Perhaps I’ve been too hard on ‘Awake’, or set unrealistically high expectations for it. The show does have a good cast and an interesting premise. I just wish that premise were tied to a formula that was less… well, formulaic. For whatever it’s worth, with this past Thursday’s episode, I may be warming up to the series a little, mainly because this one ties the lead character’s two alternate waking realities together in a clever way.
In ‘Guilty’, a convict that Britten had arrested escapes from prison. The man, John Cooper, has long maintained his innocence in the murder he was convicted of, but no one’s been listening. Loose in the world, the first thing he does is kidnap Britten’s son, Rex.
Britten of course assumes that Cooper’s motive is revenge. His old partner, Jim Mayhew, with whom he’d worked the original case, offers to help. Cooper arranges a meeting to make his demands. He wants Britten to reopen his old murder investigation and find the real killer. If he can do that, Cooper will release his son. Unfortunately, as he’s explaining this, a SWAT team charges in and kills Cooper – the only man who knew where Rex is being held.
Seemingly out of options, Britten realizes that the only way he’ll find his son is to ask John Cooper, who is still alive and hasn’t escaped from prison in Britten’s other reality, the one where his wife is alive. Britten downs some sleeping pills and switches over. There, he makes his way to the prison and offers (out of the blue, from Cooper’s perspective) to reopen the case in exchange for the location of Cooper’s old hideout in the desert.
Britten manages to rescue his son. True to his word, he digs into the old case and discovers that in fact his partner Mayhew had committed the original murder (in order to steal $1 million) and framed Cooper. Britten exposes Mayhew in both realities, and in turn sets the still-living Cooper free.
Throughout all this, Britten feels overwhelmed by guilt on multiple levels – for not looking at the case closely enough the first time, for allowing Cooper to be falsely imprisoned, for causing Cooper’s death in one reality, for not being able to protect his son, and for abandoning his wife during an important emotional moment in order to work this case. Although he knows that their son’s life is at stake, he can’t explain that to her.
A lot of elements come together successfully in this episode, both in terms of plot and character development. I like that Britten finally starts to learn how to interact in both realities, and discovers that events in one may have consequences in the other. I’m also left with one particularly intriguing question: What happens if Britten doesn’t go to sleep at night? If he pulls an all-nighter, will he still swap over to the other reality at some point, or will he stay in the one? And if doesn’t leave, what repercussions will that have on the other side?
[It occurs to me that the banner image I’m using on this post is kind of a plot spoiler, but for some reason it was really hard to find decent photos from this episode.]