Enlightened Season 2 Episode 2 “Revenge Play”

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If there’s one thing Mike White captures beautifully in “Enlightened,” it’s the slow and subtle progressions (or digressions) of a character through both the arc of a season, and, specifically in “Revenge Play,” in an episode. It’s also his character’s sometimes laughable, sometimes pitiable handling of an episode’s theme, grasped so firmly and confidently until it’s tested and pushed into its darker corners.

Such is what happens to both Amy and Tyler in a role reversal so abrupt and yet so pleasantly surprising. Focused and motivated with a third party support from reporter Jeff, Amy has more than just a couple of handouts about Abaddon’s toxic waste records now. She’s got insider stuff and a person to leak it to. “At some point, you must do. It is not enough to have good intentions, you must act on them,” she reflects as she walks into work. Indeed, this is a struggle endemic to Amy, sitting, waiting, hoping, underneath the fluorescence of Cogentiva.

After another meet-up with Jeff in one of “his” places (this is no TGIF), and a couple of silencing stares from an African-American crowd, Amy accepts the fact that the severity of her whistle-blowing could be grand and unforgiving. It’s prophesied in a dream she has later, as she walks in slo-mo with another African-American crowd with slightly 70s hairdos, ready to tear down the company. I’m not sure if this is a mere conflation of her night out with Jeff, but maybe these are the types of people Amy wants flanking her as she swings her wrecking ball. The CEO is escorted out, pandemonium in the air, and then there’s Krista, sobbing, in cuffs with the elevators closing. Theory switching into melodramatic practice.

It’s a dream, but Amy realizes it could soon become her reality. That “What have I done?” face she dons in this fantasy quickly spreads to her conscious state. Then Krista is rushed to the hospital from a seizure and Amy begins worrying about the spiritual powers at play. Has her subconscious desire thrown its negativity into the real world, into Krista’s baby bump and caused this minor emergency? Everything is heightened in Amy’s world but she makes it so. I was hoping this episode might produce an un cringe-worthy Amy moment, but whenever she’s in the company of Janice or Krista, she drops the ball. Her mother tells Amy to give Krista her newly quilted pillow, saying, “Acts of kindness set things right.” “Not in my world,” she responds. That conviction, that motivation to do, to act, to set things in motion quickly begins to evaporate.

The subplot under Amy’s wrestle with action is the hard drive inspection due to Amy’s email hacking which is caught one day. Dougie, in his best Michael Scott midday announcement form, alerts the troops that members of IT will be checking computers the next day, and to ease tension, orders everyone to remove their porn. I just couldn’t help but see this as a moment in Dunder Mifflin, a joke cracked to keep morale high during another day in the dungeon doldrums. Get rid of the porn he says, “And I’m talking to you Connie,” clearly a joke that no one finds funny, awkwardly backing into his office to silence. Substitute Connie for Phyllis, or more appropriately Angela, especially after she prays for Krista with Amy, and the momentary role-play is complete.

What does Dougie do anyway? He lurks in his glass box, shoots nerfball hoops, and nervously scans his worker bees punching numbers. His liaison last year to keep Amy on task, Omar, plays the Dwight Schrute in all of this, the boss’s sidekick now autonomous internal investigator of coworker behavior. He insults Tyler, unrecognizing the beast he unleashes inside of him. Connie doesn’t believe negative energy creates negative things, that it’s all left up to God. Tyler can’t take that chance anymore because he’s been reluctantly doing it his whole life. Omar runs into Amy in a huff and spouts about racist mentalities being responsible for his firing. Naturally, Amy finds compassion, her benefit, too often her burden.

“I’ve been too nice, and because of that, these people think I’m a joke,” Tyler says out of his spectacular grin. It’s one of the few smiles Tyler has given us in the series and it’s particularly thrilling to see, oddly similar to Claire Dane’s grin in Homeland’s start to its own second season. After switching his implicating hard-drive with Omar’s, he’s killed two birds with one stone. We don’t see him switch the hard-drives at night, but we can imagine his decision to do it. He’s crossed the Rubicon, and good intentions be damned. The greater good is at stake here he emphatically addresses Amy. But she has turned a bit sour. “Tyler you framed him!”

What a change. Amy wants her cake but she’s realizing she may not be able to eat it. At some point, she’s going to have to realize what Jeff told her, that there’s going to be a lot of fallout. She just may not be fully ready for it. But Tyler, who earlier accuses Amy of jeopardizing things because she’s pissed off about her life, begins to exhibit those same accusations. At this point, he’s all in. Is Amy?

 

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