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Still not Enlightened

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Written by : published Wednesday 16th January 2013

This season, HBO's Enlightened is going dark, with Amy (Laura Dern) seeking revenge on her company, hoping to bring them down. Well, she claims in this week's premiere, "The Key," that she is not motivated by any need to get even, but I think that the lady doth protest too much. The question is, will her stated noble reasons to hurt her employer win out, or will her emotional state ruin the mission before it even gets started?

As Amy approaches reporter Jeff Flender (Dermot Mulroney, New Girl, My Best Friend's Wedding) with information she obtained from hacking executive e-mail accounts, she appears confident that she has enough dirt to bring the whole corporation crashing down. While watching, though, there is little suspense. Viewers know that she can't possibly have what she thinks she has, because that's just not the type of person Amy is. She doesn't succeed like this.

The choices Dern makes in playing the character are interesting. She overreacts, and forces drama where there need not be, at least, not as much as she makes present. She has a holier-that-thou attitude, but her flaws are obvious, and constantly on display. She gets completely ahead of herself, such as in "The Key," where she is printing a few e-mails, and already imagining herself as Time's person of the year for being such a great whistle-blower. She thinks she is clever in fooling her boss, but she's not.

We all know someone like her, but they are the person one avoids. Centering an entire series around her is a bold choice.

I admit, it has taken awhile for Enlightened to grow on me, likely for just such reasons. There's plenty of television programs that serve up a delicious anti-hero, but Amy is an annoying and whiny girl, who doesn't easily get audiences to root for her. I feel like this year's mission to actually turn her causes into something worthwhile may be an attempt to connect and build a fan base. It remains to be seen if that will work.

Yet, there is something that has kept me watching all this time. Maybe it's the wonderment that Dern has so fully committed to and fleshed out the character of Amy. Maybe it's the side characters, who get drawn into Amy's plans, and the need to see them make it out of her influence and be OK. I'm not quite sure why, but I do end up enjoying the show.

Sadly, Amy's vendetta has got to have some casualties. Most likely, that will be in the form of Tyler (Mike White), whose password she uses to hack the e-mails, and whom drives her across down to meet with Jeff, but then Amy leaves him in the car. Tyler's a long-suffering sidekick, and while he probably won't be going anywhere on Enlightened, that doesn't mean his character's job isn't in jeopardy.

I am not worried about Jeff. He's a smart, shrewd individual who knows exactly what he is doing. He is willing to work with Amy because he can use her to get the story that he wants, and he's not going to waste time with the drivel that she initially gives him. There may even be a little spark of attraction between them, him seeing something in her that he likes in the way that she is disgusted with her company's terrible, but not illegal, practices.

The question there is, will Levi (Luke Wilson) return home and compete with Jeff for her affections? Levi doesn't appear in "The Key" because the action picks up soon after last year's finale, and he is away at the retreat. Or is he? I'm honestly not sure, because he doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would benefit from Amy's favorite place in the world. However, when he does come back, and if he wants Amy again, there could potentially be some organic competition there. That Amy will most definitely blow way out of proportion.

Enlightened airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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Watch Episode 1 - The Key online

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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