Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Enlightened: Comrades Unite! (1.8)

Amy spends a lot of Comrades Unite! playing the victim, unable to put her own behavior into perspective and painting herself as somebody hard done-by and downtrodden -- the very type of person she regularly tries to save. It's an interesting perspective in which to hang the episode, one that once again returns to the central dilemma of Amy's denial and her arrogance. But it's also something that continues to make her such a dynamic protagonist. It's easy to side with those around her, particularly when it comes down to Amy's own lack of effort at work and her generally dismissive nature, but Laura Dern salvages her character's earnest, human qualities, too, bridging the gap between somebody who is self-absorbed and somebody merely flawed.

There's a lot of running around this week, Amy bouncing from one corner of Abaddonn to the next as she ducks out of heated situations and tries to wriggle her way into a new position of power just as she believes her current job is on the line. Dougie wants her gone, more than ever after her antagonistic outburst at the nightclub last week, she's being chased by human resources, Tyler still feels betrayed by her, and Krista is her only hope in getting out of Cogentiva. And that's all fine, primarily because you root for Amy to try and find her way in the company and fight back against those who take her for granted and write her off as a crackpot.

But Mike White continues to explore the dirty underbelly of human power play by so carefully undermining most of Amy's actions, depicting it in one light before abruptly exposing deep flaws. Sure, Dougie is being vindictive because of Amy's confrontation last week, but he's also incredibly justified in wanting to fire her: Amy doesn't actually do any work. Here she finally confesses that she doesn't actually know what Cogentiva even does. So she's awful in the workplace, a sucking chest-wound of excuses, always dumping her work on others. At the same time, her efforts to improve her station only ever involve other people. She constantly turns to Tyler for advice downstairs, something she struggles to get in light of spurning him last episode, while her former colleagues upstairs are often her sole figures of escape, even when they can't stand her.

She and Krista finally have something of a blow-out this week, Amy angered when Krista lies about helping her, Krista exploding all over the place with a long-festering rant about Amy dumping all of her issues on everybody else. Again, it's sort of fair. Amy is the type of individual who acts like she's a forward-thinker, when so much of her behavior is ever-reliant on the actions of others.

Like so much of Enlightened, Comrades Unite! resolves itself with a lasting feeling of hope, however. Despite being confronted with her own lack of options in life, her lack of friends and her lack of drive, Amy naively believes her reconciliation with Dougie, only orchestrated by the higher-ups, to be a permanent fix for everything; while she once again 'acts' in one way or another by merely joining in a near-by protest on the drive home. It remains generally vacuous, but part of Amy's journey is about learning what real work actually is. She's still stuck with the idea that things will just sort of happen, or that total enlightenment is just one small gesture away from entirely consuming her. But it won't. It's harsh and it's difficult, more a collection of sweet glimmers than anything finite and long-lasting. And Amy, like us at home, can't help but be taken by those small moments of victory, even if they don't mean a whole lot long-term. A

Mike White Director Miguel Arteta

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