Is it possible to be stuck in two different worlds and still be considered sane? That’s the premise behind NBC’s new show Awake, which put a very different spin on the usual procedural show.
Awake followed Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) as he recovered from a tragic car accident that changed his family forever. Unfortunately, the only problem is that he doesn’t know who survived and who didn’t. When he wakes up, he’s living one life and the other after he falls asleep. One reality had Britten and his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) dealing with losing their teenage son Rex (Dylan Minnette). The other reality had Michael and Rex coping with living without Hannah. In the other reality, Rex takes up Tennis to be closer to his mother and ends leaning on his Tennis coach Tara (Michaela McManus) more than he should. In each reality, Michael has two different partners and two therapists (B.D. Wong and Cherry Jones) with very different motives. In the Hannah version, Michael is paired with a newly promoted Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) who may be the perfect spy to see if Michael is losing his mind. In the Rex version, he’s still partnered with his friend Det. Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris). He also has a therapist helping him deal with his grief and to help figure out why he’s stuck in two worlds, but he doesn’t really want the help just yet. Michael is using his predicament to help solve his cases and stay a little closer to his loved ones. Will this decision help or hurt him in the long run?
In terms of plot, Awake‘s puts a unique spin on the routine procedural shows that have clogged the airwaves for years with a plot twist that would even have David Lynch guessing. The audience has no idea what’s going on, but it’s still engrossing nonetheless. Is Michael insane or trapped in his own private hell that there’s no way out of? It’s too early to tell if Awake has the stamina to last past the first season, but let’s hope that NBC gives the show a chance to shine instead of tossing them aside too quickly (Southland and The Firm being the most recent casualties of its Thursday night timeslot). The premiere episode took a risk in doing the story in a less than linear format that could’ve been off-putting to viewers who were looking for something a little more linear. It was also interesting to see how both of Michael’s realities seemed to have some overlap that could help or hurt him down the line. His cases seemed to have connections in both realities that made it clearer to catch the bad guys.
What really sold the show was Isaac’s breakthrough leading man turn as Michael, a family man/cop who was wedged between two possible realities. Isaacs gave Michael a mixture of grief, confusion and a hint of insanity that made it fascinating to watch. His biggest breakthrough scene was when he woke up in one of his realities and didn’t where he was. His colored rubber band was missing and no one was answering him. He grabbed a letter opener to cut his hand to make sure he wasn’t going completely insane. When his wife came in the room, Isaacs looked relieved that he didn’t have to go further. That’s when he found his rubber band and was disappointing that his nightmare wasn’t over. The audience couldn’t help but feel his pain. Allen and Minnette give strong supporting performances, but this is primarily Isaac’s show. He makes Awake something definitely worth watching. Fingers crossed that NBC and viewers will agree as well.
Awake premieres on March 1st and airs Thursdays at 10:00 PM on NBC.
Verdict: A show that has the potential to unnerve viewers in the right way, but NBC’s spotty track record could be its undoing.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)