‘Awake’ Series Finale Recap: “One Last Kiss Goodbye”

Not that this should come as too much of a surprise for anyone, but NBC has officially canceled its freshman drama series ‘Awake’. While the metaphysical cop show didn’t entirely grab me for much of its run, I have to admit that the last few episodes finally started to pull things together and ramped up the story’s intrigue and suspense considerably. Well aware that they were on the verge of cancelation, the series’ producers were fortunately able to wrap up the story with a definitive ending.

I can’t really say that the story answers everything that I wanted answered, but it certainly ends conclusively.

Due to my busy schedule recently, I missed a couple of episode recaps. These in fact turned out to be some of the best episodes of the show. Britten’s two worlds both started to unravel after he discovered the dirty cop named Hawkins (Kevin Weisman from ‘Alias’) who was responsible for running his car off the road, killing either his wife or son. Britten started hallucinating strange things (including a chatty version of Hawkins who followed him around like an invisible friend), and lost his grasp on the boundaries between his two realities. In the most recent episode, Britten killed Hawkins in one timeline, while in the other, Hawkins killed Britten’s partner Bird and pinned the murder on Britten.

In the finale, wonderfully titled ‘Turtles All the Way Down’, Britten is exonerated for killing Hawkins when evidence is uncovered that connects Hawkins to a drug-running ring. Britten is reinstated on the force and receives a commendation. All seems well in this world, except that he still doesn’t know that Capt. Harper (Laura Innes) is involved in the conspiracy as well. To cover her tracks, Harper murders her boyfriend, Capt. Kessel, and stages the death to look like a suicide. (This is one of those storylines that Britten couldn’t have known about, which suggests that he isn’t dreaming events. Or does it?)

Meanwhile, in the other timeline, things couldn’t be worse for Britten. He’s arrested and imprisoned, and tries to attack Harper when he finally pieces together that she killed Kessel. Unfortunately, he has no evidence of this, and everyone thinks that he’s had a mental breakdown.

Then things get really, really crazy, when Britten’s worlds collide into one another in a series of inexplicable, dream-like events. First, Britten is visited in prison… by himself. His alternate version magically opens the prison doors for him and helps him escape while both of Britten’s shrinks trail behind and bicker over his shoulders about whether he’s experiencing a breakthrough or a total mental collapse. One Britten brings the other Britten back in time to visit the scene of Harper murdering Kessel, and shows him where she left evidence behind. The convict Britten visits his wife in a restaurant to say goodbye (assuming that he’s going to lose her when this is all done), and then returns home to step into the body of his other self.

Britten confronts Harper and turns her over to Internal Affairs, but still lacks a feeling of closure. He talks to Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones), where he posits the theory that he may have had a dream-within-a-dream that led him to the evidence, but in mid-conversation, she freezes as if paused on video. A door in the office opens onto Britten’s own kitchen. He walks in and finds both his wife and son alive, seemingly oblivious that anything has ever been wrong. With Britten happy at last, the show ends.

Yeah, I know… WTF?

This ending doesn’t really answer much. Does this mean that Britten has somehow “fixed” both universes? Does it mean that everything in both was always just one big dream? Or does it mean that he’s had a total breakdown and opted to live in an idealized fantasy world? Was anything in either of his timelines real? Was it all real?

I have no idea. But, you know what, I’m still left pretty satisfied with the finale. The loose ends may not be tied up, but the episode provides a real sense of emotional closure. Yes, it’s a mind-fuck, but it’s a pretty ballsy one. I honestly don’t feel that this was a cheat, or that I wasted my time watching the series (as I did, for example, with the American version of ‘Life on Mars’).

Did anyone else here stick with the show to the end? Do you feel differently about it than I do? Tell us in the Comments.

1 comment

  1. Owen

    I was dreading this ending, as I knew it had been written and most likely filmed before the cancellation of the series and didn’t want it ending in a cliffhanger, but I actually really enjoyed it.

    Everyone’s perceptions will be different, but the way I thought it ended was that once Britten realised the reality where he was in jail and hallucinating was a dream (i.e. when he said to the therapist “What if I can dream”) then he just created the reality where both his wife and son survived as it would have seemed as real to him as the other 2. Though I don’t know if he would then be living 3 “realities” or if the new dream would replace the old dream – or maybe the 2 “realities” continued and the end scene was just an actual dream he had when sleeping.

    For me, it most definitely wasn’t a case of him dreaming the entire series

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