AWAKE: Preview Review and you can watch too!
Tall swaying grass. A smash and a tire squeals. Tumbling down an embankment, a side rolling SUV. Flailing inside, a husband, wife and son. The vehicle finally rests on it's roof. Silence. This is a ironic foreshadowing metaphor for the rest Michael Britten's life.
That from this point on, everything will be upside-down.
That is how the first episode of AWAKE begins. A compelling, keenly orchestrated pilot, it tells it's story simply, cleanly and wisely. No big, blustery shootouts, no big melodramatic trendy song by a angst band playing over the big scene near the end. The best hour of TV on NBC in a long time. Things move swiftly, as they usually do in a good pilot, so pay attention. Some SPOILERS ahead so maybe watch it now right here below… or come back to this after you do watch the premiere.
After the crash scene, brief darkness and the voice of Michael brings us into his therapy session. He has returned to work as a police detective. Can't have too many of those on TV I guess. The session is a requirement for him and recap/setup for the viewer's benefit and we're thankful for it. The forever awesome B.D Wong (from OZ and the Law and Order dynasty) plays this therapist, and we are thrust right into the hook and premise of the show, no waiting around.
Since the accident Michael has been living in two distinct, alternating worlds. In one his wife Hanna survived, but Rex died. In the other, it's the opposite, his son is alive but Hanna died. Michael shifts between these two existences whenever he sleeps, getting no actual rest one presumes.
He has two different therapists. Two different partners at work. Following two different cases. Both of these worlds are completely real to him. He has even devised a simple rubber band system by witch to keep track and focus on which life he's in. If the rubber band around his wrist is Green he's in Rex's world, red is Hanna's.
In Hanna's world he has a new partner, Det. Vega, played by Wilmer Valderrama (doing another interesting accent) as a new detective that mistakenly thought Michael had requested him. When it came time for some procedural stuff, I'm really pleased to say, that when faced with the opportunity, we didn't get the dreaded "Enhance" scene. I was really happy about that.
Hanna has done a slow clean up/remodel of every room in their house except her sons. She struggles with her loss but is actually on a turnaround, showing signs of moving on and ultimately talks about having another child.
In Rex's world, Michael is still working with his original partner. Vega is still a uniformed officer. Rex has taken up tennis again as a means of connecting to his mother, but is making progress thanks to a very cute coach.
It's gonna take more than a couple rubber bands Mike, you better start keeping journals, or tattooing yourself like that guy in Memento - oh wait, wounds don't seem to transfer over.
But some other things do. Certain key facts, numbers, names have connections in both worlds. That's how it plays in this episode, that may play out differently down the line, but here it helps him solve both cases. I hope that changes a bit, if it's only related to solving crimes that's a little silly, other facets of his lives should be affected by this crossover effect.
By episodes end the main ideas are laid out for us or we arrive at them on our own. Is it all in his head? Which world is real? How long can one man do this? If both worlds are really-real, what does that mean? Interestingly, there are no hints of a secret plan, organization, or at a "big picture". It appears it's all about him. What makes him so special? Why does he get to have this imperfect second chance?
A decidedly dark undertone is cast by this tale but it isn't bleak. There is a logic in Michaels resolution that if having this life means having both his wife and son, then so be it. We'll take the ride along. What do you think? Watch it and tell us below!
By Bill Sweeney
All images copyright NBC