. He was the quintessential corporate “bad guy” and she was determined to take him down. This became her goal, her meaning. She finally felt alive and worthwhile. But never truly considering the consequences. She was going to do the right thing and that was all that mattered.

One thing I love about the writing is that it isn’t all overly explained to you. For example, in a recent episode, Amy’s mother (played by Ladd) is sitting behind her on the bed while Amy is having a panic attack. She holds her hands up just inches from her back as if she didn’t know how to console her own daughter. And finally she breaks through that wall and comforts her. And you, the viewer, can just sense the difficulty. I love this because so often the entertainment industry portrays simple lovely-dovey mother-daughter relationships as though affection is so natural to everyone. Well, that simply isn’t the case and I could relate to this as my mother and grandmother were not affectionate at all.

In fact, I am going to have to come out and just admit that I relate to Amy a lot. And I say admit because like I mentioned above – the girl has issues. Sometimes her words and actions are nothing short of cringe-worthy.

“Oh, don’t do that.”

“Oh, no…no…don’t say that!!”

Both are things I have said to my screen many times while watching this character develop.

Amy is so child-like. She can be utterly annoying. And she is explosively reactionary. And yes, I am familiar with these tendencies as well. Hopefully I am not as extreme as Amy – but I probably wouldn’t realize it just like there is no way Amy would see herself in that light either.

She envisions herself as a uncertain soldier. She forces herself to believe in something and she believes it. She decided she was going to become a positive ball of optimism and she did just that. Now, I don’t have that kind of drive or ambition or ability to change my thinking. Nor am I anywhere near as hyper. But I do envy that in her.

Amy has made her choice to become an “agent of change”. And I feel I have recently chosen that path as well. I think many of us in Wisconsin are newly born activists in our own way. It is like so many of us suddenly woke up and became dissatisfied with sitting still. Amy couldn’t sit still if she tried.

I, like Amy, want to rid the world of the bad and the greed and the ills of society if even in my own little way. I have slowly been climbing upon my soapboxes and searching for just the right battle in which to storm. As crazy as she is, I like her.  And I have no delusions as I say that. I know many viewers cannot tolerate her. But then again, I also know that not everyone likes me. And ya know what? Fuck it.

I do have to wonder about the viewers who really cannot stand her – is it possibly because they don’t want to admit to the similarities they see in themselves? Or maybe it is because they do not understand what it is to be truly passionate – regardless of the intention or motivation. Perhaps they see themselves as flawless – which would certainly be a whole other annoying personality issue.

I really encourage you to watch these two seasons. It is a remarkable series overflowing with talent. I do not think you will be disappointed.

On Sunday’s finale, I was really moved by the opening and closing monologues which I will post below:

How strange is this life. To be born into a body. To certain, uncertain parents. In this beautiful, upsetting world.
It’s so bizarre.
Am I my higher-self? Or am I in the mud?
Am I an agent of change?
Or a creator of chaos?
Am I the fool?
The goat?
The witch?
Or am I enlightened?
There is only one life. There is so much I don’t understand. But this I know:
You CAN wake up to your higher self.
You CAN be patient and you CAN be kind.
You CAN be wise and almost whole.
You CAN walk out of hell and into the light.
You don’t have to run away from life – your WHOLE life.
You can really LIVE.
And you CAN change.
And you can be an agent of change.


Don’t forget people…”Life is a sneaky BITCH!” 

One thought on “An “Enlightened” Review

  1. Pingback: The Rayne Report: An “Enlightened” Review | Ramblings of a Neurotic Housewife

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