Friday, January 25, 2013

Enlightened: Revenge Play (2.2)

Despite Amy's outward eagerness to please, one of the most difficult marks against her character has been her frequent arrogance when it comes to her Cogentiva colleagues. It's in the way she casually decides that their lives are empty and soulless, or the way she writes them off as beneath her. Even Tyler, arguably her only real friend in the world, is constantly the victim of her passive aggression -- he's depressed, and is risking nothing by actively trying to bring down his management. In her eyes, anyway. Revenge Play spins on the fact that Amy has been ignoring the human face of Abaddonn in pursuit of some kind of justice, exposing the inner guilt that arrives when people begin to get caught in the crossfire. Like with any large social movement, the first to be affected are the underlings, the ones who can be removed with no problem. And that realization makes Amy question everything.

There is a lot to take in this week. One of the driving themes this season seems to be Amy struggling to understand her own rationale behind her behavior. I guess it's similar to Enlightened's opening year in that regard, but with her recent corporate espionage and anarchist momentum, it's even more a question of what exactly she's trying to achieve. On a surface level, this is a quest to bring Abaddonn down because of their environmental policies, as well as the way they treat their employees and the world around them, a fact brought home by Dermot Mulroney's character discussing their illegal dumping of toxic waste in recent years. But Tyler puts a different perspective on things, confronting Amy about her personal stake in it all, and whether her mission is really just a reaction to how pissed off she is about everything in her life.

That's always been the great dichotomy with Amy -- that want to make the world a better place, but also her desire to improve herself and the circumstances that have come to define her. It's been as much her problem as it has been everybody else's, only it gets blurred with feelings of selfishness and rage.

This week we begin to see the cracks in Amy's foundation, particularly with her worry that she's putting negative energy out into the world and that innocent people are being hurt in the process. Omar is humiliated and fired as a result of her meddling, and a dream of Krista in handcuffs being taken away by the feds is soon followed up by a real-life near tragedy with her unborn baby. There are always victims to this kind of action, and Revenge Play makes it a major point of Amy's personal growth. She's still driven by self-aggrandization, but she's finally beginning to question what she's doing and the people she's hurting. Like Helen said in another brilliant cameo, sometimes an act of kindness is all it takes to make a difference. Amy is going about it the other way, and people are falling left, right and center. Surely there's a way to heal the world without hurting so many people in it? Connie prays, for example. She awkwardly acknowledges that it's sometimes meaningless ("God probably didn't hear you"), but at least it's something positive... right?

Tyler is also an important part of Amy's evolution. His framing of Omar, motivated by his earlier dismissal of him as a creepy Albino who would be killed at birth in his own country, is incredibly cruel. And Tyler gets off on it. Amy initially believes that people have to fall in order to change something in a major way, yet Tyler distorts that belief to engineer his own revenge scheme, settling a personal grudge instead of seeing the bigger picture. Sure, all kinds of badness could have occurred if Amy and Tyler's scheme was exposed in its infancy, but the actual outcome is still the show stumbling into a moral gray area.

Enlightened's season premiere sometimes felt like a first part of a larger story, necessary but not entirely satisfying. Revenge Play, alternatively, saw the show exploring real pain and heartache in a way that brought to mind the very best of season one. Amy's journey is still incredibly flawed, but watching her come to terms with her own failures remains profoundly moving. A

Mike White Director Mike White

No comments:

Post a Comment