Episodic Classics: Enlightened, "Consider Helen" & "Burn It Down"| Season 1, Episodes 9 & 10
Season 1 ends with an unexpected gut-punch, and then a conflagration
Enlightened’s ninth—of 10—first season episode barely features Amy Jellicoe at all. And, sure, the season finale is all Amy and all plot, culminating in a fiery catharsis no less potent for how its imaginary nature portends a perhaps even more devastating comeuppance for Abaddonn. Still, “Consider Helen,” the first of what would be three—of 18—Amy-light episodes in Enlightened’s too-brief series run, looks awfully incongruous.
It’s not, naturally. Mike White has a plan for his series as meticulous as Amy’s oft-diverted righteousness is scattershot. Throughout, what presented itself as a darkly comic corporate satire about a newly-minted, single-minded do-gooder’s utter disposability in her former business environment revealed itself as a deeper and more ethically stringent examination of privilege, dilettantism, and genuine altruism. Amy Jellicoe’s a convert and a zealot and, knowing what we do of White and series co-creator Dern, she’s absolutely right in her belief that corporate America is a manipulative, unjust, despoiling force in this world. Amy is also a monster, her innate blind and weak spots permitting her to rampage all over everyone in her personal and professional life—and to recoil in genuine shock and resentment when those same people call her out on it.
There was no guarantee the scraping-by Enlightened would get a second season when White and company closed out its first this way. That makes “Consider Helen” and “Burn It Down” two strikingly bold concluding entries in what has been a trying, riveting, peerlessly performed season of “peak TV” that deserved a second season. Thankfully for us all, it got one.