Last month, Atlantic writer Richard Lawson tweeted to someone who worked at a certain large corporation that the company was “the worst ever,” and that they should “Jellicoe that shit.” At that moment, Laura Dern’s whistleblower role on Enlightened, Amy Jellicoe, was no longer just a character, but a verb, a hero figure to those who want to change the world around them.
Enlightened had hit a nerve, a voice for the unheard in this world of capitalism and big business. Adored by a small, rabid base of fans, the show was never a ratings winner. Even the low rated Girls looked to be a juggernaut by comparison, and there was always fear of cancellation before it had time to end its beautiful journey.
Mike White, the show’s bisexual creator and Dern’s costar in the series, had purposely made the second season finale a thinly-masked series finale if the occasion called for it. HBO’s announcement this week of the series cancellation seems to have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The show was focused on Jellicoe, who was brought to a nervous breakdown by the company she devoted her life to, only to visit a rehab in Hawaii, where her perspective on life changes. She returns to California and her old company to alter the world around her for the better, while unearthing the wrongdoings of her employer and eventually being the new face of the whistleblower.
Enlightened dissected corporate corruption, and if the show had continued into the third season, White says he would have shined that same light on the legal system, with Amy being sued by her company.
Littered with New Age-y spiritual voiceovers that would have made Oprah jump up with “a-ha” moments, it was a show that mixed Amy’s quest to deliver justice, while also showcasing her uncanny ability to self-sabotage every situation she found herself in. Yet, at the same time, it made us viewers ponder the change we can offer the world. Enlightened was the rare beautiful show that would make you cringe and cry almost every episode.
Enlightened now joins the morgue of Brilliant But Cancelled, a place filled with other angelic corpses such as Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback. These were shows that grow more lovely as time passes, like a note in your high school yearbook you look back fondly on and smile. One of the many thought-provoking Amy voiceovers appeared halfway through the first season and seems appropriate for the grave news of this cancellation:
“You can try to escape the story of your life, but you can’t. It happened. The baby died. The dog died. The heart broke. I knew you when you were young. I know your heart broke too. I will know you when we are both old, and maybe wise. I hope wise. I know you now—your story. Mine isn’t the one I would have chosen in the beginning, but I’ll take it. It is my story. It’s only mine. And it’s not over. There’s time. There is time. There’s so much time.”
If only Amy had been right, if only the show had more time. Enlightened you may be gone, but you will not be forgotten.
Jellicoe that shit.