TV Review: AWAKE

After watching the pilot for NBC’s new show, Awake, I’m wondering why it was held for midseason—even the dull The Firm made it on air before this—because it’s an intriguing, intelligent show that gives hope to the struggling network.

The episode begins with a car crash involving police detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) and his wife (Laura Allen) and son (Dylan Minnette). Cut to Britten in the office of a therapist named Dr. Lee (BD Wong), trying to explain to him that though Britten’s son, Rex, died in the accident, when he goes to sleep at night, he wakes up the next day in a parallel universe in which Rex is alive and Britten’s wife, Hannah, is dead. The thing is, in that universe, the detective is seeing a Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones), who tells him his existence with Hannah is just a dream, and the life with his son is the real one. “I can assure you, Detective Britten, this is not a dream,” Dr. Evans says. “That’s exactly what the other shrink says,” Britten replies.

On top of this mind-bending puzzle, there are the cases Britten catches at work. In the Hannah world, he’s chasing a man shooting cab drivers in seemingly random fashion. On days he shares with his son, Britten is trying to solve a double murder of a couple during a home invasion and the abduction of their daughter. Things get interesting when details from one case bleed into the other.

Show creator Kyle Killen must have a thing for guys leading double lives because his last show was the short-lived Lone Star, about a man with two wives. Luckily, Awake is much more interesting and Britten is more sympathetic than the other series’ con man. Isaacs, whose tired eyes and lined face make him look like he hasn’t slept in a week, gives Britten a steely determination to maintain both lives, refusing to accept that either his wife or son is gone. How long he can keep that up before unraveling adds tension to the scenario (he has a terrible moment of confusion in the pilot).

We viewers aren’t sure what’s real, either, which means obsessive searches for clues could ensue. I think it’ll come down to which world looks more realistic and which therapist is more convincing in his/her argument (right now Evans has the edge). Or the more realistic life could be the dream. Isn’t the mind unreliable when dealing with grief? I’m intrigued enough to show up for future sessions, as long as writers don’t tell us it’s all a dream.

Note: Awake premieres on Thursday, March 1, at 10/9c on NBC, but you can watch it now here. If you’ve seen it, what did you think? Will you watch again? Which world is real?

Nerd verdict: Dreamlike, mesmerizing Awake

Photo: NBC



  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    February 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Aaagh. This is exactly the kind of plot that will drive me crazy. I mean, it sounds so cool, but it will make me angry trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not real and by God, I have to put my finger on it somehow or there’s something wrong with me, and phew. Yeah. Haven’t seen it. You’re tempting me, though.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      February 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      Ha! Time travel stories do that to me. I have to just go with it and not try too hard to figure things out before the writers are ready to reveal answers.

      Oh, and I don’t know if this would sway you or not, but Isaacs also plays Jackson Brodie in the TV series based on the Kate Atkinson novels. He usually does quality work.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I really want to check this one out. I’m a Jason Isaacs fan for some years now — the guy is such a versatile performer. The premise sounds intriguing, too. Thanks for the heads up, Elyse.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      February 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      He is good, equally convincing as a hero or villain. Let me know what you think after you watch it.

    • Reply
      February 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      le0 – have you seen BBC’s version of State of Play? I’m guessing so as a JI fan, but if not, DO!

      • Reply
        February 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

        le0 – E has been kind enough to point out that I have lost my marbles and JI was not in BBC “State of Play.” However, she’s just being picky, as he was in that OTHER BBC blockbuster with “State” in the title, The State Within. Which I highly recommend.

        Apologies for the errata. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I watched Isaacs in a detective series / MoW kind of thing on BBC / PBS. He’s good and he has a really interesting face. Hard to believe that’s the same guy who plays Lucious Malfoy in the Potter movies.

    I watched it via your link. Mind boggling. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I think I figured it out. Hope it’s not as simple an explanation I believe. I will tune in when it starts to air.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    This show is going to make my brain hurt, but I’m anxious to see it all the same. Jason Isaacs is so damn good. Though that said, I couldn’t get into the BBC series they did of Kate Atkinson’s books (Jackson Brody?). Did you watch those, E? Can’t remember. (Ha! Hope you were sitting down for THAT mind-blowing shocker – Jeez, almost typed “shower” instead of “shocker,” proving we’ve spent waaaaay too much time discussing your grooming habits on Twitter recently).

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    February 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Oooooh, I love these kinds of series! It hasn’t even started here and I’m already thinking of possibilities. Thanks, PCN.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    After seeing the ads during The Voice (yes, we got hooked on that show ;P), Brian and I had planned on checking this series out. And not just because we’re fans of Jason Isaacs. This just confirms that it’s a definite watch.

    Thanks, Elyse!

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