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postmortem

Mike White on Enlightened’s Finale, and His Plan for Season Three

(Warning: This post contains spoilers about Sunday's season-two Enlightened finale.) This season of Enlightened ended with Amy achieving her goal of exposing her employer, Abaddon, for its illegal and corrupt dealings, and co-creator/writer Mike White never considered denying her that. “I wanted that part to land for her. I always had from the beginning,” he told Vulture during a recent interview about the show. In the episode, Amy succeeds on blowing the whistle on her corrupt corporate overlord on the front page of the LA Times, but at great personal cost. Given the show’s consistently smallish ratings, he wrote Sunday’s simultaneously triumphant and heartbreaking episode as a possible series wrap-up. “I was hedging my bets,” White said of the show’s still uncertain future. “[Otherwise] It would be this unfinished thing and I feel like people would never want to check it out ... I wanted it to feel like it could work as its own piece.”

As such, Amy’s journey is summed up in a moving, bittersweet moment with Levi. She’s been fired, while her mom, Jeff, and Krista have all cut ties with her, and her zeal falters. “Am I crazy?” she asks him. Levi tells her no. “You’re just full of hope,” he says. “You have more hope than most people do. It’s a beautiful thing to have a little hope for the world.” Levi’s words echo White’s own compassion for his polarizing lead. “The whole episode, she’s asking, ‘Am I a fool? Am I a witch? Am I crazy?’ And she’s all those different things at different times. That’s what I feel is true about her,” he said. “As absurd as some of the ways she goes about affecting change are, it’s coming from a place of [feeling that] change is possible. So many people come at it from a more cynical place and I like that about her. That’s what she ultimately symbolizes, somebody who is hopeful but doesn’t necessarily know how to place it.”

White also knew he wanted to save Amy’s cringe-inducing blow-up with Krista for the end, after the exposé was a go. “I thought, Amy’s gotta be doing something good otherwise the audience is never gonna forgive her for yelling at Krista while she’s holding her newborn baby. Some people still won’t,” he said. “There’s the whole baby reading of that relationship so I just felt it was a good culmination for Krista to be sitting there with her baby and Amy bursting in and going, ‘You fucked me! You fucked me! Look what you did!’ I always wanted that scene.”

As of Sunday, HBO hasn’t announced a renewal for the show, but White’s got definite ideas about where Amy’s story would go if it continued. He knows he wants to deal with more of her family and plans on bringing in her estranged sister Bethenny (mentioned briefly by Amy’s mom in “Consider Helen”), who has a kid.

Then there’s the fallout from the exposé. “Creatively, there’s a lot more story to tell about the idea of Amy being recognized, the wish fulfillment and what comes with it.”

To start, Abaddon Industries CEO Charles Szidon would make good on his threat to sue her. “The whole thing is going to be the lawsuit. Abaddon is going to sue Amy, and she’s going to sue them. I think it’ll be fun to do the send-up of the legal world in the way we did with the corporate stuff,” White said. There will be depositions and testimony and character witnesses – and Amy’s going to need her flak jacket. “It’s going to be all the people we’ve introduced taking a position, and Amy’s going to get a sense of what everyone really thinks of her.”

Photo: LACEY TERRELL/HBO