Enlightened Season 2 Episode 1 “The Key”


Amy Jellicoe is enraging, insightful, awkward and caring. She’s narcissistic but empathetic, naïve but aspirational. The first year of Enlightened taught us all of this and much more, and similar to her character, audience reactions were ambivalent, taking time to, if not warm up to Amy, at least accept her. We found through all her idiosyncrasies and cringe-worthy moments her heart, her reflections and her persistent optimism, looking up to the light.

And that’s the last image we get in the Season 2 premiere “The Key;” the swimming sea turtle floating gently in screen saver bliss, just like when we saw it in the pilot episode as Amy walked into the elevator on a mission. Although, what she didn’t know in that moment was that she was headed down, to the dungeon of Cogentiva and robot workers. Season 1 Amy was under construction, still trying to wipe away her salty eye-makeup dripped over her face, challenging and then accepting her role as a number cruncher in between her social justice do-gooding. But last Sunday night it was clear Amy’s motive is to, as last season’s finale is titled, burn it down. The “it” being Abbadon, the how being much trickier.

So it would make sense to think that Amy, with a direct motivation and access (Tyler’s moment of weakness password to the company’s email), would shed her ambiguity and polarizing behavior. But, then again, this is Amy, and Laura Dern has proven her ability to display moments of strength and weakness in the same moment. It’s become a growing trend now to struggle with a protagonist, both with their vices, and in this case, their emotional, psychological states. Take last year’s film Young Adult, where Charlize Theron is anything but approachable, a pre-Madonna stuck in her high school glory and binge drinking days. Amy has found a way out of those corporate shenanigans- the curly haired nightclub outings and wasted hookups. Things have become much clearer now.

But Season 2 begins without the Riverside blue sky. Instead, under the direction of Nicole Holofcener, it gazes at the buildings under the night sky, or as Amy says, a “castle made of glass and concrete.” In fact more than any other episode, “The Key” takes place at night for the majority of time, both signifying her undercover mentality and reflective thoughts on the inorganic emptiness that towers the skies. “What if somehow only you could break the spell, and only you could bring the light?” Amy questions. She begins to take this into myth territory (fate, castles, magic key), bringing the analogy of the sword in the stone to which her mother bluntly rejects.

I found Amy more frustrating than usual this episode until she drained her perky, snooping idealism. Clearly the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” motto never got to her head. Her optimism in her whistleblower ambition overextends itself to the point of irrational behavior with respect to simple kindness. Thank god Jeff Flender (Durmot Mulroney) calls her on her own myopic perspective. After Amy uses Tyler for a ride, leaves him in the car, and freaks out at Jeff for “not freaking out” with her information, he calms her down. “To hang a company like Abaddon, it’s what I live for,” he says.

But the ambiguity seeps in. Is this mission purely focused or revenge-based?

“Did one of these fuckers fuck you over?” asks Jeff. It’s similar to the question Tyler asks Amy in the car as she applies her makeup and touches her hair. Why is she prettying up for a meeting with a journalist? Clearly Amy can’t compartmentalize the extremes of her feelings. Tyler’s 2-week time-share and gym membership “superego” must balance her “id”. And he knows it, too. This is a man trapped even further by his complacent lifestyle and his often hidden passion to make it meaningful. I’m looking forward to seeing where his boundaries are pushed.

Already with their jobs looming for the deep end in weeks, Amy gives Tyler an apology in the form of an Andy Dufresne Shawshank pump up speech.   “It felt good to feel alive for once, and not just dead and plastic…I’m so sick of dying!” Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin.’ Working in Cogentiva certainly leans toward one direction. Which reminds me; I wonder which Levi is getting busy with in treatment.

For now, Amy’s just too ambitious without a plan. She’s got the metaphorical golden sword to slay the dragon in the “monstrous castle,” as she dubs the halls of Abbadon. But she forgets that you have to learn how to swing it. The sword is “the key,” but you have to get to the door first.


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