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Mid-Season Preview: NBC’s Awake 

Warning: Spoilers discussed

If you’re like us, you just couldn’t wait until Thursday to watch the premiere of Awake. Not only have we been hearing about how great the pilot is for at least a month, but we’ll watch ANYTHING Kyle Killen chooses to put on the air. Yes, we thought Lone Star was gone too soon – although we’ve been so happy to see James Wolk on Shameless and Happy Endings and Eloise Mumford on The River this season. So for Kyle to come back to TV so quickly with another audacious premise just sets our hearts racing…in a good way.

Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Let’s get something out of the way right now: We love Jason Isaacs. We had no idea he was going to be on our TV. In the US. On a Network. Every Week. (Ok, ok in researching this we found out we knew it last May. Our bad, but still!)  If you’re a fan like we are, you probably already knew he’s another “coulda, shoulda been Bond” (if you haven’t seen his recent six-part Masterpiece series, Case Histories, get on that). What we love about him is that he’s perfectly happy breathing life into complex, interesting characters like Awake’s Michael Britten. And even better? He’s also a producer.

NBC very graciously put the pilot online and we’re happy to say the show delivers a wonderfully dark, sad, happy, and complex story that Isaacs delivers the hell out of. Britten survives a car accident in which his wife dies and his son survives. In a pretty nifty setup, he also exists in a world where his son dies and his wife survives. It’s unclear which is the waking reality, because every time he closes his eyes he’s in one world or the other. We love this premise, but let us just say right now if we ever find out he’s been dead all along we will cut somebody. Seriously.

At the heart of the show is Michael’s job-mandated therapy. The respective therapists have their own theories that his alternate reality dream state is a coping mechanism that willl eventually send him around the bend. Our favorite part of the pilot (and it’s been in the promos so stop reading now if you haven’t seen those) is when he very matter-of-factly states that if getting well means sacrificing his wife or his son, he never wants to improve. The way Isaacs delivers that line is just chillingly effective.

In the reality where his wife – Hannah – is alive, Michael’s tried to talk to her about their son, Rex. But she’s very clearly moving on without him: starting school, redecorating the house, and yearning for another child. When he tries to share what he’s experiencing with their son as a way to keep him alive for her, too, she can’t hear it. Until the closing moments of the pilot, when she realizes maybe she can.

In the reality where Rex is alive, Michael’s having a really hard time connecting with his son. Rex was closer to his mother and Michael’s job creates a bit of added distance – just when it seems like there might be a breakthrough, his job demands his attention. And what about this job? He’s a detective in both his waking and sleeping worlds with different partners and different cases that bleed into each other, which we love.

More of the pedigree

  • Howard Gordon (which will always mean The X-Files to us, not 24) is one of the executive producers on the show.
  • The ensemble cast includes Terriers and The 4400’s Laura Allen as Hannah, TVD’s Michaela McManus as Rex’s tennis coach, and SVU’s B.D. Wong and the always-genius Cherry Jones as Michael’s dueling therapists.

Superb work all the way around. The pilot reminds us a lot in tone of The Others, a Glen Morgan/James Wong show we have previously mentioned in conjunction with Suits’ Gabriel Macht. It was also on NBC, but we sincerely hope in the case of Awake that audiences embrace it and it runs longer than a teaser 13 episodes. It’s not a fast-paced show, but it earns every moment you spend with it.

Awake premieres on Thursday, March 1 at 10 pm/9 c on NBC. You can catch previews and behind-the-scenes snippets here.


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