A shot from Enlightened. (Credit: HBO)
There’s a moment, in the hopefully-not-final episode of Enlightened, which aired this past Sunday, when you’re not sure if Laura Dern’s Amy Jellicoe is about to go through with it. Go through with the corporate whistleblowing, that is. I mean, in a way the events were already out of her control. She’d discovered incriminating corporate documents; she’d handed them off to a journalist who was buddies with Noam Chomsky and Laurie David; and lawyers were on the phone with his editors. But there was a second in there, as she’s being marched into the boardroom for a chat with the CEO about the gathering storm, where you think: She’s going to lose it. She’s not going to be able to hold her own with a bunch of lawyers. Their expensive suits and lengthy self-justifications are just going to be too much for her, a woman of no importance, as they used to say, or at least rather indeterminate level of education and corporate savvy.
But boy, did she flip the tables on them.
This week we will likely learn whether Mike White managed to do the same for his show. There’s been a flurry of commentary from virtually everyone who writes about television about it, because by the time White began doing interviews emphasizing how in danger the show was of not seeing a third season, everyone went into blind panic. For a while I thought this show was best described as an acquired taste, a critic’s show; its habit of forcing the viewer into reflecting on first reactions—say, on the supposedly “annoying” habits of Amy herself—is going to be hard for people who want something other than thinking in their entertainment. (I say that genuinely, without judgment: I like lots of things whose chief quality derives from escapism.)
But watching the reactions this week, it became clear that the love of this show was not only cerebral, about “smarts,” and the more I thought about it the more it became true that I identified with “annoying” Amy. Now, “I relate to her” can be a really crappy way of justifying some particular piece of art. But I mention that I do because I think my burning, unbelievable desire to have a season three, in spite of a finale episode that so many people agree brought them “closure,” has a really personal dimension.
A thing I don’t talk about much because I now largely write for progressive sites is that up until about three years ago, I was a practicing lawyer, and I worked for a giant corporate law firm. It is fair to say, without going into it at length, that it was not the place for me. I had actually come up as a leftist and sort of lost my way somewhere in the middle of law school; I decided all I wanted was to come to New York, and did not think very hard about the method.