The premise behind ‘Awake,’ Jason Isaacs’ new show on NBC, is that a car accident causes Detective Michael Britten to begin living two parallel lives. In one, his wife Hannah survived the accident but his son Rex died. In the other, Rex lived and Hannah died. He has different partners in each world, different cases in each world, and is even visiting a different therapist in each world. And we the viewer are none the wiser–nor is Britten–as to which world is real and which is a “dream.”
The pilot begins, appropriately, with the car accident that opens up these two worlds for Michael Britten. Everyone is unconscious in the car, and then Britten is the first to come to. I’ll be marking each section with a “Hanna World” or “Rex World” after this point. Hannah World means Britten’s wife, Hannah, is alive. Rex World means Rex is alive.
Hanna World: Britten and Hannah are shown at their son’s funeral. Britten himself meanwhile sits with a male therapist, Dr. Lee, talking about the accident and his new partner. Britten’s partner in this world is a Latino detective named Vega, who tells him about a murder they’re investigating during a rainstorm. A Mr. Weaver saw the crime and says the perp ran up and into the alley around the corner. Britten is of course convinced the new detective is there to babysit him, and in fact tells the new guy so after ordering him to look at a security camera.
Britten then comes home to Hannah, who’s already redecorated much of the house. Except for Rex’s room of course. Britten then explains to the therapist that he goes to sleep, and he wakes up …
Rex World: Britten has breakfast in awkward silence with his son. A horn honks and Rex runs out, but not before Britten tells him that he might show to Rex’s match. The scene switches to Britten with a female therapist, Dr. Evans, this time, talking about coping mechanisms. Dr. Evans comments on the rubber band Britten is wearing; green means Rex and red means Hannah. It’s how he keeps the worlds straight.
Bird is Britten’s partner in this world. They’re investigating a double-murder of a husband and wife in a pleasant home. Their daughter was thankfully not there, except Britten smells urine in her closet. Which means she was there when it happened.
Hannah World: Dr. Lee is amazed at the elaborate and on-going dream Britten is engaging in to have not lost his son. He realizes Britten can’t tell if he’s currently awake or asleep, but Britten is adamant that he’s awake in both places.
Rex World: Dr. Evans is amazed at the elaborate and on-going dream where Britten has not lost his wife. When she tries to assure Britten that this world is the real one, he chuckles … that’s what the other shrink said too.
Hannah World: Britten and Vega watch a video of the cabbie’s murder, where the shooter looks directly at the camera. Then a uniform pops in and tells them there’s a new shooter. “Bird,” Britten’s partner in the other world, describes the perp as an overweight man with a bald cap on. The shooter on the video wore a cowboy hat. Bird warns Britten about Vega. It’s not for nothing they got split up and now Bird’s being transferred. He advises Britten to tell the therapist what he wants to hear.
Dr. Lee tries to convince Britten he wants to help, but it doesn’t sound like Britten believes him. At first Britten says he told Hannah everything, but it was too stressful for her. And we find out she wants to move because it’s too hard to live with the empty room upstairs.
Rex World: However for Britten the room upstairs isn’t empty, and the voiceover shows him pull a cover over Rex.
Britten and Bird discover the perp waited for the daughter to come home before killing her parents so he could kidnap her. And then Britten begs off so he can go to Rex’s tennis match. The coach–Tara–flirts with Britten a bit while chatting about his dead wife. She’s chatted with Rex a bit about his mom, and after a cheer from his dad he falls to the ground and sobs until Tara hugs him tight.
The three of them go out to eat after the match, talking about bad TV shows. When Rex and Britten are about to relate over ‘Kitchen Nightmare,’ Britten gets a call from Bird. Tara offers to drive Rex home so Britten can go to work, and then before he leaves for work Rex gives his dad a hug and thanks him for coming. Tara’s idea though … she’s good at this stuff.
Bird tells Britten the girl was kidnapped, and they should look at what car was parked in space 572 of a parking garage to see what was parked there. Then Britten suggests looking at space 611 as well. It was drizzling an hour ago, and 572 and 611 both have dry spots about the same size. Bird’s confused a bit, and asks after Rex.
Hannah World: Hannah reminds Britten of dinner reservations at 7 pm. She asks him not to wear any of his suits from work because they creep her out. Then Britten goes in and tells Vega to look through tapes of crowds after the murders. Maybe the perp was in the onlookers after the murder. Someone from the crime lab shows up and says they found a red hair … might not mean anything though.
Vega is about to start the tape when he mentions the address is 611 Waverly. Then Britten recalls the Waverly parking lot from Rex World and space 611. Multiple flashes switch us from world to world. Gives me a bit of a headache, honestly.
Hannah World: Dr. Lee says it’s perfectly logical to have details cross over from world to world. He suggests Britten knew the details of 611 Waverly before he dreamed about the parking lot, something which Britten disputes. He’s of course adamant that this world is the reality. The missing child in the dream, Dr. Lee says, is his subconscious saying he has to deal with the loss of his son. He suggests as soon as Britten decides which person is dead, then that person will stop showing up in his dreams.
Britten stands outside a restaurant with Hannah and stares at her, happy that they’re out. She tells him she quit her job and is going back to college. Hannah wants to start doing things again after the accident, and Britten compliments her on her persuasion skills. And then they go home and have some adult alone time. After which she suggests they get pregnant. Wait, what?
Britten of course wants to think about it for awhile. It is rather quick after Rex’s “death” though. He talks about a kid playing tennis, and Hannah flips out that Britten’s still having dreams about Rex.
Rex World: Dr. Evans comments on Britten seeming very concerned with what’s real and what’s not. Dr. Lee, who’s confrontational, would say the reason she’s so gentle is because that’s what he wants in the dream. She prints out a copy of the U.S. Constitution and tells Britten to begin reading it from a random spot. She asks him if he’s memorized the entire Constitution. He of course has not. So Dr. Evans then suggests there’s no way, if she’s a dream, that he could turn to a random page of the U.S. Constitution and begin reading. So she says for Britten to tell Dr. Lee it’s not as easy as it sounds. Britten freaks out … what if this means the world with Rex is the dream?
??? World: Britten wakes up without a rubber band on his wrist and has a minor hissy fit. He calls for Hannah, who doesn’t answer. So he calls her multiple times on her cell phone, but only gets her voicemail. Hannah shows up just as Britten begins cutting into his hand with a pocket knife to see if he’ll wake up. She bandages his cut, and then he sees the red rubber band lying on the bed. Whew!
Hannah World: At 611 Waverly with Vega, Britten isn’t sure why they’re standing there. He does say he had a dream about the address … or he’s having a dream. Then he figures out the witness from the beginning is the one who actually committed the murder. There’s no way, from above, you can tell the crook turned into the alley. Only if you’re the perp do you know that.
Britten gets off the elevator at the exact time the man in disguise gets on. He turns around and gives chase, but the man appears to have taken off. Bystanders are hiding behind cars though, and we see the perp behind Britten’s back. Gunshots ring out and Vega appears … the savior. Hurray!
Vega asks if Britten really did come back to 611 Waverly because of a dream, since that’s the stuff they’re asking him about. However … he so far hasn’t said anything. Good man. I like him already.
Rex World: Britten and Bird are back at the parking lot. Britten’s been staring at the pavement for an hour, and then he looks at the pictures again and figures out a trailer was in space 611. Bird calls it in and gets a hit on a trailer that’s been up in the foothills since Monday. Britten asks if the owner had red hair. No idea why, but OK sure.
Britten and Bird go to the foothills with reinforcements. They approach the trailer, where the suspect is holed up with a little girl. Bird goes for the trailer door, but Britten hears sobbing inside. He shows his badge to the girl, who instantly silences.
Britten pulls the girl out of the window, but he makes too much noise. The perp pulls a knife and moves to hurt the girl. Bird fires through the door and kills him. Afterward, he asks Britten how he knew the perp had red hair. Just a hunch, Britten says, and sticks with it. Umm yeah … I don’t think Bird likes that.
Hannah World: Dr. Lee tells Britten he created a mental moebius strip. He can keep going back and forth as long as he wants. Lee even goes so far as to suggest an elevated blood alcohol level was responsible for the accident. Except Britten maintains he never had a drink that night, and maintains he doesn’t need help.
Rex World: Dr. Evans says the blood alcohol level raises questions. Britten maintains he didn’t drink that night. However, Dr. Evans says this is Britten’s way of remembering. Every piece of the “dream” is a clue to figure out what happened. And so it’s a good thing.
Hannah World: Dr. Lee believes the fantasy is far from benign. His brain should be resting, but instead it’s holding up a complicated alternate reality. The moment of panic that lead Britten to cut his hand is the tip of the iceberg. Britten tells Dr. Lee point-blank that he will come and see the therapist as long as the department wants, but he has zero desire to ever make progress toward “sanity” if it means letting either Hannah or Rex go. You go Lucius Malfoy! (Oh wait, wrong fictional world.)
Rex World: Voiceover of Britten telling Hannah about the male therapist carries over as he wakes up with Rex standing over him.
Hannah World: Hannah asks Britten if he’ll see Rex tonight when he goes to sleep. He says that yes, he will, and she then says to tell their son that she loves him. Awww …
What did you guys think of the pilot? Where you confused like so many thought they would be or did you follow it just fine?
‘Awake’ airs on Thursdays at 10/9c.