Enlightened Finale Post Mortem: Mike White on Amy's Future and Her Explosive Final Showdown

laura-dern-enlightened-season-2-finaleIf you’ve yet to watch Sunday’s Enlightened, avert your eyes now. Everyone else, read on…

Enlightened‘s Season 2 finale ended with a bang — but also with a peaceful meditation.

After an entire season of working to expose the sins of Abaddon’s greedy, felonious CEO Charles Szidon, Amy finally saw all the information she’d gathered land on the front page of the L.A. Times.

But before the story broke, Szidon learned of Amy’s whistleblowing ways (thanks to Tyler coming clean to his girlfriend/Szidon’s executive assistant Eileen).

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

In a series of events that was alternately suspenseful, thrilling and hilarious, Amy was escorted up to Szidon’s office, where his minions threatened to sue her and demanded she tell them exactly the information she’d leaked to the newspaper. In the face of their threats, though, Amy found a new strength and clarity of purpose. “You took my hard drive,” she said, breezily. “You figure it out.” Shortly thereafter, Szidon lost his corporate cool, dismissing Amy as having nothing more than “fuzzy-headed idealistic notions that don’t f****** apply.”

Amy’s response was concise, but breathtaking: “If caring about something other than money is dopey, than I’m a f****** moron. And the only feeling I feel right now is satisfaction. I think this meeting’s over. Thanks for the 15 years.”

Cue Amy exiting via elevator, and Szidon on the other side of the door, screaming obscentities and threatening to crush our heroine like a bug. It was, without a doubt, the perfect bookend to the opening moments of the entire series — back when Amy had her nervous breakdown and pried open the same elevator door to scream abuse at the married coworker with whom she’d had an affair. In other good news, Amy’s mom read the explosive Times piece and finally seemed to understand (and be proud of) her daughter’s mission; Amy turned to Levi in her hour of need and found her ex-husband’s anger had subsided, and his shoulder was open for leaning purposes; and Amy convinced Eileen that she was solely responsible for taking down Szidon, and that Tyler would never have knowingly hurt her.

The Season 2 finale began with Amy asking, “Am I my higher self or am I in the mud? Am I an agent of change or a creator of chaos? Am I the fool, the goat, the witch, or am I enlightened?” But it ended with lovely clarity: “You can change. And you can be an agent of change.”

TVLine caught up with series creator, writer and star Mike White to talk about Amy’s final showdowns with Szidon (and her former assitant Krista) and to talk about why he ended the season with a win for Laura Dern’s protagonist. And while HBO still has yet to announce whether Enlightened will be renewed or canceled, we got White to give us some hints of what we could expect to see if indeed a Season 3 happens.

TVLINE | Given that this is a season finale that could also be a series finale, how important was it for Amy to score a victory over Abaddon, to have a happy ending, if you will?
Amy spends so much of her time being not particularly coherent when it comes to her bloviating about political stuff. So it was important to me that when she finally has this ultimate confrontation with power, that she manages to be eloquent. Otherwise, the whole thing feels like it’s a fool’s errand. It’s important that in the end, Amy’s not a fool. She certainly lets her emotional reaction to things override her intellectual side, or the ability to have a more nuanced reading of situations, but in the end there’s something pure and important in her mission.

TVLINE | The other scene in the finale that was amazing — and amazingly horrifying — was Amy bursting into Krista’s hospital room right after she’s given birth and chewing her out for tipping off Szidon to the article — not knowing all along that Krista is totally innocent, that it was Tyler who gave her up to Eileen. Talk to me a little about the dynamic of the Krista-Amy relationship.
To me, there is a reading of that relationship as one of baby envy. Actually, a reading of the entire show is what kinds of hijinks people can get into if they don’t have kids to distract them. It’s really something that I can relate to. So, it always felt to me from the beginning of the pilot — and poor Sarah Burns had to be pregnant [on screen] for like three years — but there’s the idea that Krista is pregnant and is living the life Amy could have had, had not a couple bad things happeneded to her. The backstory is that Amy had a miscarriage and then, out of that, she ended up getting a divorce. It’s the idea that had things gone a different way, would Amy be Krista? Krista is  living the life that, in a sense, Amy may have at one point wanted — and it makes her crazy. In a way, it’s sort of unraveling, whether consciously or unconsciously, the threads of pleasure that Krista is deriving from this simple life that she’s just living — without any intent to drive Amy crazy. But just by existing, Krista makes Amy irritated and frustrated, and she wants to shove in Krista’s face all of these other issues and shake her cage. That is something that’s interesting to me. So, their final interaction — at least in this season — is Krista finally had the baby, and her family is happily enjoying this big, personal moment. And Amy still has to turn it into a much more conflicted drama.

TVLINE | And of course we also see hope for Tyler in his relationship with Eileen, with her coming back to his apartment in a wordless scene that nevertheless indicates she’s forgiving him.
I don’t know if we’ll get another season, and I’ve had this experience [working on other TV series as well]. Just as a cultural artifact, I wanted to feel like if we don’t do more than these two seasons, that all of these characters have some resolution. Yet while it ended on a positive note, their bubbles are very easily burst. So if HBO decides that they want to give us a Season 3, there’s certainly more story to tell.

TVLINE | With Szidon’s sins exposed in the LA Times story, Amy accomplished the mission she set in motion at the end of Season 1. What are the stories you’d like to tell if Enlightened gets another chapter?
My hope is that multiple shoes could drop over time. I think that Season 3 would be “Abaddon Strikes Back.” Amy’s reputation makes her a perfect person to rip apart, and I could imagine [Abaddon] launching a very effective smear campaign to discredit her as a whistleblower. I’d also be interested in pulling in all of these ancillary characters we’ve met, using them in a Rashomon way to be a party to a lawsuit and countersuit to figure out if Amy is a heroic whistleblower or if she’s a wackadoo bent on revenge — with a lot of personal faults. I mean I feel like there’s something interesting to that, putting your eye to the legal institution as another way to talk about justice and ethics in contemporary America.

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  1. dani says:

    Great great show.As an actor I wish I were part of it.

  2. K says:

    Loved the finale! Perfect for a season or series finale but i totally want a season three..especially after reading Mike White’s description of what a season 3 would entail. A beautiful perfect show that unfortunately not enough people are watching.

    • Suzanne says:

      I think the reason why people aren’t watching is that the series cuts a little too close to the bone of human failings. That is why I love it, even as I uncomfortably acknowledge the “been there, done that” of the character’s struggles. Few, if any, shows I have ever watched have touched me as deeply as a few episodes of this show did. Two in particular moved me to tears.(Episode wherein the mother spends the day haunted by her past life. Episode wherein the Mike White describes the life of the unseen ghosts of this world. )

      I hope there is more to come. It may not be American Idol popular or HAWT! but it is real and ….Enlightening. :)

  3. This was a truly wonderful and likely underwatched moment in television. The first season didn’t really grab me, but now I can see the first season served the purpose of character development for what has been a captivating and satisfying second season. I really hope it gets renewed despite Amy’s catharsis moment.

    She was even driving at a semi-regular speed when she left elated (having been fired) from the Abaddon parking lot. Nice touch.

  4. JJ says:

    In the coming years, when people finally discover this show, it will start to be regarded for what it was… one of the finest series ever made. If that was the last episode, it went out on top.

  5. Bobby says:

    The finale was breathtaking and incredible just as I hoped. While I’m pulling so so hard for a season 3, I’m at least thankful that if this had to be the last episode, it was brilliant and something that does the series justice. At least now between the critics and even other celebrities it seems that the show is finally getting the attention it’s deserved all along. I’ll be depressed if it’s not renewed, but at least thankful to have been given the two seasons we did get.

  6. Joe says:

    That’s how you write, act, produce and direct a season of TV people. I know most people aren’t intelligent or patient enough to get this show. I feel badly for them. This is what scripted TV is all about. The fact that they brought Amy into a coherent moment of clarity in that interrogation room made the series. White has such a feel for character and storytelling and didn’t do anything to cheapen all that the story has earned. I’m begging HBO for a 3rd season. They’ve pushed series far longer that don’t have an ounce of the brilliance this show has. After watching the awful episode of Girls where Dunham suddenly develops OCD out of nowhere, I’m infuriated that HBO has greenlit a 3rd season for that dreck and not Enlightened. Enlightened will go down as one of the best shows HBO put out there. It’s a masterclass and congrats on an amazing season to all involved.

    • John K. says:

      Count me among the unintelligent and impatient. I tried watching a few episodes in season 1 and tired again with the season 2 premiere. It was just so sleepy and I really didn’t like Laura Dern’s character. All I could think of was a quote Toby said about Dern’s character on The West Wing: “She’s a poet. She’s new to things like consequences.” That’s how I felt about her character here. And while I don’t think ratings are ALL that matters, the fact that this show is averaging less than 250,000 viewers per episode suggests I’m not alone.

      • Regina Mills says:

        Ratings are hardly indicative of the show’s quality. See: Freaks and Geeks, Veronica Mars, My So-Called Life… want me to continue?

      • JJ says:

        You have been counted. And then some.

      • ado4586 says:

        I’m in the TV industry myself, and know how essential good PR is to a series. A good show can languish from like of press work, and a mediocre show can stay a float because because the marketing dept has blanketed the press outlets. “Enlightened” got very little support from HBO compared to the resources they threw behind “Girls”. Judd Apatow carries more weight than Mike White I guess.

  7. Superhero says:

    In all honesty, I wouldn’t be very upset if HBO decided not to continue the show. Don’t get me wrong; I thought this second season was pretty much brilliant. But it feels like it’s reached a pretty natural conclusion. I wouldn’t mind it if HBO asked White to get to work on a brand new project (he signed an overall deal with them back in October) and they let Enlightened end on a high note. And honestly, they have the perfect excuse to not renew it by saying that it’s reached a natural conclusion, and given the ratings I’d imagine that’s what they’re going to want to do.

  8. Abby says:

    I adore this show. I subscribed to HBO primarily to watch Enlightened. I recommend it to everyone I know, but it’s a hard show to describe. It’s a subtle, nuanced show with emotional depth and smart humor. Thank you for writing about it, Mr. Slezak! I hope it gets another season, I would love to see what Mike White and Laura Dern do with the follow-up to the Season 2 events. It’s just so much better than so many things on TV, really one of the best shows around.

  9. andrew says:

    Beautiful show, beautiful season, one of the best season/series finale I’ve ever seen. I really hope it is renewed.

  10. Carol says:

    What a fantastic show!
    My husband and I are always searching for the next great tv series to watch in our downtime This was it! We are hoping that it gets a season 3 – there are so many poor quality shows that seem to go on and on.
    What a talented cast and Mike White is brilliant in wearing all his ” hats”. This shiw is Smart. Intelligent. And human! Thank you !

  11. ranpan says:

    What a brilliant series. For the me the bottom-line is that she was so flawed, so human, so unsure, and so unbelievably stupid at times, but still managed to do something amazing.

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  13. Anonymous says:

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