Awake pulled off a TV rarity last night – ending at the right moment.
Not that it had a choice. NBC cancelled the mind-bending cop drama last week. But even so – last night’s finale offered a satisfying conclusion with only a few nagging questions. Thirteen episodes? Seems about right.
In case you never watched it – and I must assume that’s most of you – the drama concerned Detective Britten (Jason Isaacs) who, after a devastating car crash, splits into two worlds. In one, his wife dies. In another, his teen-ager son dies. In both, he’s got the same boss, but different partners. And don’t forget the two psychiatrists giving him differing advice.
Britten was never sure which world was real and which was the dream world. Neither was the audience. Because the worlds were so similar, you could easily lose your bearings. Can’t imagine the trouble a viewer had tuning in for the first time. Guess that explains the cancellation.
“Under these conditions, anyone could begin to lose track of which is which,” confessed psychiatrist B.D. Wong in the final episode. I hear ya, brother. Hey, weren’t you the psychiatrist on Law & Order as well? Freaky…
Awake was unique. And always watchable. Creator Kyle Killen (who also brought us the respected but quickly cancelled Lone Star) had more up his sleeve than just a mind-blowing gimmick. Besides the double shot of detective stories in each episode, there was Britten’s constant search for a way to end his mind-hopping. His psychiatrists thought he was just coping with his grief; that the alternate world would disappear when he came to grips with the accident.
But when Britten finally lost one of his realities – the one with his son – things didn’t get better. He instantly realized that he wanted it back. It’s one thing to get “normal”, it’s another to lose a son. Even an imaginary one. Pretty interesting stuff…
In last night’s finale, which resolved the season-long mystery of just who killed Britten’s wife….er…son – Britten finally tracked down the evil people in one reality, but got framed in another. No problem. As his two worlds collided, he received help from his alternative self and used it to find justice.
The final melding of the two worlds was a little weird – including a cop in a penguin suit (Wilmer Valderrama). I’m not sure it all made sense. I think if I sat down and wrote it out, it probably had a logic to it. But my brain was starting to hurt. What the episode did well was give us an ending – and a sort of happy one at that.
Hard to imagine what they would have done in a second season. Would Britten have had to endure mental gymnastics for another 13 episodes? Just sitting down with two psychiatrists for a year seemed like torture enough to me. Hell, the guy had to show up at two jobs. Let the man get some sleep.
Awake will probably find the audience it never had on DVD or Netflix or wherever folks like to sit down and watch a whole bunch of episodes all at once. And that’s cool. It probably deserved a second season, but I’m not sure anyone would have benefited from it.
But who knows? Maybe Awake got renewed in Britten’s alternate TV world?