Review: 'Awake' - 'The Little Guy': Conspiracy theories
The second episode keeps the family stories interesting, but stumbles elsewhere
A quick review of tonight's "Awake" coming up just as soon as I give you a bag of sugar and a spoon...
With "Awake," my question for a very long time was, "Okay, that's a hell of a pilot, but can they do this every week?" And "The Little Guy" doesn't conclusively answer that question one way or the other.
On the positive side, I thought it did very well in continuing to show how Britten's new situation is impacting — and often improving — his personal life. When Rex complains about how he does the laundry in the green world, he can simply wait until he's back in the red world and watch Hannah do it. And Hannah in turn tells him what Rex is up to with the motorcycle, giving Britten the chance to both freak Rex out with the knowledge and be the total cool dad about it. And it remains interesting to see the struggles this situation creates with his family, as well. Hannah is really struggling with Rex's loss, but Mike isn't, because to him, Rex is only a few hours away(*), so they can't entirely find common emotional ground. Similarly, when Hannah finds out about the motorcycle, she's happy, because it's a good memory she can now have about her dead son, where to Mike it's an instance of the very much alive son lying and sneaking around and doing things he's not supposed to be doing.
(*) A question that occurred to me watching this one: so far, the structure seems to be that Britten spends a full day in the red world, lays down on the bed with Hannah and wakes up alone in the green world, lather, rinse, repeat. But what happens if he takes a nap, or gets knocked unconscious, or has to pull an all-nighter in one world because of something happening in a case?
The rest of the episode (which was, like the pilot, written by Kyle Killen, with director Jeffrey Reiner trying to maintain the visual style set up last week by David Slade) was on shakier ground. Though it ultimately turned out to be intentional that the red world case wasn't as interesting as the one in green world — it's there, apparently, to put Mike on the trail of the evil conspiracy responsible for the car accident — it still meant a bunch of scenes of Britten and Vega going in circles and accomplishing little, and Vega's not a rich enough character yet for me to just want to watch them do nothing together.
As for the actual conspiracy scene, with Laura Innes' Captain Harper and an unnamed mastermind played by Hey, It's That Guy! actor Mark Harelik, I know it was supposed to make me all excited about puzzling over exactly what it means. (Was the fact that it took place in the red world — and was not something Britten was present for — supposed to tell us that this is the "real" world and Rex is dead?) But I honestly, truly don't care. It may be that Killen has an absolutely brilliant plan for what's going on, why the Britten family was attacked, why Mike is suddenly shifting from one reality to the other, etc. The problem is, there's such a long trail of shows like this — including "The X-Files," which this scene felt very reminiscent of (and where "Awake" producer Howard Gordon spent a long time) that have failed utterly to provide satisfying payoffs to this kind of mythology-driven storyline that "Awake" enters the game guilty until proven innocent. I'm not interested in why Britten's family was attacked (and why he's being spared), nor which reality is real or any of the rest of it. I just want to watch this guy go through his days (and then go through them again with a different color filter). The other stuff may prove interesting down the road, but I actually groaned when I saw Harper having an ominous meeting on a park bench with a shady man in a nice suit. (At least they had the restraint to not give Harelik a cigarette.)
As I said in my initial review, your mileage may vary wildly on this. You may be watching "Awake" primarily for the mythology and be glad there was such a tantalizing scene at the end of the second episode. Or you may be like me and feel like you've been burned so often before that you don't want to invest in the bigger mystery. Or you may fall somewhere in between.
So let's have at it. Almost everyone seemed to love the pilot episode. What did everybody else think of the second installment?
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