TV Club

Enlightened discussion: Episode 2, Revenge Play.

Have you ever Googled “Abaddon”? Holy cow.

Laura Dern and Mike White.
Laura Dern and Mike White.

Still by Lacey Terrell/HBO.

Every week in Slate’s Enlightened TV club, Jeffrey Bloomer will have an IM conversation with a different fan of the show. This week, he rehashes episode 2.2 with Nicholas Kemp, who produces digital content for the Film Society of Lincoln Center and watches more than his share of TV.

Jeff Bloomer: A stormy day at Abaddon proved to be a good one for us. We have to start with Tyler: Did you buy his wide-eyed glee at taking down Omar? I think he actually scared Amy, and maybe me, too.

Nicholas Kemp: I guess I did buy it. His long-bullied character relished the opportunity to get back at Omar. His face was so evil as he rolled his chair over to her …

Jeff: It was! I was taken aback by his maniacal joy. Amy has kept him under her finger since she walked into that basement, even while she was claiming to prop him up. But then Omar piled on (“In my country, someone with his skin tone is considered, like, a devil”), and suddenly Tyler became a total predator.

Nicholas: The crazy thing is Amy missed the consequences of the plan playing out. She was so obsessed with Krista’s hospital visit that she didn’t even see it unfold in front of her. Kind of classic Amy—the big ideas fall away at the slightest hint of a personal issue, or when the next thing to feel guilty about comes along.

Jeff: Who knew that maybe it’s Amy who doesn’t have the stomach for this thing?

Nicholas: She just doesn’t know it yet.

Jeff: Should we quickly discuss Krista’s visit to the hospital? This character is past her expiration date—she was there last season as a way to force Amy to realize that her fall at Abaddon is final. And yet here Krista is again, the doe-eyed martyr showing how little progress Amy has made.

Nicholas: It’s nuts how different Amy suddenly acts around Krista, to me. Amy is at her most unbearable around that cohort, and we used to feel bad about the way they treated her. The thing Amy said about the miscarriage? So cringe-worthy.

Jeff: It’s difficult to watch, which I guess is my point: Haven’t we seen this side of Amy enough? Really, this was just a wacky episode all around, even for this show: The strident score, the crazy dream sequence where Amy takes everyone down. Was it just me, or were those agents in that scene some kind of odd ‘60s throwback? Does Amy think she’s some kind of new-age freedom fighter?

Nicholas: From the very beginning the music was cranked up to freaky. During the dream sequence it literally went medieval, chants and all. The agents were totally Black Power. Of course Amy would co-opt that in her dreams—especially since she was probably feeling guilty because she was hushed at the club. The guilt on that one.

Jeff: Forgot about that. Amy’s reaction was hilariously sad.

Nicholas: I do love the music on this show. Not to mention all the great shots of the office park this season. You really get a sense of the geography. With the crazy retro-futurist windows in the basement, doesn’t Abaddon resemble some sort of giant, evil spaceship these days?

Jeff: Not sure about a spaceship, but the complex is certainly some kind of mythic fortress. I Googled “Abaddon” the other day because I forgot how to spell it. It’s actually a Hebrew word for “destruction,” involving an evil angel who leads an army of locusts. I’m a little worried we’ll be seeing a literal re-enactment of that at some point.

Nicholas: It certainly fits with the music in this episode. So if it’s a fortress of destruction, what about the hedge-lined plaza where they eat their salads? I think my knowledge of plagues and biblical strongholds is too weak for this metaphor. At least Amy took a moment to pray.

Jeff: Ha, I’m afraid mine is, too, but the quasi-religious tone of this episode is unmistakable. And you’re right, it was also explicit: Connie, the scary office mom, told Amy that there is no such thing as karma and that everything is in God’s hands. Amy being Amy, she almost seems to believe her.

Nicholas: It was a fascinating counterpoint to all of the self-help teaching Amy brought back from Hawaii, which seems to be slipping away. And the religious themes don’t surprise me, given that Mike White’s father was so involved in the evangelical movement.

Jeff: You wonder why Amy has totally avoided therapy, given her devotion to her recovery. In any case, I think we give the last word this week to Helen, who makes a brief appearance at the breakfast table with Amy and gets in the best line of the episode: “You’re not doing anything funny, are you?” Maybe the person Amy really needs to convince is Helen.

Nicholas: Good luck to her.