Enlightened Season 2 Finale Preview: Mike White Talks Renewal Hopes and Happy Endings

mike-white-enlightened-hboSunday night’s Season 2 finale of Enlightened (HBO, 9:30/8:30c) will see the ultimate showdown between protagonist Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern) and the unscrupulous overlords at the corporation that employs her. But the outcome of Amy-vs.-Abaddon isn’t the only news that’s keeping the cult favorite’s fanbase in a state of suspense.

TVLine caught up with show creator, executive producer and star Mike White to find out whether Sunday’s installment might be a series finale and to determine if its motley band of characters are likely to get happy endings — or at least a close approximation.

TVLINE | The penultimate episode of Season 2, “No Doubt,” had this amazing exchange where Tyler asked Amy, “Can’t this have a happy ending for everyone?” And Amy’s answer was, “I seriously doubt it.” Was that in any way foreshadowing what’s to come in the season finale?
For some reason, that line made me think of my mom, because whenever she watches the show or anything I do she’s like, “I just hope it has a happy ending.” Most things I do have happy endings, but they’re…not exactly galvanizing happy endings. In a sense, it feels like [Amy and Tyler's] roles have changed because now Tyler has a lot more to lose. I liked the idea that Amy’s been the eternal optimist [for most of the series], but at this point is starting to lose hope that everything’s going to come out for the best. And it felt amusing to have Tyler hoping for some version of events where everything can fall into place, even though, obviously, at this point there’s so many balls in the air, there’s no way they’re all going to be caught.

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TVLINE | With the article on Abaddon about to hit the paper, and Tyler’s role in secretly gathering the information for Amy through his new girlfriend Eileen’s computer, how will it affect his friendship with these women?
He feels completely powerless, and the only thing he can do is come clean. It’s really now in Amy and Eileen’s hands as to whether he’s going to find any kind of solace or happy ending. He’s not somebody who is going to have some moves up his sleeve to figure out how to make it all right.

TVLINE | Amy’s other ongoing relationship at Abaddon is with her former assistant Krista (Sarah Burns). Their interactions are always so horrifyingly awkward, and I know it’s been teased that the season finale will have yet another confrontation between them — in the hospital, after Krista has given birth.
Amy sees Krista as the epitome of the complacent person who is just content to take her [preordained] role in society. She’s not caught up in all of these bigger issues and problems that Amy obsesses about. I mean, we see Krista as a normal person who’s just trying to get through her life. Amy’s always this unwelcome agitator who’s trying to get her to sign up for something or quit her job or take up the cause. The pleasure of writing the show is that hopefully both readings [of their relationship] can coexist: That Amy’s desire to do good is seen as something that’s noble, and at the same time, that Krista’s not some kind of villain or bad person just because she’s occupied with problems that the average person is usually dealing with. Krista’s desire not to rock the boat at Abaddon is a completely natural reaction to things. What’s funny to me, the pleasure of comments on the Internet or Twitter, is how some people view Krista as, “I hate that bitch.” And some people are like, “Amy, leave Krista alone!” Both responses exist, and they should.

TVLINE | I loved the conversation Amy has in “No Doubt” with [Abaddon CEO] Charles Szidon where he’s asking her, “Do you want power or do you want to do good in the world?” She’s confronted with the idea that she wants both. And at the exact moment where the company’s sins are about to be exposed in the press, Szidon offers to create a community-outreach job that she’s wanted all along — and with a six-figure salary.
The thing is, Amy has been defined from the beginning as somebody who has no power. Every revolutionary in modern history has been somebody who’s taken on a tyrannical power structure and then…it’s just the sad reality of revolution in our time that once [the revolutionary] has the power, it’s like a different form of tyranny. It would be interesting to see what Amy would do if she actually became a powerful person. It’s easy to see what’s wrong with a system; it’s much more difficult to rule in a benevolent way. I do believe that Amy comes from a place of compassion, and definitely she identifies with the powerless. But other than putting the last first and the first last, what is the vision that she really has for a better world?

TVLINE | Before we wrap up, I have to ask you about the Tyler-centric episode, “The Ghost Is Seen,” from earlier this season. What is it like writing an episode where you know you’re going to be at the center, portraying all these complex emotions with Tyler’s unexpected courtship of Molly Shannon’s character, and even a subsequent sex scene? Is it stressful as you write to think “I’m going to have to now bring all this stuff to life on screen as well”?
I love Molly and I did a movie with her called Year of the Dog. Not as many people saw it as I would have hoped, but I’m always impressed with her as an actress, and I felt like this was another opportunity to really give her something to do. But in order to do it, it felt like it had to be told from Tyler’s point of view. As far as realizing that I was going to have to perform it, as I’m writing it in my head I [identify with] all the characters and try to hear all their voices. So, it’s when they do start to do costume fittings or they’re like “This is the sheet you’ll be under,” when I’m like, “Oh my God, yeah. I’m actually going to do this.” There’s a little bit of a disconnect between when I’m writing it and realizing the performance of something. That’s why, for me, it’s really important to have finished all the writing before we start shooting — because it’s really difficult for me to keep wearing my writer’s hat when I’m on the ground, in the trenches with the making of it.

TVLINE | So I saved the toughest question till the end: Will we get a Season 3 of Enlightened? Do you have a sense of which way the network is leaning?
To be totally honest, I usually have a gut about these things, but this time around I really feel like it could go either way. I felt like we had little chance of coming back as of just a few weeks ago. But it seems like in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had more people voicing their affection for the show. And internally at HBO, the executives themselves are big fans. I’ve met with them, and I know the pros and cons. I just hope that they’ll decide soon. All day long I’m being asked this question by journalists, by actors who are on the show, by people in my life. Psychologically, I’m either free as a bird or I have eight or 10 episodes of television to write as quickly as possible. It’s a lot to deal with. We’ve kind of been on the precipice for a while.

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21 Comments
  1. Motor City girl says:

    I absolutely love this show and all of Mike’s characters. Do the right thing HBO and bring it back!

    • Mary Ann Anderson says:

      This show should NOT be canceled. The acting is fabulous. The message is current and addresses significant issues in today’s corporate culture. PLEASE do not give up on Amy.
      Even her mother saw the light.

      Be ENLIGHTENED and give this wonderful HBO series another year.

  2. Bobby says:

    I love Enlightened so much, and it pains me that more people aren’t checking it out. The second season, in particular, has been brilliant (especially the Tyler/Eileen centric episode). It’s so relate-able to me in ways that most other shows aren’t in that it honestly feels like legitimate day to day life told in a way that keeps me both intrigued and needing to see more and find out what’s going to happen next. Really really hoping HBO gives it a season three.

  3. K says:

    Love the show and wish more people would watch! Please HBO, give us at least one more season!!

  4. Jo says:

    Bring.it.back. Better this season then the last. Girls is absolutely awful this season. I think everyone spoke to soon about that show. Enlightened is so underrated

  5. dani says:

    Glistening with integrity Enlightened

  6. JJ says:

    It will be unforgivable if HBO doesn’t renew this, especially considering they’ve already renewed that flop trash Girls.

  7. Joe says:

    Enlightened is on par with the best shows on TV. That list, for me, includes Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones & Newsroom. It’s a phenomenal that says more about life in it’s voice over monologues than any episode of Girls ever wished it could. I hope it gets a 3rd season but this is the network that cancelled Bored To Death yet let garbage like How to Make It In America and Big Love go way past their expiration dates. This season of Enlightened was brilliant and Mike White has not taken one wrong step.

    • Mel says:

      I agree with everything you said, except about Big Love. I enjoyed that series untill the very end (I know I am in the minority). Laura Dern plays Amy Jellico beautifully. I have never ever seen a character like her before on TV. I love her and I dislike her all at the same time. Mike White’s character Tyler I just love all the time. A sweet, lonely guy who has finally found someone, but might lose it all in the end, it’s heartbreaking to watch. I will be glued to the TV on Sunday night.

  8. H says:

    Thanks for the interview! Loving the show and it’s been great watching it via HBO Nordic on Mondays this past season (and some other ways earlier). I wish the show would have had 13 episode runs so there’d been more time for Amy’s mom, Tyler and Levi as those episodes have been stellar.

  9. Holly says:

    I’ve watched 4 episodes of this show but couldn’t get into it. Not my cup of tea at all. Perhaps because I’ve stuck with The Big C on Showtime even though the last season wasn’t very good (and I’m planning to stick through the final season) and Laura Linney and Laura Dern remind me too much of one another.

  10. Lee says:

    HBO is the only network taking risks right now. This is a brilliant show!

  11. Valerie says:

    Please renew this show HBO!!! I so love it and can’t wait to see the new episode every week. The writing is unparalleled and the acting is brilliant and so relatable. I don’t know why more people aren’t watching – maybe HBO hasn’t given it the proper media. I’m sorry to say between this and Girls there’s simply no contest. Mike White is a genius.

  12. notname says:

    It would be such a shame if we don’t get to MEET AMY’S SISTER or find out the reason why she’s NEVER tried to contact Amy or her mother Helen.

    What kind of a sister wouldn’t bother to call Amy to see how she’s doing after her stay in REHAB???

    PLEASE RENEW THE SHOW for another season HBO!!!

  13. Darnell Cate says:

    I absolutely love this show! The writing, creativity, & freshness is so exciting! I wish more people knew about it because everybody that watches it falls in love with the characters and story. PLEASE RENEW IT HBO!

  14. Nancy Brenner says:

    Love, love, love this show. My favorite show. And we absolutely need 10 episodes for Season 3!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely love the show Enlightened…. can’t believe you wouldn’t be making Season 3 or 4 or 5… there is so much still to be said for this show… so much better than many other TV series HBO…keep Enlightened running. The cast is fabulous and so looking forward to Season 3… Love Laura Dern as an actress. she gives her character true meaning!

  16. stevie says:

    I’m watching Enlightened. I love it. Laura Dern is stellar, just brilliant in it. I can relate to her character on many levels…i’m hoping for a Season 3 to be more ‘enlightened’.

  17. Lynn Bowman says:

    One of the most creative and interesting shows I have seen in a long time. I am hooked…hoping for a season 3.

  18. Chris Lake says:

    I really loved the show but I was disappointed that they wrote the end of Season 2 as kind of a shmaltzy, quickly thrown together series ending. It’s like they already gave up on the series continuing. I think it would have been hard to build a 3rd season on that kind of a 2nd season ending and they also boxed themselves into a corner, since they didn’t create the kind of plot openings that would have broadened the story beyond Abaddon and the small world of each of those characters in future seasons. It’s like the story was over. That disappoints me. I would have wanted a more hopeful, exciting end to season 2 to reflect the intensity of the series.

  19. Lisa says:

    I just found Enlightened and watched all the episodes in a few days. I am a fan of Laura Dern and she does a great job in this. I had to watch a few episodes to really get hooked. I am truly disappointed that it will not continue. Everyone knows that most “standard” TV programming is crap and intellectually insulting. I notice that most young people (20s to 30s) watch primarily online programming. My daughter turned me on to Newsroom and since that time I search for the best series online. I think Enlightened has a broad demographic appeal, but much of the baby boomer audience (like me) is gradually moving to theses series, which is literally more of a technological leap for some of us. Unfortunately ratings rule and great shows like Enlightened get cut from programming. I think another season of Enlightened might give it the time it needs to pick up audience enthusiasm. HBO has all the younger people hooked; they need to find a way to reach a larger demographic. Sure, I like Game of Thrones, but you can only see so many beheadings and contrived sex scenes before you’re bored. The realities Enlightened addresses are equally if not more compelling. It just didn’t get a chance.
    Kudos to all the actors and writers, I really enjoyed Enlightened and wish it would continue.

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