Tuesday, January 8, 2013

HBO's "Enlightened" Returns

by Catherine Giordano

“Enlightened' is an offbeat HBO series starring Laura Dern as Amy Jelllicoe, a 40 year old woman who a very public meltdown at work—her boss was also her lover and it all fell apart. She spends three months at a holistic new-agey  treatment center in Hawaii and  returns ready to get her act together.

Amy is so fragile, so overflowing with good intentions, so sweetly earnest, that it is sometimes painful to watch as she tried to pick up the pieces of her life. Things never turn out the way she hopes, but after each set back she picks herself up, dusts herself off and keeps on trying. She suffers so many setbacks and disappointments, but she has learned her “positive-thinking” lessons well and remains optimistic.

Amy is back living with her mother, Helen, (played by Diane Ladd, Dern's real-life mom). Amy and Helen have a somewhat strained relationship and Amy want desperately to have her mother love her. Helen is cold and aloof, and projects the air of “the long suffering mother” with respect to Amy. Helen has her own problems—her only interest in life is tending to her flower garden.

Amy is divorced but on friendly terms with her ex-husband Levi (played by Luke Wilson).  He’s a bit of a slacker struggling with demons and addictions of his own.  It is clear to me that they still love each other, but things never quite work out for them. Levi disappoints Amy again and again.

Amy has returned to her former place of employment Abbandon Industries, due to a bit of gentle blackmail.  (Evidently, Amy’s could sue them for wrongful termination if they don’t take her back.)  Much to Amy’s dismay, she is not given her old job back as a health and beauty aids brand manager; instead to is sent to the basement where a group of misfits labors at tedious data entry work.

By the way, nice name “Abaddonn.”  It could mean “bad is done”, but it also remind me of the word “abandon” as in “Abandon hope all who enter here.” The place is soul-killing. 

[Blogger's Update 2/6/13::  I just happened to stumble upon the word "Abaddon" with only a single "n." The dictionary definition is "a place of destruction, an underworld of lost souls; Hell." Oh, those writers are so clever.]

Amy’s former workplace friends shun her and she gets off to a bad start with her new co-workers.  However, she sets about making friends with them with the same earnestness that she applies to everything she does.

Amy has discovered that Abaddonn Industries involved in illegal activities involving pollution and other things, and she is determined to get the company to change its ways. If not, she will expose them. She pushed ahead with determination and optimism, apparently not realizing just how much danger she me be in as a result of these activities.

Laura Dern won a well-deserved Global Globe for Best Actress: TV Series Musical or Comedy. Laura does a delicate balancing simultaneously portraying vulnerability and strength. The series is a comedy, but you’ll laugh while fighting back tears. Despite everything, it’s a terrific show that I look forward to watching each week.

HBO is rerunning episodes of Season One all week.  If you missed Season One, catch up with these reruns.  Season Two begins at (:30 pm on Sunday January 13, 2012. 

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Laura Dern as Amy from a poster for HBO's Enlightened. Plucky Amy is caught having a bad day.