Staying In(stant): A Show That Tells The Whole Truth

enlightenedPhoto: Courtesy of HBO.
Full disclosure: We love TV. So much so that sometimes we'd rather spend a whole weekend in front of the tube than dancing in da club. Is a lack of television service holding you back from feeling our joy? No problem! You can get by just fine on Netflix, Hulu, and the myriad other streaming services rapidly taking over the home entertainment industry (thank you, Internet!).
Some shows are just better when binge-watched. Whether it's the latest BBC comedy, a PBS miniseries from the '70s, or just that cultish show prematurely scrubbed from a network, we're hooked on the stream. Staying In(stant) is your guide to the best of streaming content. Each week, we bring you a show we're obsessed with and think you should be, too.
This Week: Enlightened, if Julia Roberts' characters in Eat, Pray, Love and Erin Brockovich became one and got a corporate job.
Where To Watch: HBO GO, Amazon
How I Got Hooked: Honestly, "hooked" is a strong word — it's not the easiest show to fall in love with, but it does reward loyal viewers. Laura Dern's character, Amy, is naive, impulsive, and misguided. The series opens with her returning to work at a cosmetics company after an in-office meltdown sent her on exhaustion leave. Only things are not exactly copacetic. Her assistant has replaced her, and she's been relegated to the basement of her business-park tower, where a group of corporate misfits — think the Breakfast Club for adults — are working on a mysterious data-entry project that nobody can explain. It's there Amy, a recent convert to idealism, becomes obsessed with her company's unethical practices and possible malfeasance. Her motives, though, always seem to be about her: Revenge disguised as morality. Ennui confused with complacency. A desire for meaning blown up and out and away.
It quickly becomes apparent that her love for humanity does not always (or even often) translate to a basic respect for her fellow human beings. Without resorting to Walter White depths of bad, she is quite possibly one of the most hard-to-like characters ever to grace the screen. But, I could not ignore her. I wanted to understand her. Was she a DSM-grade narcissist or just that clueless? I needed to know for sure.
Best Episode: The series finale is where it all pays off, where everything that the two short seasons builds up to explodes. And, it's worth it.
Why You'll Love It: It begins as a show about self-reflection, but the big reveal is that it's about your self-reflection. Amy wants to be a hero — and if she exposes this giant corporation for what it is, she will most certainly be. But, as a person, trudging from Monday to Friday and back again, she's a white-hot mess. She's portrayed with an unflinching degree of honesty, which had me vacillating between hating her and hating myself for hating her. Is she a hypocrite? Am I hypocrite? Is she that bad? What do whistleblowers, martyrs, and saints do on their day off? Could it be this?
Enlightened brings up a lot, but by the end, your mind feels a little less judgmental and a lot more open. And, you realize that was the point all along.

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