Thursday, March 01, 2012


Tonight was the premiere of the new midseason show, Awake. I was a little worried – it was the show with all the buzz, the one the critics were saying was THE must-see, and it was written by Kyle Killen, the guy who created the similarly buzzed, must-see show Lone Star… which was cancelled after its second episode.

But this show really delivered. And even if you didn’t enjoy the premise, you could simply play the “Name the show where you saw that actor last” game, since it seemed every person in the show was from something else.

The basic premise is this: Detective Michael (Lucius Malfoy Jason Isaacs) has been in a terrible car accident, where his son has died. His wife, Lily from The 4400 ... Katie from Terriers Hannah is repainting the house and looking for a fresh start, and he’s seeing a shrink, Father Ray from Oz Dr. Lee. His partner is Fez ... Handy Manny Detective Vega, only recently called up after Michael’s previous partner was moved away. While mourning his son, he’s investigating the murder of a cab driver…

Except… that’s a dream. His wife is dead. His son, David Shephard on Lost Rex, is still very much alive. His shrink is President Taylor from 24 Dr. Evans, who is trying to convince him that the other world is a dream. His partner, Jess’s dad on Friday Night Lights ... Eugene on The Practice Isaiah, is still with him, and Vega is just a cop. They’re investigating a child abduction where the parents were murdered in cold blood. His son is grieving, sullen, and won’t talk to his dad. If only his wife were here…

But she is. Because his son is dead. That’s just a dream. His wife is alive. Dr. Lee tries to explain that the other world is a dream, and the sooner he comes to terms with that, the easier it will be for him to move on.

It’s a fantastic premise. And the art direction is rather marvelous, too, shooting the scenes in the wife’s world in warm yellows, and the boy’s world in cold blues, as quick shorthand to remind us which world we’re in. The big catch that shows this is more than just a dreamscape where we have to figure out which is real is that the killer in one world helps them catch the killer in the other. Clues that lead him to the discovery in one – 611 Waverly – are key to catching the baddie in the other. How could either world be fake if he is doing this? How could either world be real if he is doing this?

The idea is great, and I loved the dialogue. In fact, my husband and I both laughed out loud when Isaiah commented on the coffeemaker in the deceased’s house: “I told my ex-wife if she wanted a $600 coffeemaker, she shouldn’t have married a police. Eventually, she agreed with me.” That sounded like something right out of The Wire.

Jason Isaacs is wonderful, and only occasionally belies that British accent. He plays a man caught between two worlds, not sure which one is real, and reluctant to come to terms with which one may be real. For, if he finally chooses one, the other person must die. And he simply can’t do that. In fact, when Dr. Evans tries to “prove” that her world (where Rex is alive) is the real one, Michael almost has a nervous breakdown when he returns to his wife’s world and can’t immediately find her in it. As he says at the end of the episode, if making progress means permanently leaving one of these worlds behind and believing that one of them is absolutely dead, then he has no desire to move forward.

Of course (and you know all of us Lost fans were thinking it!) it’s quite possible that neither world is real, that they all actually died in the car accident and because there was alcohol found in his system – a detail he’s vehemently denying in therapy – he’s now trapped in a purgatory where he has to live with the memories and losses of both these people forever, never able to come to terms with the accident, and never able to move forward.

But for now, I’m interested to see how they keep things moving, and what the coming weeks will bring. If you haven’t watched the pilot episode, find a way to do so before next week. This is a brilliant new show.


yourblindspot said...

Holly and I watched last night (a rare instance of actual live television viewing in our house, part of the farewell process as we relinquish formal cable tv this month), and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. She thought Jason Isaacs came across as pretty cold for the first half of the episode and took some time warming up to the character enough to identify with him, and I can see her point. It's almost as if they relied more on the circumstances of his situation than his (at this point fairly nonexistent) personality to connect audiences & establish that empathy. But by the time it ended, she was definitely on board for however long it lasts. And as someone who still has both episodes of 'Lone Star' in his dvr, I'd say whatever we get, and for however long we get it, I'm in.

yourblindspot said...

Last night, just after the premiere, posted in response to a private message theory someone obviously sent him:

Kyle Killen (@killen8)

"@onopacto10 actually he wakes up to discover he's the polar bear from Lost"

Joanne said...

Hi Nikki, looking forward to your reviews of the show. For me, so far, so good. It did keep my interest. Especially the scenes with the therapists. 2 great actors. The age of the wife is distracting though. Looks more like she could be his daughter. Interesting how the son's tennis coach is cast to look like an even younger version of his wife. And I'm sure there is a "secreter" version to the ones they have introduced so far. Both wife and son have died? There never was a wife or son? Coma? Government conspiracy? Ha! We'll have to wait and see. So glad you'll be reviewing. Thanks.

Page48 said...

I soooo don't watch the right shows, cuz the only actor I recognized was Cherry Jones.

That will be remedied in the near future when a familiar face to "Alias" freaks like me will join the cast in a recurring role.

I thought the pilot was very entertaining. I wonder (as I do with "Alcatraz"), whether this will be too much case o' the week and not enough mythology to keep it interesting, long term.

Speaking of "Alcatraz", I gather that eppies are about to be shown (gulp!) out of order to make up for that NASCAR fiasco that occurred this week. That's a sign that a show isn't serialized enough, IMO, cuz that should never happen.

Andy said...

The pilot was outstanding! Great cast and the concept and story suck you in. I think this one is going to last a little while. (Btw, Dr. Lee, actor BD Wong, is also known for playing cop psychiatrist in Law & Order: SVU, but that character was a lot more compassionate than this one appears to be). The preview for the next episode is intriguing. Looks like Carrie Weaver from ER was behind his accident and could possibly be behind his alternating between 2 worlds. She probably put the alcohol in his system. Who knows but I love how it;s already sparking a lot of questions, mystery and intrigue! Great commentary too on grief, regret, brokenness, loss, hope, redemption, with hints of spirituality. I wonder if Evans and Lee might be God and the Devil. Some interesting duality going on between the therapist.

Fred said...

Trouble with pilots post-Lost is we're already trying to guess what their all about, and we have so much background knowledge that surprises are hard to come by. So is Awake an example of Chris Nolan's work, a sci-fi rendition for t.v. of lucid dreaming. If it's inspired by Nolan's Inception then are the two worlds both dream worlds?

Or is this Philip K. Dick stylizations? I can think of Ubik as a possible example, which would make the detective dead.

But it's more likely just a metaphor of the split in personality experienced by the cop. Didn't we have a Canadian verison of this that lasted one season? I can't recall the name, where the character was an undercover cop and he had a split personality. Split personality/split worlds.

Look forward to more.

LT McDi said...

liked the first episode..hope the network gives Awake a decent shot.
just an aside...young David ...I mean Rex...resembles Jack Sheppard more now than back when he was actually on Lost.

Isaac Chavez said...

Nice AWAKE take.

Remember when you wrote "Finding Lost"? - That was awesome!

Hey, Nikki, have you heard from Doc Arzt lately?

NEWAYZ - I sure hope AWAKE does well, I need to feel LOST again.

Keep writing about AWAKE and I'll keep reading what you write. :)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Didn't we have a Canadian verison of this that lasted one season?

Shattered, with Callum Keith Rennie. One character didn't know what the other was doing, though that was more of a multiple personality situation, more like Three Faces of Eve than this.

This reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode Shadow Play where the character lived a different life dreaming and awake, both seeming like reality.

Maybe Isaacs' character isn't really a cop. Maybe both these are dreams and he's really a killer.

SenexMacDonald (Cindy) said...

I really enjoyed what I saw. I thought it an original idea and well executed. It did, however, take some time before I realized who the lead was. If it had not been for his eyes, and the tilt of his head at times, I might not have known who it was.

I am hopeful that this show will do well - I also have lots of questions and am very curious to see what will happen over the course of the show. :)