AWAKE on NBC – A Multiple Reality Show
I have been so looking forward to Awake and it is finally here. I am a huge fan of Jason Isaacs and the storyline for this show intrigues me. I am a little intimidated reviewing it after the first episode, there is just SO MUCH going on to try to recap it is insane, but I’ll give it my best shot.
Jason Isaacs plays Detective Michael Britten who we see at the opening of the show was in a terrible car accident with his son and wife. He is seeing “a” therapist because of what happened with his family and the police department’s protocol. Detective Britten goes to sleep every night with his wife, Hannah, played by the fantastic Laura Allen of Terriers (a show cancelled way before it’s time), and wakes up with his son, Rex, played by Dylan Minnette. He also sees two different therapists, one for each reality. The therapist that is in the reality in which Hannah has survived, but Rex died is Dr. John Lee, played by one of my favorite actors, BD Wong of Law & Order: SVU fame. The therapist who believes Hannah has died, but Rex survived is Dr. Judith Evans, played by Cherry Jones who you might recognize from a couple of different M. Night Shyamalan films.
Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The two different realities spill over in to the rest of Detective Britten’s life as well. We see that he works with Detective Efrem Vega, played by none other than Wilmer Valderrama, but he’s not always a detective. In the reality which Hannah has survived, Efrem Vega is, in fact, a detective. But in the reality that Rex has survived in Officer Vega is still a uniformed officer. His partner is Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman, played by Steve Harris of The Practice and Friday Night Lights, and is being transferred in one reality, but not the other. Detective Britten is also working on two separate cases at the same time, one in each reality; one involving a kidnapped girl and a murder, the other a cabbie serial killer.
The issues that these two separate realities introduce are never-ending and interesting. First of all, how does Detective Britten know which shrink to believe is actually helping him? Another problem arises during this episode when Hannah suggests moving, but how would that affect his reality with his son? As he says in reference to his wife’s issues with losing their son, “for me, the room upstairs isn’t empty”. Would he then wake with his wife and not his son any longer? As far as Britten is concerned, he is just fine with things the way they are, never having to lose either of the people he loves. The trick is balancing everyone in every reality. His wife seems ready to move forward, try to live life again with her request to move and a suggestion that they try to have another child. This is such a tough place to get to in the grieving process and though it is a good thing for her, Michael cannot accommodate her appropriately since he has no need to move on. On the flip side, he has to watch his son grieve for and try to replace his mother with his tennis coach.
We find during the course of the episode that somehow both his cases are connected through a number and name – 611 and Waverly, but neither Britten or the audience know what the connection might be…yet. Detective’s Freeman and Vega are both wary of Michael’s newfound ability to solve cases with no hard evidence, instead doing it through dreams and hunches. Some of the questions around this come from the fact that Britten knows both perps are redheads. One more connection to make. At one point in the episode Michael does seem to be truly losing it when he decides to try an experiment and puts a band around his wrist as he goes to sleep to see if it will be there when he wakes up. Along with the band being lost in the morning, he cannot find Rex or Hannah and has a meltdown during which he cuts his hand to try and rouse himself from a reality in which neither of them have survived. Hannah appears as he injures himself and tends to his wounds, but he has to question his sanity at this point.
I really appreciated Dr. Lee’s reference to a self-made, mental Mobius strip. The writers are counting on the audience to work for it and really think about what is going on, and I really enjoy the challenge. At the end of the episode there are suggestions that Detective Britten’s blood alcohol level was high at the time of the accident, though he denies adamantly that he had anything to drink that night. We cut back to the wreck, then to a scene with his wife and son separate but happy, and find that Britten really has no desire to make progress if it means losing either his wife or his son.
This is something I have thought about a lot, how do people cope with losing such a large part of their life, their reality? I can’t wait to see how the writers of Awake answer this and so many new questions that I have. What are your thoughts on this first episode?
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