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The show was axed too early, and this standard-def downgrade is a drag, but Laura Dern and company still deliver the goods on this TV-on-DVD set....
HBO / 274 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: August 13, 2013
In typical Mike White fashion, Enlightened: The Complete Second Season (alas, its last) works because he and his collaborators aren't afraid to put his characters through hell. Look at nightmares like Chuck and Buck or The Good Girl: these aren't happy-go-lucky features (though they're often laugh-out-loud funny) - no, these are snapshots of lives gone astray, of people thinking they're being decent citizens but who are really just as flawed and often hateful as their 'enemies'.
As this new round of episodes begins, Amy Jellicoe (played by the inimitable Laura Dern) is more hell-bent than ever about sticking it to the corporation that scorned her, and - most emotionally palpable of all - drove her to the brink of a full-blown mental breakdown. Amy wants to play the role of simply an altruistic woman who has turned her life around, but the realities of the world at large keep clipping her wings. In short, Enlightened: The Complete Second Season is about the desire to do good, and the bad things we often do in order to achieve them.
It's this narrative space where Enlightened gets good - right up to the bitter end. White and his team refuse to lend any sort of Deepak Chopra calmness to Amy's attempts to 'make good': the atonement this character strives to find is hard-fought and not without its sacrifices, and no one participating in Enlightened seems intimidated by this. In the hyper-dramatic world of the show, Dern and White concoct a deliciously robust satire that is always smart, but never ignores the subteties of its brittle, fragile heart.
HBO cancelled it too soon.