Awake has been on the air for eight episodes now and will wrap up its first season on May 17th. It’s reached that point in its run where the show has settled into a rhythm and seems to have figured out what works and what doesn’t. The pilot episode was incredible—really, as good as a pilot episode can get—but Awake hasn’t succeeded in holding onto the same viewers or even the same level of intensity. I wouldn’t classify Awake as “appointment viewing” just yet, but there’s hope.
The show bounces from one world to another, giving the impression that either world could be the one that really exists. A major point in Awake’s favor is that both worlds feature sympathetic characters. I don’t want either world to NOT be real because that would mean losing either Detective Vega or Detective Freeman and I wouldn’t want either of those things to happen. This provides an excellent bit of insight to see why Michael continues to live in both worlds.
Solving mysteries seems to be a necessary evil. I’d rather spend time with the family or with the therapists, but that doesn’t work without Michael going to his job every day. Last night’s episode, “Nightswimming,” kept the two mysteries mostly apart, although the actions of the mob accountant towards the wife made Michael all the more appreciate of Hannah when he went home to her that night. “Nightswimming” kept things relatively normal, though, and I like it when the show gets a little weird. I can get invested in the weird mysteries. It’s the regular ones that lose my attention--that's what I have every other procedural show on television for.
The visual impact is powerful. The use of red and green straddles the line between subtle and obvious—more so when people where clothes in the color of the world, but less so when small details pop out, like in the red salt and pepper shakers on the Brittens’ kitchen table. The difference is even more noticeable in the lighting. In the green world, Rex’s world, the colors are more muted and the setting seems gloomy. Hannah’s red world is well-lit and warm. (This seems like a pretty good argument in favor of Hannah being the survivor.)
In my initial review of the show, I praised the acting of the characters and I’m holding to that. Jason Isaacs is a marvel, Laura Allen plays Hannah with just enough denial, and Dylan Minnette is a likeable, realistic teenage character. Imagine that! It would be remiss of me to not mention the writing. They talk like real people, with only occasional stiltedness. Awake isn’t afraid to shy away from awkward moments and I think that should be rewarded.
Conspiracy-wise, there are so many questions still left unanswered that I can’t say if it’s a good thing or not. There’s a part of me that finds it incredibly frustrating, but I’m still invested enough to care about what happens. I do know that I adore Tricia Harper (Laura Innes), Michael’s captain of both precincts, and I can’t wait to find out exactly what her involvement entails. Michael and Hannah's impeding move to Oregon will also be a game-changer, so how will that play out? For a second season to succeed, viewers are going to need at least a few answers at the end of season one to keep them hooked.
Awake is most definitely on the bubble and it remains to be seen if it will be granted a second season. (Read: Don’t get your hopes up, but more surprising things have happened.) Kyle Killen, the show's creator, has teased of the two-hour season finale that, “If 24 and Twin Peaks had a baby and that baby was raised by CHiPs then that baby would have grown up to be our finale.” For me, that’s reason enough to keep watching.