Episodic Classics: Enlightened, "Someone Else's Life," "The Weekend"| Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4
A pair of outings expose the limits of Amy's resolve
Amy Jellicoe has returned from Hawaii as a hurricane. The effortful (and, as we find out in “Someone Else’s Life,” cripplingly expensive) serenity Amy summons in her daily and nightly voiceover pep-talks has, thus far, extended only to herself. As Enlightened plunks this, well, enlightened Amy Jellicoe back into the rigidly controlled, outwardly pristine corporate structure that is Abaddonn Industries, we’re initially and purposefully torn. Our sympathies toward a troubled woman’s newfound desire for meaning, purpose, and an all-around better world are immediately at odds with just how painful it is to watch Hurricane Amy’s destructive path through every corner of her old life.
If, in last week’s reviews, I brought up the example of Mike White’s own film Year of the Dog, here I’ll introduce echoes of Todd Haynes’ 1995 movie, Safe. There, we’re similarly confronted with a deeply unhappy female protagonist whose desperate quest for relief from a mounting swamp of personal pain. (Julianne Moore’s Carol White becomes convinced she’s suffering from, essentially, an allergy to her own existence.) Carol, like Molly Shannon’s Peggy and Laura Dern’s Amy, latches single-mindedly onto a fix that’s as dubiously empowering as it is thoroughly disruptive to her old life. All three pursue their personal peace with a dogged desperation we can relate to, even as we’re left wrenchingly uncertain just how far into their new obsessions we’re willing to follow them.
In this week’s pair of episodes, Amy Jellicoe gets out of the Congentiva basement (now beset with a contagious flu to go along with its usual lack of sunlight, and purpose). Both trips see her following her desire to fix herself, her ex-husband, and the world. Both are different breeds of disaster. And yet, seeing Amy Jellicoe interact with the wider world outside of Abaddonn allows us glimpses of who she was, the true form her current quest for enlightenment has taken, and even some flickers of uncertain, glittering hope somewhere down the road.