Awake, Episode 2

Awake airs on Thursday at 9 p.m. on KPRC Local 2

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HOUSTON - I feel there are two different shows happening here (like, in our reality. Not in Michael's dual realities. Although technically there are two shows happening there, too. But I'm talking about our reality. Which is different from Michael's reality. I mean, realities. I mean. Oh god.) On the one hand, we have a very interesting psychological thriller about a man trapped in a potentially self-inflicted purgatorial dream state, where he alternatingly gets to live with both his wife and his son, but ultimately doesn't get to live with either, since he's never sure which one is real and which is an invention of his subconscious. This show has compelling characters, a creative story line and an engaging way of using various lighting cues, costumes and other subtle hints to include the viewer in the mind game. If you watch closely, the filters are tinted red and green in each reality, giving everything a particular hue. Detective Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) wears a red shirt and tie indicating the wife's reality. The interrogation room is tinted green in the son's reality. It's fairly ingenious.

I like this show.

On the other hand, we have a weak attempt at a detective drama, where the main character doesn't really seem to be a very good detective at all. He just gets to cheat because he's brain damaged. The crimes aren't even all that interesting; in fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen every crime scenario thus far on an episode of Law & Order (although, to be fair, they've pretty much covered every possible circumstance on one of the show's various incarnations). I like Steve Harris's detective character, but I'm still not convinced Wilmer Valderrama can carry his role as a straight man, mostly because I still hear Fez every time he speaks and it makes me chuckle at inappropriate moments.

I'm not the biggest fan of this show.

So, not only is the main character of Awake living dual lives, the viewers are, too. (INTERACTIVE TELEVISION!) I spend half my time thoroughly engaged as Michael attempts to be a better father and husband to his son and wife, respectively, and I really appreciate the contrasting perspectives of the two shrinks. But then we get to the crime-solving part of the show, and I am distinctly less interested. Everything I've written applies until we get to the very end of this week's episode, and then this wonderfully constructed examination of a television show goes to pot. More on this later.

This second episode finds Michael getting better at using information from one reality and applying it to the other in order to get closer to both his wife and his son, from something as small as using a certain fabric softener to remind Rex of his mother, to helping Hannah reconstruct her feelings about her lost son by encouraging her to engage with physical memories of Rex instead of avoiding them. He seems to have a better handle on transitioning between realities, and now we also have a clearer indicator in the form of a Rorschach test that flashes as we move from one reality to the other. Things are really starting to gel. The more aggressive Dr. Lee is intent on getting Michael to abandon the "green" reality where his son lives and stick to the "red" one in order to heal, while the seemingly more open-minded Dr. Evans encourages the link between the two, saying that accessing his subconscious will ultimately be an aid in the healing process.

On the "green" policing side of things, Detectives Britten and Bird are investigating the murder of a fertility doctor who, on the "red" side, is a homeless man whose death interests no one but Detective Britten. As Michael investigates the homeless man's death on the "red" side, he interviews a witness (albeit a clearly mentally challenged homeless man with a penchant for chewing gum) that pinpoints a "little guy" as the culprit. This clue then informs the entirety of Britten's search in the other reality, which is kind of lacking in any real detective work. Eventually, Michael solves the case on the "green" side by ruling out the lead suspect based on, you guessed it, height. The case of the dead homeless man on the "red" side, however, goes unsolved, which Dr. Evans considers a message from Michael's subconscious having to do with his son, but probably has more to do with the fact that his boss, the police chief, got in the way of his investigation.

The police chief (Laura Innes), whom you might recognize from her roles on ER and The Event (what? No one watched that show about aliens invading the planet shown from a political, diplomatic perspective even though it was awesome, so NBC canceled it and broke my sci-fi loving heart? Oh.), starts meddling in Michael's investigation, telling him to abandon the "little guy" lead on the dead homeless man and focus on other cases. Right off the bat you can tell somethin' ain't right with this lady, but it isn't until the last few moments when things get interesting. We see the chief sitting on a park bench, talking to an ominous-looking dude about how she is "handling" the Britten situation. She directly refers to the "taking out" of his entire family and insists that the man make no other moves to contain Britten, and that she has everything under control. So then, what is the deal with the police chief? She clearly knew about the plan to off Michael and his family, but how is she involved? What did Michael do to deserve such treatment? Does she exist in the same capacity in both realities? Is she aware of the fractured consciousnesses? And what does being short have to do with all of this?!?

If you don't have questions at the end of an episode like this, there's something wrong with the show. So, things bode well for the series, methinks!

Check in next week for more red-light-green-light-inspired mind games.

Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for watching KPRC Local 2!

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