Performers of the Week: Molly Shannon and Mike White From Enlightened

molly_shannon_mike_white_enlightenedA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMERS | Molly Shannon and Mike White

THE SHOW | Enlightened (HBO)

THE EPISODE | “The Ghost Is Seen”

THE AIRDATE | February 10, 2013

THE PERFORMANCE | “It’s OK to be a ghost,” declared Mike White’s Tyler, taking over the role of narrator for an episode that delved deeper into the life of his introverted computer whiz. And as we followed Tyler slinking unnoticed through his typical work day, dropping by the grocery store, eating dinner alone in his sparse apartment, White made quietly palpable his character’s sense of loneliness, his lack of connection to the world around him. “Some pearls are never found. They hide under the sand on the ocean floor,” Tyler mused. “No one knows they’re there. But the pearl knows.”

What a surprise then, when Tyler — reluctantly teaming up with coworkers Amy (Laura Dern) and Dougie (Timm Sharp) to expose the sins of their company’s CEO — found himself being truly noticed by Shannon’s executive assistant Eileen. Tyler’s response when Amy informed him of Eileen’s potential interest in him was both tragic and comical: Holding his hands in front of his face like an embarrassed child and pleading, “Don’t look at me!”

Shannon, for her part, brought to life Eileen’s longing to find love (or something close to it) without ever making her character seem pathetic or the butt of some fortysomething-and-single joke. “I’m trying to be more open and, you know, let people in,” she explained with a pretty smile to Tyler, using the same kind of therapy-speak we often hear from Dern’s protagonist, and yet with some actual enlightenment behind it. By being truly open, Eileen was able to see the value of the “sad,” “sweet” Tyler standing before — and to plant a nervous, purse-lipped kiss on him as they bid farewell after a post-work group outing. Later in the episode, back at Tyler’s place after their first date, Eileen poured out her heart: She doesn’t have too many expectations, but she also doesn’t want to deal with someone fake or mean. “I’m just too old to get kicked in the face, y’know?” she said, with a mixture of hope and pragmatism and heartbreak, her eyes communicating to Tyler her intention to be careful with his heart, too.

The start of the duo’s unglamorous sex scene — Eileen in bed, using Tyler’s sheet as a shield, and Tyler entering the room stripped down to his tighty whities — was refreshingly matter-of-fact: Dougie might find Tyler to be “white as f***” and Eileen just an “old fish” in a barrel waiting to be shot (so to speak), but in White and Shannon’s hands, their physical union eschewed any comical indignity. Instead, when Eileen clutched Tyler’s hand as they woke the following morning, we saw the beauty of two hidden pearls who left behind their shells and found some fleeting happiness.

Yeah, that’ll make it all the more heartbreaking for both characters if/when it’s revealed that Tyler played a role in helping Dougie and Amy access Eileen’s computer (and bring down Abaddon), but with Shannon and White at the helm, it’s sure to be a beautiful catastrophe. WATCH TYLER ASKING EILEEN TO STAY THE NIGHT HERE:

Which performers rocked your TV this week? Sound off in the comments!

Comments (15)

  • So much incredible writing and acting on this show and no one is watching.

    Comment by K – February 16, 2013 10:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Love this show as well as the characters and actors whom portray them.

    Comment by Phillip – February 16, 2013 10:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So glad that TVLine is recognizing this show. It’s so underrated, it’s ridiculous!

    Comment by FuntroonTV – February 16, 2013 10:31 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The best episode yet! I was riveted. This episode was sad and sweet. Mike White and Molly Shannon played the characters with such nuanced meaning. I so enjoyed watching the beginning of a relationship between two characters who finally made a connection with another human being. I will be very sad when she realizes she was originally just a mark. Poor Eileen and Tyler :( Regarding why the low ratings for this show – I know it took me a while to “get it.” Maybe people just gave up too soon. Too bad.

    Comment by Mel – February 16, 2013 10:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Shoulda chosen Jayma Mays. Glee has never had a better performer this year than her.

    Comment by CSR – February 16, 2013 11:00 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I find it so great when generally comedic actresses like Molly Shannon switch it up and do a more dramatic role. The best part is when they knock it out of the park! I really hope “Enlightened” can see a season 3; this show is so good and Mike White is such an amazing writer.

    Comment by Kevin H. – February 16, 2013 11:29 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • jared and jensen supernatural. the brothers speechs to each other were full of so much emotion and they bring it every time. I missed this kind of interaction between them , so it was awesome to see again . glad the brothers love and fighting for each other is back it has been sorly missed the last couple of.seasons.

    Comment by ollie – February 16, 2013 11:37 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • No mention that the two played sibling candy makers Billy and Dilly Balsam on ‘Pushing Daisies’?

    Comment by kellen – February 16, 2013 01:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ll have to check this out! Molly’s a great actress! The performance of the week for me? TONY GOLDWYN for Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, SCANDAL episode 2-14. It was incredible, SHOCKING, but incredible. I’m still happy for Molly though!

    Comment by theOtherMonique – February 16, 2013 04:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’m with you. Nothing against these two, I’m sure their performances were great, I just don’t watch the show. And i know Scandal deservedly got it last week but my goodness!! Tony Goldwyn broke my heart! He was incredible!

      Comment by Crystal – February 17, 2013 02:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • from italy.. bellissimo episodio che esprime appieno le doti attoriali dei due attori, puntata toccante e commovente, la mia preferita per adesso, mi auguro anche io che ci sia una terza stagione!!! I Love Enlightened!!!!

    Comment by Heglis – February 16, 2013 04:24 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This show is so brilliant and so underrated. I really hope we get a third season….

    Comment by andrew – February 16, 2013 06:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • An amazing episode. I’ve never seen a television show deal so honestly with 2 lonely souls finding each other. Mike White is an amazing writer. Enlightened is easily the most under-rated show on television.

    Comment by Mike M – February 17, 2013 03:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Completely relatable on all levels. What a great show. I wrote a poem called Ghost a few years I know this experience.

    Comment by dani – February 17, 2013 04:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • It’s so refreshing to see Molly Shannon play a character rather than a caricature. She was marvelous. And Mike White is always gold.

    Comment by DF – February 18, 2013 11:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

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