‘Awake’ Series Finale Review: “Turtles All the Way Down”
‘Awake’ puts to bed in its thirteenth and final episode with “Turtles All the Way Down” where Britten (Jason Isaacs) desperately tries to find evidence of the conspiracy that claimed his wife and son in either reality, while convincing everyone around him of his sanity.
With the series' cancellation confirming "Turtles All the Way Down" to be not just a season, but series finale, it's hard not to view the episode without a modicum of sadness, a real shame considering the incredible potential the series continues to display.
You’ve seen the finale by now, and want to know how the show fares at the end of its run, whether or not the show held up under its continually convoluted premise! We've caught the end, so does "Turtles All the Way Down" get two thumbs all the way up?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about the thirteenth and final 'Awake' episode “Turtles All the Way Down”!
Harper, that sultry minx calls her co-conspirator Kessel to a secret hotel rendezvous (did they even TRY to imply that was going on before?), while Britten stews in his cell from last week, and Bird investigates the storage unit that had been kept in Hawkins’ name. Bird manages to find the stashed heroin pretty easily, but the real action happens back at the Silver Saddle Motel, where Harper seductively handcuffs Kessel to the bed, before heading to the bathroom to…don 'Dexter'-style plastic sheeting and a face-mask? Explaining that they’d soon be found out, Harper shoots her conspirator dead, and leaves the motel making it look like a suicide!
With the stash of heroin uncovered, Britten is freed from his holding cell, though back at the station the search continues for Kessel, Harper claiming to know nothing about it. The call comes eventually, and the police investigate the scene of Kessel’s “suicide," Britten disappointed he didn’t get to kill the man himself. Still, Harper insists he’ll receive a commendation for his efforts, and that Hannah would be very proud of him.
Speaking of Hannah, Britten wakes up in the red world, where, oh yeah, he’s still bleeding out in an alley! Britten hallucinates Hannah being the one to find him, though in reality it’s a still-living Hawkins, who carries him to his car. Fading in and out as he listens to Hawkins and Kessel making plans to kill him, Britten musters his last ounces of strength to kick Hawkins enough that he crashes the car, grabbing his captor’s gun and escaping in the process. Nearly defeated, Britten travels to one of the last men he can trust – Dr. Lee’s home!
Lee does his best to patch Britten up, still insisting he needs real medical care, and questioning how Britten’s clearly coming apart at the seams, literally and figuratively. Britten agrees to let Lee turn him in, but only after they’ve visited the storage facility and proved his innocence in this world as well. One problem: the heroin’s already been moved in this world! With Lee increasingly doubting his stability, Britten has no choice but to lock the doctor up in the shed, and call Vega for help.
Vega ultimately agrees to meet, keeping the other officers hunting for Britten out of the loop, if only to cash in on the shared trust of their former partnership. Setting up an increasingly weak Britten in his home, Vega heads to the office to confess to Harper that he’s got their missing fugitive. Harper takes Vega to an apparently-liberated Dr. Lee, who assures them that Britten’s delusion has completely fractured to the point where however convincing, he’s imagining all this conspiracy nonsense. With no choice, Vega leads a SWAT team back to his apartment to take Britten into custody.
After Britten recuperates in the hospital and says a tearful goodbye to Hannah, the poor detective winds up in prison with an orange jumper. Harper pays a visit, ignoring Britten’s pleas to continue investigating Kessel, when Britten notices a call coming to her cell from an “Ed Munte.” Remembering this to be the fake name Kessel supposedly checked into the motel with at the scene of his death, Britten realizes Harper’s involvement in the conspiracy, and nearly chokes his lieutenant to death there in the cell before being tasered into submission!
After raging in his cell alone, a guard arrives to let Britten know he has a visitor. Britten walks through the empty corridor to greet his guest through the glass…none other than himself, from the green world! Say what? Though initially shocked, Red Britten listens as Green Britten explains that they have to bring Harper down by any means necessary, as the clock is ticking. When Green Britten disappears however, Red Britten sees the prison doors open, as the building’s become completely abandoned. Following a long corridor toward a locked door, flanked by apparitions of his two psychiatrists squabbling with one another over progress he’s made with his condition, Britten opens the locked door, stepping into an enveloping white light…
On the other end, he finds himself in the motel room scene we saw earlier, with Harper and Kessel completely oblivious to his presence. Inexplicably, Vega is also present in a penguin suit, but the whole situation isn’t as dirty as it sounds. Instead, Penguin Vega (Pengua?) rewinds and pauses the scene, pointing out that Harper accidentally broke off a piece of her high heel on the motel floor. The scene fades into a romantic dinner with Hannah, Britten knowing he must temporarily say goodbye to her, and spend his time in the green world bringing down Harper. Jumping into his own body in another apparition, Britten awakes once more in the green world, seemingly for good.
That day, Britten meets with Harper in her office, quickly shooting down her praise by revealing that he’d already spoken with internal affairs, and uncovered her involvement in the conspiracy, that “Ed Munte” had rented a number of hotel rooms and had a phone linked to her credit card. Not to mention her clipped heels! Tempted to shoot her himself for her betrayal, Britten ultimately relents as Bird and IA agents enter the room, leading the lieutenant away in shame. On his way out, Bird tells Britten that he has a number of questions about their rather crazy last couple of days, things he needs to understand for himself about his partner. Rightly so!
Later on in therapy, Britten explains to Dr. Evans that he doesn’t’ feel his usual closure in solving this case. The good doctor however sees progress that Britten has finally accepted the red world with Hannah as a dream, even if Britten wonders where the limits of his dream realities go. Could he create a third world? Is any of it real? Defeated in her analysis, Evans admits that it’s “turtles all the way down” from there, before suddenly freezing mid-sentence! Twist!
Confused, Britten sees the therapist’s door open to reveal his bedroom, where he steps through to wind up back in his own house, free of any wristband identifying the reality. When he travels downstairs, he’s stunned to find Rex casually milling about the kitchen, when Hannah walks in as well! Incredulous, Britten nearly breaks down before explaining to his concerned family that “I’m perfect.” He closes his eyes, we smash cut to black, and ‘Awake’ has officially been put to bed.
As we said, it's a shame that 'Awake' won't get to explore its premise with a second season. Admittedly procedural as the show had a tendency to be, its extraordinary premise and cast made for some excellent drama, and 'Turtles All the Way Down" expanded upon plenty of engaging mysteries to explore for years to come. Lots of truths about 'Awake' will come out in the coming months, particularly if no other network opts to pick up the series from NBC, but we're hoping to wake up in a reality where the show got a well-deserved second chance.
What did you think of “Turtles All the Way Down?” Did ‘Awake’ seem too slow and involved for you to get into, even after the finale? You’ve heard our take, now let us know in the comments below if you'll miss the series after its cancellation!