STREAMING TV PARTY
Tyler the friendly ghost
I was mostly offline during the holiday so I’m reorienting myself now, and I’m having a very hard time accepting that there are only two more episodes of Enlightened left! This show really has become a comfort.
And this week, we finally get a Tyler episode. His opening monologue (written by Mike White himself) is one of the biggest gut-punches of the entire series, a contemplation of being small, blending in. We’ve seen how he does this at Cogentiva, but his sparsely decorated apartment suggests that extends to his outside life. His philosophy of avoiding detection isn’t necessarily one of regret, though: “I am my own secret,” he says. The invisible man. Or at least that’s what he tells himself.
This episode, directed by James Bobin, gives us a mirror for Tyler, though one who’s a “learned extrovert” and embraces going to therapy. Molly Shannon, who starred in White’s 2007 film Year of the Dog, is so great here. We’ve seen Tyler get manipulated by Amy for so long, that him engaging with a woman who actually sees him is a thrill. Of course, their relationship is mired in dread because in addition to being his own secret, he’s keeping a big one from her. When Eileen tells him, “You seem sad and sweet and I like that,” it could be interpreted as a red flag, but it’s more likely a result of dating trash men. I mean, she tells Tyler that for a long time, she considered herself in a relationship with her boss, Charles Szidon.
I hate knowing there are only two episodes left because I want to see more of Tyler and Eileen. (Tyleen?) I also really want to see Tyler with a spray tan now?
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The geography of 'Enlightened'
In episode 5, we also find out Tyler lives in Yucaipa, which made me think about the geography of Enlightened a little more.
There are so many gorgeous shots of Southern California (and people driving), captured by cinematographer Xavier Grobet. But I’d just assumed this was all taking place around Los Angeles proper. Yucaipa is roughly 30 minutes east of Riverside, where Amy lives, but after their date Tyler tells Eileen that it’s an hour and a half away, which suggests they’re closer to L.A. Is that where Abaddonn is? I went back through my notes but don’t remember its location ever being mentioned. Maybe that’s on purpose. Cogentiva, with its windowless, clinical design, feels like it exists in an era before Google Maps. Abaddonn could be any nondescript corporate high-rise that swallows workers up.
It also makes sense that someone living in or around L.A. would drive 90 minutes to and from work every day. This 2011 blog documented some of the show’s locations, and cites that Levi’s pink apartment is in Pasadena, and the looming towers of Abaddonn are actually Warner Center Towers in Woodland Hills, both north of L.A. Helen’s midcentury home is actually located in Ladera Heights, which is south L.A.
White grew up in Pasadena, so he’s more intimately familiar with the area. He even created a series for Fox called Pasadena, a soapy drama about an affluent, corrupt California family. It debuted in September 2001, two weeks after 9/11, and was canceled after only four episodes. In a 2011 essay for Los Angeles Magazine, White detailed how a sense of place influenced locations: “I’m really attracted to a certain kind of L.A. that’s more suburban—a feeling of being depressed on the most beautiful day. The houses from my childhood are those I’m drawn to when we are picking locations. You know, those ranch-y midcentury modern houses. It’s funny that something with such a modern sensibility now feels older and haunted in a way.”
The blockbuster costumes of Pacific Rim
This week on Behind the Seams, we dig into the evocative visual worldbuilding of Pacific Rim. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, it's a high-octane blockbuster with a lot going on beneath the surface. That includes its brilliant costume design, giving every character their own distinctive style.
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Can Amy have it all?
So where does Jeff Flender live? From the opening shot of “All I Ever Wanted,” directed by Todd Haynes, it appears he resides in the Hosfield Building, an historic downtown L.A. location built as an annex for city hall in 1914. It’s here, in this piece of L.A. history, that Jeff and Amy finally consummate their journalist-source relationship after Amy brings him the “Wikileaks of Abaddonn.”
While their romantic entanglement was telegraphed from the beginning of season 2, I was wary of the show falling back on the trope of the journalist sleeping with a source, but it does give us more insight into what Amy wants. Is it “kids and dogs and Christmas trees,” which Jeff’s ex-wife allegedly wanted? Or does she want to be handed Manufacturing Consent by a Pulitzer-winning journalist and make a new story?
Levi’s return from rehab rips into the pages of that story, but her frustration (and subsequent panic attack) is absolutely valid: She’s started to move on, and now Levi’s the one who’s ready to make it work, promising her the things she thought she wanted. The scene where her mother comforts her during the panic attack is a culmination of nearly two seasons of the two being at odds. But in that moment, they are one.
Oh, yeah, the whistleblowing subplot is still happening, moving towards some big release we'll see in the next two episodes. But these two episodes are all about people forming genuine connections and finally moving forward. "It's like you have a fever forever," Eileen says. "And suddenly, you wake up and one day you don't."
- What kind of music do you think is in Tyler’s illegally downloaded music library?
- Is Jeff really someone you could see Amy with longterm? He seems too into himself to be an adequate partner.
For next week: Watch the last two episodes, "No Doubt" and "Agent of Change."