HBO, please renew “Enlightened”!
ENLIGHTENED — the television series co-created by Mike White and Laura Dern — opens with a scene of extreme disillusionment. Even prior to that first shot of Amy Jellicoe’s mascara-teared face, a close-up of which has become the show’s iconic image, the viewer senses that something is amiss. Just before we’re introduced to the face of our heroine, played by Dern, we’re aware of a sound. Someone is crying. Issuing from a blank screen, the crying already startles, but perhaps even more so because it’s a kind of irrepressible sobbing, verging on hysteria. Our reaction to the faceless weeping isn’t, and isn’t meant to be, one of sympathy or tenderness, but of disquiet, even fear. The disconnect lasts only seconds, as Amy’s contorted face floats into view. From there, Amy goes on a bridge-burning rampage through the office that — again, while lasting only minutes — becomes integral to how we will view the entire series. While most narratives proceed toward building connections, securing attachments, Enlightened begins by breaking them. During Amy’s path of detachment, however, the inverse was happening with me: I was falling in love with Enlightened.