Little by little, ‘Awake’ keeps deepening its mystery and adding twists to its premise. Yet, at the same time, the series also continues to embrace standard cop show clichés. This past Thursday’s episode exemplifies both the best and worst of this frustrating dynamic.
Every cop show eventually has to go through the motions of a serial killer storyline. That’s apparently a requirement of the genre that no series can avoid. Never mind that, in the real world, serial killers are an incredibly rare phenomenon. On TV, they pop up all over the place, always with a maniacal need to taunt and play cat-and-mouse games with our heroes. Perhaps, then, it’s a good idea for ‘Awake’ to get this out of its system early in the first season. That is, assuming that it doesn’t drag on for too much longer, which remains to be seen.
The primary storyline in episode ‘Oregon’ takes place in Det. Britten’s waking reality where his son is still alive. Britten comes across a dead body that suggests the return of a psycho known as the Gemini Killer. The only problem is that the Gemini Killer was supposedly discovered and killed more than a decade ago. The LAPD calls in the FBI agent who worked the case and killed Gemini, a woman named Santoro. She believes that this is the work of a simple copycat, but Britten believes that Santoro killed the wrong man. Feeling defensive, Santoro theorizes that the copycat is most likely a disgruntled cop with psychological problems. In other words, she points a finger directly at Britten. The fact that Britten can’t explain where his “hunches” come from (they’re really the result of information bleeding through from one reality to the other) makes him look rather suspicious.
Of course, Britten is correct and the real Gemini Killer is back. He kidnaps and nearly kills Santoro, until Britten rescues her. Gemini then breaks into the office of Britten’s psychiatrist (Cherry Jones) and steals the files on him, thus learning his secrets.
In Britten’s other reality, he fears that his wife is drifting away from him. She wants to move to Oregon for a fresh start. While she’s off for a visit there, he believes that she isn’t coming back. She does return, though, and asks him to move with her. Britten actually agrees. He will move to Oregon in one reality and stay in L.A. in the other. His shrink on this side (B.D. Wong) tells him that separating his two lives like this will force whichever one is the delusion to fall apart. Britten refuses to listen. He still insists that both existences are real and that maintaining two completely separate lives will only prove that fact.
This could be a very interesting turn of events for the show. However, a last-minute scene where we see Gemini heading off to Portland implies that Britten will wind up in that city in both realities, thus keeping his two lives more similar than not. I also have to assume that he’ll find excuses to come back to L.A. in both realities soon enough.
Could a temporary change of venue to Portland be the set-up for a half-baked crossover with NBC’s other police procedural set in that city, ‘Grimm’? Having Britten chase down fairy tale monsters would probably strain whatever credibility ‘Awake’ has built up to the breaking point.