I’m just too tired to live.
With only two episodes left in Enlightened’s first season, the show takes a stunning risk and manages to turn out the only other episode this season that deserves to be considered with Lonely Ghosts. Lonely Ghosts is the best of the usual episodes, but this episodeis a masterpiece as well and deserving of even more respect, I’d say, because of the bold choice at its heart. This episode starts as many of them have, with Laura Dern’s Amy waking up and frantically heading out for work. But instead of following her into her day, this time we do something different. Today, we’re staying at home with Amy’s mother, Helen, and as good as Diane Ladd has been in support through this season, this episode is quite simply one of the most finely tuned and gripping performances to ever show up on television. It’s minimal and deeply, deeply sorrowful. It’s probably the show’s darkest episode, delving into the past of this wounded family to uncover the deep wound of pain at Helen’s heart. Life hasn’t turned out the way she thought it would and this episode explores this in a really evocative and heart-wrenching way. There’s an encounter in a grocery store with an old friend and watching Helen’s face as her old friend unspools all the wonderful things that have happened in her family since they last spoke is devastating, nearly unwatchable. And a later scene between Helen and Levi, Amy’s ex-husband, played by Luke Wilson, is even worse. This scene reveals the deep anger that underpins the sorrow of these two characters. They’re both deeply wounded, but those wounds don’t just make them sad; they make them angry. It’s a bold choice this episode, particularly this late in the season. Most people would spend the penultimate episode of the season building energy and tension and/or setting up plot points for the finale. But Enlightened proves its bona fides again as a show that refuses to easily cohere into anything approaching cliché. The first season is about to end. And, of all its options, the show chooses to take a breath, to step back from Amy and focus on someone else; it’s half an hour of bitter pain, a day spent contemplating failure and sorrow, a quiet, painful moment to sit with someone in severe emotional pain, to just sit with her and try to understand. 4 stars.
tl;dr – show boldly shifts focus to supporting character; a devastating, evocative exploration of sorrow and dashed hopes with an astonishingly great central performance by Diane Ladd. 4 stars.