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‘Awake’ Recap: “Pilot”

Awake  Pilot
NBC

Awake‘ finally debuts its hotly-anticipated pilot episode, where Jason Isaacs stars as Detective Michael Britten, a man who finds himself living in two opposing realities after a tragic accident.  In one reality his wife Hannah survived the accident, and in the other his son Rex.  Each reality brings with it a different set of challenges, and neither seems to be any more clearly the truth than the other

But you’ve heard all about the premise, so you want to know how it all goes down and whether or not it’s worth checking out!  We’ve seen the first few episodes, so what does the pilot episode bring, and will it be enough to jolt you out of your sleep?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about the first episode of ‘Awake!’

We open right in the middle of Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs)’s accident, where alternately his wife or son were killed depending on the reality we find ourselves in.  In each case, Michael has been ordered to therapy from either Dr. John Lee (B.D. Wong) in his wife’s living reality, or Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones) in his son’s.

The opening minutes of ‘Awake’ do their best to establish the various ins and outs of Michael’s two worlds, wherein he investigates two different, seemingly linked crimes aided by two different partners, newly promoted Detective Ephrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) in his wife’s reality, and current partner Dr. Isaiah Freeman (Steve Harris) in his son’s.  As he pieces together clues from each individual case, one of a serial taxi-driver murderer, another of a kidnapping, Britten begins to discover common links between the two realities that neither of this therapists can distinctly identify as truthful in either case.  In fact, for every point one therapist makes on why the other reality must be false, their counterpart seems to equally disprove it.

Meanwhile, Britten attempts to comfort his wife Hannah (‘Terriers’ Laura Allen) on the loss of their son  in the “red” reality (Britten wears a red wristband for his wife’s favorite color), though his wife seems largely to want to move forward by re-painting the house, going back to school, or even having another baby.  On the flip side, or “green” reality, Britten does his best to connect with his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) as the boy takes back up with tennis to honor his mother, and seems closer to his coach Tara than to his own father.

Ultimately, in between struggles to contemplate the differences between his two worlds, Britten manages to use the links in both his cases to track down the taxi-cab killer, nearly getting himself killed in the process before Vega saves him.  On the other side, Britten also realizes that his kidnapper must have used a trailer in the effort, and he and the police track down the similarly red-haired killer, and rescue his young victim before any harm comes to her.  In both cases’ Britten’s partners turn a suspicious eye to how exactly he uncovers these bizarre clues that aid in the investigation.

Both therapists do their best to assure Britten of the severity of his situation and their responsibility to treat him for duty, but Britten insists that he’ll fight to keep any affliction that allows him to see both his wife and son, reality be damned.  On the one hand, Hannah knows of her husband’s reality- warped condition, and though perturbed ultimately condones his ability to see their son.  By the same token, Rex even finds some small manner of connection to his father (at the urging of the instructor) in their attempt to bond over tennis.  With closure so promising on both sides, how could any man decide to abandon one reality or the other?

Convoluted as it might be, that’s essentially the plot of at least the pilot episode of NBC’s ‘Awake’,  It’s no more ‘Inception’-like than word-of-mouth would have you believe, but definitely ranks among one of the more interesting pilots of the season.  Jason Isaacs does a seamless job of weighing his love for all sides of his family against the probability that he’ll never recover, or even understand the true nature of what’s happened to him.

In a sense, that’s what I liked best about ‘Awake,’ that paranormal as things seem the series doesn’t reach for any kind of external explanation about its premise.  The  therapy sequences do a fine job of grounding the idea that Britten finds himself caught between two worlds, and make the extraordinary nature of his condition far more palatable to a dramatic perspective.  It’s a fascinating and compelling dichotomy that might alienate some in its difficulty to follow, but that’s for future episodes to decide in how they handle the basic structure.

In a way ‘Awake’ could almost stand on its own as a short story, but still offers up one of the better pilots of the past year and should definitely prove worth your attention going forward.

Did you check out the pilot, or does its dream-like premise seem too complicated for you to get into?  You’ve heard our take, now let us know in the comments below if you’ve “awoken” to this brilliant new series as well!

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