Enlightened Review: "All I Ever Wanted" (Episode 2.06)
After last week’s paradigm shift, it was clear that Enlightened would need to collectively step up its game or risk reminding the audience of the majesty of episodes past. For the most part, “All I Ever Wanted”—as the title leads you to believe—lives up to those lofty expectations.
Freshly armed with the contents of Charles Szidon’s assistant’s computer, Amy presents the information to Pulitzer Prize-winner/occasional shirt eschewer Jeff Flender, who is suitably impressed. So impressed, in fact, that he says, “I could just fucking kiss you.” And then he does. This is the moment Amy’s mother, Helen, has been waiting for with bated breath while the rest of us looked on with something resembling apathy; the Abaddonn exposé was the interest-grabbing hook, and, by comparison, the potential love connection was of minor significance.
Even so, Amy is taken with Jeff, and they consummate their relationship with the series’ first sex scene. The “correctness” of this sex scene (which is to say it looks like any other sex scene) serves as an interesting contrast to last week’s tighty-whitey prelude to sex between Tyler and Eileen. This difference becomes significant in Amy and Tyler’s next interaction. Before then, however, Amy soliloquizes about the twin perfections in her life: she has cracked Abaddonn, and she is dating a man who has his life together, more or less. She asks, “Can you make your own heaven in this life? Can you really get all you ever wanted?” The cynical voice hiding inside all of us that rejects Amy’s overflowing optimism shouts a resounding “No.”
Amy passes an indeterminate amount of time in a rom-commy montage with Jeff, wherein she strolls down neighborhood sidewalks and eats at outdoor cafés. When she finally does return to work, she informs Dougie (who responds with this dollop of Dougie magic: “This place can kiss my black ass.”) and Tyler that Jeff said the hacked email information was “golden,” and that it will certainly be enough to destroy the company. As he did in the previous episode, Tyler expresses trepidation that their plot hinges on files taken from Eileen’s computer. Amy’s cruel selfishness takes over again as she belittles Tyler’s emotional needs. Indeed, Amy’s casual sexuality earlier in the episode reflects an inability to understand the momentousness of Tyler’s intimacy breakthrough. As a matter of pure speculation, it seems Amy’s indifference to Tyler’s feelings could haunt her in the future if he chooses to whistleblow on the whistleblowing. The impact of Tyler’s emotional state remains unresolved, and the remainder of the episode leaves him and Dougie to their own affairs.
Later that evening Amy’s at home preparing for a date with Jeff, about whom Helen remains very curious. Much of the first season focused on Amy’s desire to communicate better with the emotionally distant Helen. In the second season, the roles seem to have reversed with Helen taking a more active interest in Amy’s life and Amy distancing herself from her worrisome mother. This seems to be another manifestation of Amy’s selfishness. Where before she needed her mother as an emotional outlet, she now has no use despite her mother’s growing warmth. Meanwhile, as Amy applies her makeup, the doorbell rings. Her fluster turns to panic when the man at the door is not Jeff but Levi.
Levi explains that he’s a changed man, but Amy, in her surprise and desperation, tells him to cut the crap. He reassures her that he truly bought into the Open Air philosophy, that he cried in front of the other patients, that he wants to start over with her. He then reveals that, in an act of unconscionable stupidity, he never mailed the heartfelt letter he wrote at the end of “Higher Power,” but here he presents it to Amy. Understandably the letter creates a geyser of previously buried, unwanted emotions that Amy is not equipped to handle in that moment. Forgetting Jeff, Amy and Levi go for a walk to the baseball field where they passed some of the best and worst moments of their romantic history. Levi explains again that he wants to start over and even goes so far as to say that it’s not too late to have a baby. He explains that he wants to live and that he needs Amy to be his rock, his higher power.
What started as a Jan Levinson/Carol Stills-esque inconvenience for Amy has become a moral crisis. Levi is correct when he says she’s the only one who believed in him, and it was she who pushed him toward the rehabilitation that became his first step toward salvation. Although it is unfair for Levi to rely so heavily on Amy for his sustained recovery, it’s unreasonable for Amy to accept no responsibility. Amy is now confronted directly by her own selfishness, and she must grapple with her own culpability in Levi’s potential backslide into addiction and how that should or should not take precedence over her own total happiness. Ultimately she tells him she needs time to think it over and leaves the park to go to dinner with Jeff.
When Amy returns home, Helen and Jeff are idly small-talking. Amy is unable to join, however, as she is overcome by a panic attack triggered by Levi’s return and overtures. This scene is notable less for Amy’s emotional return to earth than it is Helen’s nurturing response. At first Helen hesitates, but then deliberately grabs hold of Amy’s shoulders and tells her it’s going to be OK and cries along with her daughter. In this moment, Helen shows how much progress she has made as a person while the tremendous collective progress of each of the show’s main characters seems to hang on the precipice of disaster. After her panic subsides, Amy and Jeff depart for their dinner as the episode ends. It would have been sufficient to end it like this, but the half hour ends instead with Levi approaching the house and seeing Amy pull away with another man.
In an already emotionally potent episode, this final act seemed like an unnecessary accelerant toward the finish line. The series to this point, even at its most frenzied, has abstained from melodrama. It’s true that only two episodes remain this season, but the methodical nature of the series suggested that this was a storyline whose resolution did not need to arrive by the end of this season. In that same vein, the breakthrough on the Abaddonn exposé would also imply impending closure to that storyline, which has been the main focus of the series and could leave a potentially unfillable hole in the story. HBO has yet to renew or cancel Enlightened, and it is reasonable to think the season finale could also be a series finale.