Saturday, February 16, 2013

Enlightened: The Ghost Is Seen (2.5)

There's a fantastic scene in Six Feet Under's third season wherein Kathy Bates' jaded middle-aged caretaker encourages Frances Conroy to indulge in some light shoplifting, not so much because it's fun, but more because they may as well. They're women in their fifties that look their age, ignored by so much of society and rendered entirely invisible as a result. They won't get caught, nobody will even notice, so what the hell? It was a moment that Enlightened brought to mind this week, since it focused so tight on a character who has unexpectedly stumbled into the exact same circumstance: Tyler is so invisible as a person that he's practically a ghost.

I think we're so used to Enlightened's permanent tone of melancholy that it comes as a surprise to see Tyler wind up considerably happy by the end of this episode. His relationship with Molly Shannon's similarly invisible Eileen is quiet and small, played with a distinct lack of showiness, and beautifully captures that middle-aged feeling of just wanting some kind of companionship. When Eileen tells Tyler that she doesn't want to get hurt, it feels like a ton of bricks falling down on you, a cavalcade of old flames that burnt out one by one.

And I guess that's what makes their relationship so affecting. Here are these two quiet, lonely people, both a little wounded by all the romance they've experienced before, who together just find each other among the silence. And that's a really beautiful thing.

Naturally, there are problems, but they're greater motivated by corporate intrigue than anything actually in the relationship. Tyler and Eileen get close because Eileen is assistant to Abbadonn's CEO, Tyler using his tech savvy to access various incriminating documents for a bombshell-hungry Amy and Dougie. It's a layer of deceit, something Amy insists isn't an issue for Tyler, but one that understandably leaves him rattled. What's so interesting about all of this, though, is that we've never seen so much of Amy from a different perspective. Unlike the similarly-themed Consider Helen and Higher Power, Amy is front-and-center through a lot of The Ghost Is Seen, always on the periphery, always being slightly overbearing and frustrating.

It's something visual, too, lots of shots this week of Amy inside Dougie's office, wildly gesticulating or trying to crack open the air vents, leaving much of the Cogentiva staff a little unsure of just what the hell she's doing. And it's weird seeing her like that, a third-person perspective on a woman who we at home seem to understand, but who appears so nutty and secretive to people actually in her life. Tyler sees her as a friend, but here we begin to see the real cracks that are forming. He seems to realize how much she takes him for granted, and you feel for him as he determines that he doesn't want the burgeoning revolution to interrupt his new romance.

It isn't entirely fresh to focus so intently on a character essentially ignored by society, but The Ghost Is Seen furthers a lot of the potential drawbacks to that kind of storytelling, instead becoming as wonderfully endearing as it is reasonably intense and scary. Tyler is flawed like so many on this show, but you root for him to succeed in life because life itself seems so intent on not allowing that for him. And Amy is suddenly the bad guy, the one threatening that. And that's a really strong and especially rattling position to put us in. A

Mike White Director James Bobin

No comments:

Post a Comment