I smiled along with Tyler’s big grin last episode even though what he did to Omar was difficult to endure. There was just something so gratifying watching him with excitement and joy on his face for once, a moment of telling Amy he’s in too deep to turn back, so you better enjoy it while you can. In “Higher Power,” I mimicked Levi’s expression (yes, he’s alive in Hawaii!), most specifically as he sat on his hotel bed, ashamed and then motivated from his relapsed night out. Amy Jellicoe is on screen for all but a minute, but her spirit is eminent throughout, Levi’s vision of her a lighthouse for his foggy travels in postcard Hawaii.
But Hawaii, as we find from Levi, is early on a prison, written honestly to Amy to start the episode. “I may be desperate, but I can’t just fall for anything,” he writes entrapped with a roommate whose flatulence and bathroom visits increase with equal amounts of apologies. In their only interaction, Helen becomes curious of Levi’s status and asks Amy to read his letter out loud. Dating back to last season, we’ve gotten indicators of the volatile relationship between Helen and Levi, and no matter how much she tries to distance herself, his presence looms.
But director Mike White makes this connection more than just an inference, subtly placing the two in similar compositional accord, most notably in a fade of one into another sitting down with a large glass door tempting escape. As Amy freaks out with Levi’s uninspiring letter, her mother gently professes to her to let Levi go. “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” That’s a quote from Life of Pi, which I finally saw over the weekend, and its something Amy has yet to accept. Her ex is still in her life, in her thoughts, and she hasn’t officially said goodbye yet.
Conversely, she hasn’t left Levi’s thoughts, and while Levi’s vision of God is beer on a beach, his motivating spirit still comes in the form of Amy, or at least some version of her young or old. He has his doubts early on, looking for Amy’s sea turtle even though, as he mentions, they are endangered because of the toxic waste thrown into ocean. You can maybe judge “Enlightened” for making its themes too overt, but I applaud its use because its depth continues to grow throughout an episode and come back in brilliant ways. Is that toxic waste Abaddon? Is Amy’s plight there getting that sea turtle back for Levi to see?
After he can’t stand the group meetings, the trust falls, and his smelly roommate, he finds “reason” from some younger stoners, attractive in both looks and attitude. “Those are my two friends right there. We’re staying at the same place,” he tells a random woman at the hotel party where they’ve ventured together, breaking their healing compound’s rules. He submits to his old ways, snorting coke in the bathroom and feeling “right,” throwing back shots a la corporate dolled up Amy. This is his escape, much like Amy’s escapes from Cogentiva to fulfill her fleeting social justice activities. The recovery center for now is Levi’s Cogentiva, a place of grossed out slobs that are “beneath” him.
What does he see in this younger couple? Well, the flirty blonde is an easy correlation to his perfected version of Amy, and maybe he sees them as his happier married self, the couple that got away. His experience in the hotel is how I imagine most coke snorting nights to go. Excitement, thrill, partying, passing out, and shame, and then recitation of sins. “Shouldn’t we be going back?” he reasons to no avail. He hints his growing conscience even in moments of stoning bliss.
Levi complains to his therapist that his roommate stinks, literally and figuratively, and that he just “keeps talking about his shit.” So his hotel adventure is a seeming journey away from that. But where does he end up? Sitting on a bed, listening to his former self (his younger companion) complain about his “shitty” life, clinging to the toilet, and the inescapable burial of his life. One of the things Levi disregards from his group leader is that members can learn from others’ stories. As he sits on that bed, playing priest to the stoners’ confession, he finds clarity, cuts through the fog, learns.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step they say. Levi’s admitted his problem, but he hasn’t internalized it, or seen it in such drastic form in others. It’s a quick turnaround as he goes back to the center, participating in trust falls and group talks with energy this time. I’m not sure his immersion into the program could have been so quick, but this episode needed to end with comfort because it was as rough as Levi’s night out. Luckily, Luke Wilson can carry an episode. Man, can he carry an episode. In all honesty, it was nice to get a break from Amy, and see someone else conquer their problems.
Sitting on that beach as he writes Amy his second letter, Levi has submitted to that greater good. He’s believing in the sea turtle, even if it doesn’t exist. Reciprocally, Levi is Amy’s sea turtle. She believes in him, even if all he sees of himself is just trash at the bottom of the ocean.