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Every Episode Of Enlightened Ranked

Mike White's big crossover hit arrived with his Emmy-winning HBO satire "The White Lotus," but that surprise sensation wasn't the first time he struck gold on the channel: In October 201, White's dark comedy series "Enlightened" debuted via the premium cable network.

Co-created and co-starring Laura Dern, "Enlightened" is the redemptive, spiritual journey of Amy Jellicoe (Dern) who returns home after going to rehab at Open Air in Hawaii following an emotional outburst at her corporate workplace, Abaddon Industries. Amy is determined to heal her fractured relationships with her mother Helen Jellicoe (Diane Ladd, Dern's real-life mother), and ex-husband Levi Callow (Luke Wilson), and make the most of her second chance working at Abaddon. She's dispirited when she learns she has lost her title as an executive and has been relegated to a banal position processing data.

Despite sensational reviews from critics and notices from awards bodies, "Enlightened" struggled to cultivate a viewership base and HBO pulled the plug on the show after its Season 2 finale in 2013. Years later, White and Dern's show remains as soulful and moving as ever. Here's a look at every episode, ranked. Warning: spoilers ahead.

18. Season 1, Episode 2 - Now or Never

After learning she won't be returning to her position as a health and beauty buyer for Abaddon, Amy tries to pivot and pitches a new position to human resources representative Judy Harvey (Amy Hill): The role would render her an environmentalist watchdog monitoring business dealings at the company to ensure they're making sustainable choices. Judy nixes the idea, reminding Amy that beggars can't be choosers and instead offering her a position in Cogentiva, the bleak data-processing arm of Abaddon located deep in the office's basement.

"Now or Never" is generally low-stakes and may not be the strongest half hour of "Enlightened," mostly due to its arrival after the searing dramatic highs of the pilot. Still, it offers strong introductions to Amy's closest Cogentiva co-workers, timid Tyler (Mike White) and hapless Dougie (Timm Sharp), who will become her closest ally at Abaddon and her biggest foe, respectively. By the end of the episode, the specifics of Amy's professional world are fully established and ready to be explored deeper.

17. Season 1, Episode 5 - Not Good Enough Mothers

After examining Amy's dynamic with Levi in "The Weekend," "Enlightened" turns the spotlight on her strained relationship with her mother Helen. Amy has not had an easy time acclimating to living with Helen and although her reasoning is financial, it still feels regressive for a grown woman in her early 40s who previously led an independent life. It's human nature to slip back into past parent-child roles while around family, but "Not Good Enough Mothers" finds Amy trying her best to resist the urge.

When Amy sees a local news report about an undocumented immigrant mother of two young girls who's at risk of being deported, she channels her frustration into advocacy and awkwardly announces her plan to launch a women's activist group at Abaddon during Krista's baby shower, where she's met with the same lack of enthusiasm she experienced with Helen. Amy realizes that her labored activism is the manifestation of the resentment she holds for Helen, whom she confronts for not being the best mother. The realization feels obvious and leaves "Not Good Enough Mothers" feeling a little regressive, if only because it doesn't provide revelatory context to Amy's relationship with Helen like "The Weekend" did for her and Levi.

16. Season 1, Episode 8 - Comrades Unite!

After Amy endures various setbacks at the hands of the men in her life in "Lonely Ghosts," she returns to her social justice activist pursuits in "Comrades Unite!" Once again, Amy finds herself late to work, this time due to getting distracted by a group of hotel workers protesting their working conditions. She pulls over to watch the protest, moved by the workers, and raises her fist out of her car window in an amusing gesture of support.

The experience galvanizes Amy to try to bring the workers-united spirit to Cogentiva. But her passion falls on deaf ears, as her co-workers are more about punching the clock and getting back to their lives outside the office. Still, Amy remains fixated on figuring out exactly what it is they do and what the data means. "Comrades Unite!" takes a drastic turn when Amy becomes entangled in a fiasco of a human resources sexual harassment case led by Judy, sparked by her comments about Dougie to Harper after he touched her inappropriately at a party. The episode's stakes are undeniably high with Amy's job security on the line, but it feels slightly lacking as it seems to keep hitting the same story beat.

15. Season 1, Episode 6 - Sandy

By this point in "Enlightened," the show has only featured a handful of flashbacks to the tranquil bliss of Amy's time spent at Open Air — often to highlight the sense of isolation she feels when she returns to California. Amy's personal and professional life are both marked by a longing to connect with those around her and a brutal sense of rejection when she is unable to do so. The show tosses her a much-earned bone with "Sandy," when the title character (played by Robin Wright), a friend she met in treatment, comes to visit while attending a yoga retreat nearby.

Amy is overjoyed to have Sandy stay with her at Helen's — finally, someone who speaks the same hushed, healing language and practices the therapeutic coping skills acquired at Open Air. They shop for self-help books and practice yoga together, two peas in a pod.

When Sandy quickly outstays her welcome at Helen's by lecturing her about eating processed foods and how her furniture layout is decidedly not feng shui, Amy relocates to Levi's guest room. Over the course of the trip, Amy grows possessive of Sandy and wary that something romantic could happen between her and Levi. It's a level of paranoia we haven't seen in Amy since the pilot and it seems to unsettle her, too. Equal parts funny and sad, "Sandy" proves Amy still has a ways to go on her path to enlightenment.

14. Season 2, Episode 2 - Revenge Play

After the rousing Season 2 premiere, "Revenge Play" carefully pushes several storylines ahead while simultaneously raising the stakes — primarily Amy's email hack and her budding relationship with Jeff. Tyler accompanies Amy to a meeting with Jeff, who takes them to a jazz club in Downtown Los Angeles where everyone seems to know his name. Amy's completely taken by suave Jeff, wanting nothing more than to be a part of his world, surrounded by artists, musicians, writers, and the like.

Tyler, on the other hand, is warier of Jeff's bullishness and the growing reality that their collective endeavor will result in a great deal of collateral damage at Abaddon. A lot of innocent employees stand to lose their jobs. This guilt weighs on Amy, too, and surfaces in her subconscious when she experiences a strange dream in which she and the jazz club patrons storm Abaddon and arrest everyone, including a sobbing Krista. Although "Revenge Play" can't match the pacing of "The Key," it effectively communicates that the forces of justice are gathering and there's no looking back for Amy.

13. Season 1, Episode 3 - Someone Else's Life

"Someone Else's Life" begins on a melancholy note as Amy confesses in voiceover how she copes with her loneliness by daydreaming about the lives of others. Using Krista (Sarah Burns) as a vessel, Amy imagines a sequence of events depicting all the love that surrounds her former assistant from her friends and family, only heightening the absence in Amy's own life.

This revelation speaks to the inadequacy Amy feels as she struggles to adjust to her disappointing new position with Cogentiva. She already feels too overqualified to be working such a thankless corporate job under the surveillance of authoritative Dougie, who wields his managerial power with great pride. Amy decides to plot her exit and pursue a new socially conscious position, taking an interview at a local homeless shelter; unfortunately, she's unable to accept the position due to its low salary — and the fact that she owes Open Air $24,000. It's a tough but responsible call on Amy's part, proving despite some of her lingering delusions of grandeur, she's taking ownership of her position.

12. Season 2, Episode 4 - Follow Me

After the Levi-centered detour "Higher Power," "Enlightened" gets right back to business with Amy and her plans to take down Abaddon in "Follow Me." The episode finds Amy making fundamental strides in three separate relationships, starting with a chance meeting at work with Abaddon CEO Charles Szidon (James Rebhorn). Despite Amy's relative notoriety around the company and her 15 years of service, Charles has no clue who she is; after she introduces herself, she assures Charles they'll be seeing each other soon. The exchange slides off Charles' back, but, for the viewer, it's a slightly menacing moment — a glimpse into the pleasure Amy's deriving from her campaign.

Later, Dougie gets wind that an email security breach came from within his department. Amy stands to lose everything, but pivots at the moment to loop Dougie into her plan, revealing herself as the hacker. He's shattered by what company executives are doing and chooses not to report Amy to Human Resources, instead encouraging her to keep going. It's rewarding to see their usually contentious dynamic soften to one of solidarity. Later, Amy accompanies Jeff to a swanky benefit with members of the Los Angeles elite. She's completely smitten with the worldly, powerful crowd who, despite their wealth, seem to remain socially conscious. It's one of Dern's finest episodes of the series, imbuing Amy with an endearing optimism as she finally finds herself among the exact company she's always wanted to join.

11. Season 2, Episode 7 - No Doubt

In the penultimate episode of the series, we learn that Amy has chosen to move forward with Jeff instead of Levi and is going ahead with the Los Angeles Times article naming her as the source. The reverberations of Amy's sleuthing start to take form when Dougie announces that Abaddon is suspending the Cogentiva department, leaving everyone without a job. Tyler complicates matters when he gets Eileen to orchestrate a meeting between Amy and Szidon in hopes of dissuading Amy from moving forward with the article and pursuing the community outreach position at Abaddon instead. Amy is wary of taking the meeting, but Tyler convinces her to go.

When Amy meets Szidon at a fancy country club, she's prepared to deal with the devil. She's floored when he isn't the evil person she envisioned all along — he even offers her a job that will effectively put her in charge of ensuring Abaddon maintains sustainable and humane business practices. It's the role she wanted from the beginning, but, as Jeff later tells her, it's too late. The story is going to run the following week. Jeff is flummoxed by Amy's cold feet and they have an argument about ethics that ends with them agreeing to put their romantic relationship on hold. "No Doubt" leaves Amy riddled with doubt, second-guessing every decision she's made.

10. Season 2, Episode 1 - The Key

After the first season's explosive cliffhanger finale "Burn It Down," Season 2 premiere "The Key" finds Amy continuing the plan she pursued at the end of Season 1: Bring Abaddon down by airing executives' dirty laundry and shady business dealings. Amy reaffirms her alliance with Tyler, who can't help but be seduced by her self-righteous ambition — even when it veers into arrogance.

With Season 2, "Enlightened" takes a major step up in production value, pairing Amy's poetic voiceover with sweeping shots of bank buildings in Los Angeles and the Abaddon campus. The contrast evokes a brewing David vs. Goliath conflict, but Amy is undeterred. If anything, she doubles down on her whistleblower warpath by connecting with Los Angeles Times journalist Jeff Flender (Dermot Mulroney), who convinces Amy that what she has amassed against the executives at Abaddon is nothing short of a bombshell. With "The Key," Mike White expertly sets the deck for the season with a palpable sense of danger and dread.

9. Season 1, Episode 7 - Lonely Ghosts

When Amy wakes up from a nightmare in which she's chasing Levi at the Abaddon office, she's ruffled and unable to fall back to sleep so she calls him, and he invites her over. Amy is hesitant but obliges and finds Levi has been drinking — and seems to want more from her than just company, until he passes out while they cuddle. Amy oversleeps the next morning and arrives late to work in the middle of a meeting led by Dougie, who humiliates her for her tardiness in front of the whole Cogentiva team, then formally reprimands her in a follow-up meeting.

In an attempt to make inroads with Dougie, Amy sets him up to meet Krista's friend Harper (Riki Lindhome) at an upcoming Abaddon staff party. Meanwhile, Amy and Tyler's friendship develops, but he mistakes their growing bond for something more and makes a move on her, only to be rebuffed. Later, Amy shows up at Levi's apartment hoping to see where the night takes them, but she's mortified when she realizes that he's about to have another woman over. "Lonely Ghosts" is scattershot, but in an effective way that unites seemingly disparate storylines to deliver a provocative look at Amy's complex relationships with men.

8. Season 1, Episode 4 - The Weekend

After two episodes primarily set within the claustrophobic, dingy, fluorescent-lit confines of the Cogentiva offices, "Enlightened" takes a much-needed break away from Abaddon and into the wild. When Amy's meditation exercise is interrupted by memories of a vacation she took with Levi while they were married, she calls him up to invite him to join her on a camping trip and he begrudgingly accepts. Amy hopes the weekend away will help Levi reconnect with the man he was before he began abusing alcohol and drugs — and perhaps who they were before the divorce.

Getting out of town proves to be therapeutic — until Amy discovers that Levi brought drugs. She takes this as a personal affront, and he's livid to discover that she disposed of his drugs in the river; he throws a tantrum, announcing he'll be driving into town to procure drugs and alcohol. Levi convinces Amy to join him, provided she refuses to be judgmental. She agrees and accompanies him to a motel room where he gets drunk and high, and both substances return him to his charismatic state. Amy can't hide her disgust, but Levi makes her realize that they have no chance at even friendship if she keeps trying to save him from himself.

7. Season 1, Episode 1 - Pilot

The pilot episode of "Enlightened" is so effective because it hurtles directly into Amy's chaotic world. We meet her at her lowest point, as she learns she's been fired and goes through the nervous breakdown at work that will lead her to pursue treatment in rehab.

Amy is a sobbing hurricane of fury and running mascara as she barrels through the offices at Abaddon in search of her married boss Damon (Charles Esten), with whom she had an affair and whom she believes is responsible for her termination. She corners Damon as he boards an elevator with other executives, summoning tremendous strength to keep the closing doors open as she screams threats. This is an octave of intensity "Enlightened" rarely returns to throughout the rest of the series, but bearing witness to Amy's rock bottom is integral to setting the tone. It shows how she's alienated herself in personal and professional relationships, and the rage inside her that's always at risk of rearing its ugly head and jeopardizing her path to healing.

6. Season 2, Episode 6 - All I've Ever Wanted

Amy takes a bold step in "All I've Ever Wanted" by delivering all the Abaddon emails and proof of Szidon's corruption to Jeff. He's overjoyed with her findings and the two celebrate by spending an intimate weekend together at his loft, growing closer as he starts writing the Los Angeles Times piece.

The weekend leaves Amy in a state of bliss ... until she returns to work and Tyler bursts her bubble. He experiences immense regret about moving forward with their takedown plan, but Amy convinces him there's no turning back. Later, as she's about to go on a date with Jeff, Amy is shocked to find Levi at her door — rested, revitalized, and sober following a stint in rehab. Levi explains that his time at Open Air made him realize that he wants to be with her — it's every word she's wanted him to say for years, but they don't have the impact she anticipated. Amy is completely torn and when Jeff arrives to pick her up for their date, she has a massive panic attack. In a lovely moment, Helen comforts Amy.

Gently directed by Todd Haynes, "All I've Ever Wanted" is one of the most emotionally rich episodes of the series. With only two episodes left, Amy is at a personal crossroads, torn between a past she thought she wanted to resurrect with Levi and a future of advocacy and excitement with Jeff.

5. Season 2, Episode 5 - The Ghost Is Seen

In the third and final point of view shift in "Enlightened," Mike White turns the spotlight on his character, Tyler, complete with his own voiceover narration. It feels like a natural narrative progression for the show to take one last stop before embarking on its searing conclusion, and "The Ghost Is Seen" is a moment of respite before the storm hits.

The episode begins with a look into Tyler's routine outside the office, which is almost entirely spent at home alone — seemingly for some time. He's gotten so used to this antisocial existence that he finds power in his anonymity, but his solitary lifestyle is imperiled when he, Amy, and Dougie realize that to pull off their plan they need to get into cahoots with Charles Szidon's assistant Eileen (Molly Shannon), so they ask her to join them for drinks after work. Amy attempts to pry Eileen for information about Szidon, but Eileen mistakes her needling as an attempt to set her up with Tyler.

Eileen and Tyler start dating, finding they share a lot in common, and she starts to drag him out of his shell. It's truly heartbreaking to watch Tyler finally find a sincere romantic connection with Eileen, all the while knowing the forces that got them there. Tyler is upset when he learns Amy found damaging material on Eileen's server, but the episode finds him casting that to the side and continuing to see Eileen.

4. Season 2, Episode 3 - Higher Power

After two episodes of razor-sharp focus on Amy's whistleblowing endeavors, "Enlightened" takes an abrupt left turn — and for the better. "Higher Power" follows in the footsteps of Season 1's exceptional "Consider Helen" and turns its focal point to Levi at Open Air in Hawaii. Whereas Amy's time in rehab proved therapeutic and life-changing, Levi seems to be having a hellish experience. He struggles to get on the program's wavelength and can't let himself be vulnerable enough to meaningfully participate in group therapy exercises.

Eventually, he finds camaraderie with two fellow patients, nihilistic and disaffected Danielle (Ashley Hinshaw) and Travis (Christopher Abbott), who convince him to join them when they sneak out of the facility at night to party at a neighboring resort. The trio has a wild night of drinking and drugs, and Levi and Danielle's flirtation escalates. He wakes up the following morning with a raging hangover and a new perspective on his partying, realizing he can't — and doesn't want to — go on living like this. "Higher Power" is a tremendous acting showcase for Luke Wilson, who delivers career-best work acting out Levi's crisis and the ultimate realization that he needs Amy more than treatment.

3. Season 1, Episode 9 - Consider Helen

From the mournful score over the opening panned shots showcasing Helen's neighborhood and her home in the soft morning light, we know we're in for something different. The meditative "Consider Helen" is the best episode of the season — and one of the very best of the whole series. The show wisely subverts expectations by shifting perspective from Amy to her mother, as we spend a day with Helen.

Until this point in the series, Helen has been portrayed as an enigmatic figure who doesn't get too involved in Amy's affairs, but always has an opinion. "Consider Helen" makes good on its title and unpacks Helen's guardedness, providing us with an intimate look as she's pushed into moments of vulnerability that include an unpleasant visit from Levi and an especially heartbreaking run-in with an old friend at the supermarket who boasts about her daughter's happy life. She's haunted by memories of Amy's late father, who we learn died by suicide in their garage. By the end of this beautiful episode, our understanding of Helen has been completely recontextualized — and, by extension, our understanding of Amy.

2. Season 1, Episode 10 - Burn It Down

The first season of "Enlightened" ends with Levi showing up drunk and likely high at Helen's house in the middle of the night. When she refuses to let him in, he kicks the door open and breaks down to her, confessing he's lost control over his life. It's his rock bottom, and Amy lets him feel every bit of the moment with dignity and grace. She finally gets to give him the support she's wanted all season, securing him a spot in rehab at Open Air.

Amy remains in high spirits at work as she prepares to deliver a presentation on environmental responsibility to her former Abaddon department — spirits that are crushed when she's met with no respect from her colleagues and Damon rushes her out of the boardroom. When she gets back to Cogentiva, Dougie requests to meet with her at the end of the day, clearly indicating it will be her termination. In a last-ditch effort to make the most of her dwindling time at Abaddon, Amy asks Tyler to help her hack into the company email server so she can find evidence that the executives are taking kickbacks. He's wary of the legal ramifications, but eventually concedes and gives Amy access. She starts printing all the records of Cogentiva that reveal how the company is utilizing the department's performance tracking to dock workers' pay and fund executive bonuses.

It's a thrilling race to the finish that culminates in a surreal moment during which Amy imagines herself dousing the department in gasoline and setting it aflame.

1. Season 2, Episode 8 - Agent of Change

Simply put, the "Enlightened" series finale is one of the most extraordinary television episodes of all time. Moment by moment, Amy's life falls apart. She calls Tyler to inform him that, despite being offered the community outreach position, she's moving forward with the expose and that he should prepare accordingly. He does so by confessing everything to Eileen, who storms off, leaving him alone again.

When Amy gives Helen a heads up about the article, she's crestfallen and sickened by her daughter's behavior. Amy is hurt that Helen can't see the good in what she did and threatens to move out, and she's surprised when Helen tells her she thinks she should.

Amy heads to work and is blindsided by a call from Jeff, who tells her that Szidon was alerted to the article's existence and her direct involvement. Amy assumes he found out through Krista, whom she warned in the previous episode that something big was coming down the pipeline, and in perhaps the most cringe-inducing scene of the series, she drives to the hospital to confront Krista, who just gave birth. When Amy lashes out at Krista, she's thrown out of the hospital.

When Amy finally realizes Szidon found out about the article from Eileen, she races back to work to collect her belongings, but is intercepted by security and brought to meet with an incensed Szidon, who's flanked by Abaddon's legal and human resource teams. They try to intimidate her, but she's completely confident in herself; before waltzing out of the meeting, she quips, "If caring about something other than money makes me dopey, then I'm a f—ing moron." In a genius reversal of the pilot scene in which Amy threatens Damon in the elevator, Szidon does the same to her. It's an exhilarating conclusion to Amy's series arc, one that ends on a beautifully quiet note between Amy and Levi on the steps of his apartment.

The series finale sets out to tackle the central question posed in "Enlightened": is Amy capable of evolving from a volatile person with destructive tendencies into something greater — someone enlightened? In 27 succinct minutes, "Agent of Change" gives viewers the answer.