Enlightened Review: "Revenge Play" (Episode 2.02)
Sources of conflict in many television shows, movies and books tend to be either entirely external or a mix of internal and external. Nate doesn’t return to Fisher and Sons out of a burning desire to promote the latest urn and coffin trends in Six Feet Under, much like Omar doesn’t pursue a vendetta against the entire Barksdale crew without provocation in The Wire. The same cannot be said of Enlightened, the plot of which is driven entirely by the internal combustion engine that is Amy Jellicoe.
In the second episode of season two, Amy agrees to take on journalist Shirtless Jeff Flender’s challenge to take down the CEO of Abaddonn, who Flender claims paid off a key government official to abort investigations into the corporation’s predilection for toxic dumping. In one of the episode’s subtler moments, Amy is shushed by a patron of the music venue where she and Tyler meet with Flender. It is a seemingly insignificant gem of character-building that reveals how out of touch Amy is with social etiquette and makes her competency to the task ever more doubtful. Regardless of this uncertainty, however, Amy and Tyler accept the mission and return to their basement office.
The following morning, as we are reintroduced to Amy’s charmingly icy mother (played by Diane Ladd, Laura Dern’s actual mother), Tyler phones the Jellicoe residence to frantically explain that the IT department has detected Amy’s security breach and that they’ll be examining computers the following day. When Amy comes into work, Dougie confirms the impending IT scan and, as any classically terrible boss would, suggests all employees hide their porn.
In a panic, Amy and Tyler escape to the break room where they are shortly confronted by Omar (not of The Wire, but how delightful would that be?) who accuses Amy and Tyler of being up to something fishy. Amy explains that they are not dating, and that Tyler’s been helping her make a website. This comes as a relief to Omar, who continues the Tyler Depression Campaign—it began in earnest in season one with Amy’s aggressive friend-zoning—by suggesting it would be ludicrous for someone as beautiful as Amy to sleep with so white a devil.
As alluded to last week, the prime motivator behind Tyler’s acquiescence is his ever-plummeting self-worth, and it appears that Omar’s ridicule was enough to push him from complacent mole to Machiavellian IT super genius. As he describes it, Tyler kills two birds with one stone by swapping Amy’s hard drive with Omar’s, which predictably results in Omar’s termination and also allows Amy to investigate at least a little bit longer. Tyler’s titular maneuver is for the good of the cause, he explains, but Amy’s roiling internal conflict grabs hold of the situation and uses it for the episode’s closing sermon.
In exploring the events of the episode, Amy struggles to decide how many eggs are worth breaking to make her corporate-takedown omelet. Her attempts at peaceful resolution run at direct odds with her former self and her current task. Furthermore, and outside the world of Enlightened itself, Amy’s personality presents a challenge to viewers who might ask whether her earnestness is legitimate because we are conditioned to expect cynicism from intelligent TV shows. Hopefully, the next six episodes shed some light on both issues.