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Don’t Sleep On “Awake”: Seriously, Make Sure This One Stays on the Air

March 8th, 2012 by Jay Johnson

“Let’s start with right now.”

Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is in his first session with his department- issued psychiatrist, Dr. Lee. Since the loss of his son in a car accident, Michael has had difficulty accepting that his son is really dead. Because Michael sees his son every time he closes his eyes. Literally.

Because Michael’s son is not really dead.

It was his wife who died in the accident. And his psychiatrist’s name isn’t Dr. Lee, it’s Judith Evans.

Confused?  Totally understandable. That’s the greatest challenge Awake has to overcome. But one I think it does admirably.

Here’s the scoop: Since the accident, Michael has found himself phasing between two different realities on a daily basis. In one, his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) has died in the accident, and another in which his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) died instead. To keep things straight, the world in which Hannah has died has a green hue, while the world without Rex has a red one. His days are framed mostly by his visits to his two shrinks, who spend a lot of time one upping each other in trying to convince Michael that their own respective reality is the real one.

So far it’s a tie.

Awake is very considerate of the fact that it’s bound to be confusing as hell to watch a character play out two different possible lives simultaneously. Aside from the visual cues, Britten has different partners, different psychiatrists, and (at least in the first episode) is working on two different cases. This steers the show away from falling into David Lynchian territory, and I mean that in a good way. Because this isn’t the kind of show that confuses a convoluted mythology and unanswered questions with intrigue. It’s thoughtful and deliberate, which is very helpful when stretching a storyline that sounds straight out of “The Outer Limits” into an entire TV series.

And that’s where things get interesting. Thus far, Michael is the only one aware of the two realities. His wife and his shrinks think he’s crazy (let’s face it: who wouldn’t?), but Michael seems totally content with the cards he’s been dealt, even if he doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s looking at. It’s hard not to respect him for that. That is, until clues in a series of robbery homicides in Red World begin connecting to a kidnapping in Green World. There is absolutely no indication as to what this could possibly mean, but it’s clear there are forces at work here that have yet to be seen.

It’s not often that a network show comes along and redefines a genre. In every generation there is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or a Lost, or a Battlestar Gallactica that reminds us how fun sci-fi can be when there’s as much effort put into character and subtext as there is in finding a new ways to confuse and entice the viewer. It’s a high concept series that’s part procedural, part family drama, and part sci-fi head-scratcher. But it’s able to pull all this off without spreading itself too thin or getting lost in its own mythology. And that’s something of a rarity.

Awake is the good kind of scifi, and we can only hope nobody pulls a Firefly and wakes us up before the dream is over.

Last comment: Jul 30th 2012 22 Comments
  • there was some bits that completed the picture for me
    We are all very very proud of you this verb
    the appetite for destruction

    Many thanks!

  • jean says:

    en latino america se necesita algo asi

  • Bernard says:

    i keep falling asleep watching “Awake.” is that a sign?

  • Amusing! I’m book-marking a person web site pertaining to potential employ.

  • Dave Powell says:

    ok so tera nova gone stargate universe gone and replaced with the river blair witch camera men now this one here just another cop show why couldent the guy be anything else how many cop shows do we need come on get creative bollywood or hollywood we are here here for ENTERTAINMENT not this bull please this is a remake on an show i watched in the 70s dident work then spend a million still wont work
    Sorry but verry predicaple
    But if the story line was done in a different way maybe
    Camera work was great
    Actors did do there job
    wrighters dident

  • Adam says:

    I think the son is dead, in the car crash he wasn’t wearing his seat belt

  • Marvin Price says:

    Nothing I like stays on the air. I still haven’t forgiven NBC for “LIFE” so screw it. I’ll just keep watching Family Guy and The Simpsons. Those seem to be safe.

  • Marissa says:

    Wow, that’s cool. I watched this already, but I didn’t notice the green filter on his son’s world. That’s a neat trick. :-D

  • wd9753 says:

    I’m confused already, in the description above it says the kidnapping is in the red world, in the first episode. When I watched, it was in the green world.

  • Montre says:

    I like how they green filter his world with his son. I dig the concept of the show…is he jumping in parallel worlds? is he crazy? is HE dead? What is dead? What if the afterlife is nothing more than this…continuing on another “version” of life. It opens up a can of worm of questions and I cant wait to see where they take the series.

  • Yves says:

    This is a very well done start. I have developed a fear of great broadcast tv shows because the cancel them and i never get to find out what happened, while they keep cheap reality shows on, however, I am taking the risk on this one! Hooked after only one show.

  • Kathleen Smith says:

    Really enjoyed this and hoping it will stay on the air.

  • Bruce Wood says:

    Wow! What a mind twister and heart string tugging cop show. Excellent script writing and awesome acting. Just don’t turn it soap opera-ish and it will stay a winner. I am Awake!

  • pschase says:

    Not bad at all! I’m a lover of sci-fi / fantasy, and not just for the aliens and cool weapons – I think it gives the chance to exercise our own imaginations, explore concepts that can expand our own perceptions, and maybe most of all provide a respite from the endless “gritty realism” hospital or crime unit dramas ( even though the main character is a cop ).
    There have been many shows in the last few years that I feel deserved at least some sort of resolution – and all of them are in this sci fi / fantasy category – so I feel your pain! Viva la Firefly!

  • Bill Romance says:

    Boy, there’s a lot going on between the red and green worlds …. I feel like I need a score card.

  • Ryan says:

    He’s in a coma

  • cnm9 says:

    Amazing!!! I didn’t think they could pull it off but the acting is superb and so real feeling! I can’t imagine being him but the acting is phenomenal!

  • Tanya says:

    I think that HE’s dead and they are both alive but he cant come to terms with his death (unfinished business) so he is in a limbo between earth and heaven

  • Joyce says:

    I liked this pilot a lot; however, why is it in a different format from the usual shows? Why can’t I favorite it? What have I missed re this show?

  • A.Ralph says:

    Wow!! Fantastic new series! Looking forward to watching more.

  • Dryden says:

    Why have previous seasons of “Parks and Recreation” been removed? Between this and “30 Rock,” it seems we are losing more content we pay for every month.