HOUSTON - When it comes to a psychological thriller like Awake, pace is everything. The viewer has to be kept involved and interested or you're dead in the water. Going too far into the imagination results in a problem with the suspension of disbelief; that is to say that if something is too hard to believe, people won't jump on board, they'll just change the channel. If something is too easy to believe, chances are you've either seen it before or will get bored before the first commercial break, so why watch? It is, without question, a tough line to walk, and you can find all the shows that have failed on one side or the other residing quietly on the SciFi channel, where only the most dedicated of suspenders of disbelief can find them.
I think this week's episode of Awake demonstrates the potential staying power this series really has. From the story line, to the acting from the key players, to the division of time spent in the two realities, I felt the show took a major step in a positive direction, despite the fact that the cliff-hanger from last week with the captain and that guy who looked like the Grim Reaper was not addressed. Don't worry NBC, I haven't forgotten, and I'm still looking forward to the development of that plotline…
The division between the red and green realities is beginning to solidify, which makes it much easier to follow the action and connect with the different characters. The walls in Dr. Lee's office are red and Dr. Evans is always shot with green leaves behind her, and Hannah wears a red shirt and Rex wears a green track jacket to help us along, but hopefully the action will begin to speak for itself and we will recognize the realities without as much help from the costume/lighting departments. We spend the majority of this week in the green reality, which I must admit I think I prefer, with the one exception being Dr. Lee of the red reality, but that's really because I think I secretly want him to therapize me via the television. The action focuses on John Cooper, a man convicted of the murder of his son's drug dealer, who has served ten years in prison for a crime he claims he did not commit. Detective Michael Britten was one of the arresting officers in the case. Cooper, a diabetic, breaks free from his guards after a routine dialysis trip and proceeds to find and kidnap Rex in an attempt to blackmail Britten into proving his innocence. Cooper and Michael meet to discuss the terms of the deal, but before Britten can get any concrete information, the Fuzz shows up and shoots Cooper, killing him. Meanwhile, Rex is trapped in the desert somewhere and will most likely die of dehydration unless he is found quickly.
It is here, after Cooper's death, that we see Michael's first attempt to really control his shifts between realities with the aid of sleeping pills. He hurries home in order to fall asleep and wake up in the red reality, where he can go to the still alive and imprisoned John Cooper for some answers. It all comes down to whether or not Michael can prove that Cooper is innocent by implicating Jim Mayhew, his former partner, otherwise known as Alan Matthews (William Russ) from Boy Meets World! Yes! That's right! Cory's dad! Cooper insists he was framed and that a cop involved with the case planted the gun, which provided the damning evidence that sent him to prison in the first place. In his first act of real detective work to date, Michael reopens the case and discovers that about $900,000 went missing from the scene. First of all, HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT THE FIRST TIME. Second of all, HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT THE FIRST TIME!? Wearing a wire, Michael goes to Jim Mayhew's house and demands his cut of the money, saying he was one of the arresting officers and should get his share, hoping he can get Mayhew to admit to stealing the money which will prove that: 1) Jim is guilty 2) John Cooper is innocent 3) Michael's not crazy. Jim almost had us for a second, and Detective Fez (because, let's be honest, that's what we're all calling him in our heads) is one step away from tattling on Michael and sending him to the loony bin, so this was an important win for Michael overall. We flash forward to Michael speeding into the desert where he finds Rex and saves his life.
Interestingly, this provides the psychiatrists in both realities with some common ground. Both feel that the John Cooper scenario was an invention of his subconscious, directly related to guilt Michael feels, which I think we can deduce all comes back to his family's car accident. In the red reality, Dr. Lee concludes that Michael always knew that Cooper was innocent, and his subconscious provided him the means to correct a past wrong. In the green reality, Dr. Evans' comments focus on Michael's inability to forgive himself, even after Michael saves his son from death and clears the name of a wrongfully convicted man, and what that means for his healing process. For both doctors, Michael's guilt is the reason behind the reality-split. See? We can agree when we put our minds to it!
I have heard some pretty mixed reviews about this show as a whole, but I really hope the public (and the network) hang in there, because I think this series is heading in some seriously twisted and fascinating directions. Who is really responsible for the car accident? Will the realities eventually come together, and what will that mean for Michael's psyche? Will the events that have played out in the crimes we have seen thus far all have something to do with the deaths of his wife and/or son? Will Detective Vega ever NOT be Fez in my mind? Only time will tell.
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