Awake – television series review

Promotional poster for "Awake" on NBC.
Promotional poster for “Awake” on NBC.
You know how good television usually gets canceled? I recently found a show that was canceled so quickly that I never heard of it until it popped up on Netflix. Usually when you find a first season of a canceled show on Netflix, you can be guaranteed that the last episode is either a cliff hanger or it simply ends with all major plot points infuriatingly unanswered. For weeks I passed over this show called Awake until I decided to look it up on the web and see if it was worth watching.

No, I’m lying. I started watching the first show and was hooked so hard I felt like I had swallowed an anchor. I didn’t worry about how it ended until the sixth episode when I realized I was emotionally committed and might need therapy if things went poorly. Fortunately for me, they didn’t.

Awake is a police procedural drama with a twist. First of all, it stars Lucius Malfoy with short hair—an actor otherwise known as Jason Isaacs—who plays Michael Britten, a detective who works for the LAPD. Britten is in mourning because of a fatal car accident he was in with his wife & son.

The twist of the show is that every time Britten goes to sleep, he wakes up in a different reality. One reality his wife, Hannah, survived the accident and they mourn the loss of their son, Rex—known as the red reality because Britten wears a red remembrance band on his wrist. In the green reality, Rex survived, and they both mourn the loss of Hannah. Britten wears a green wristband in this world.

In each episode there are two murders to solve—one in Red reality, the other in Green. Britten’s subconscious bridges the two murders leaving clues in one world to solve a murder in the other, something that brings him under suspicion in both realities. Is he guilty? Is he crazy? Is he psychic? The viewer is never quite sure which reality is the real reality.

To complicate matters, Britten is required by his job to visit a psychiatrist in both realities, both of whom try to convince him the other world is the fantasy. Throw in different partners in each world, different family conflicts, and the mystery of who wants to finish the job they started when they ran Britten’s family car off the road, and you have a very complicated drama.

To aid the viewer, each reality is shot with a different color cast to the film (red is warm, green is cool) so that the transition from world to world is not confusing. The actors do such a fine job in both worlds that the viewer quickly accepts each reality as it shifts. Isaacs brings a gravitas to the role that earned him deserved praise. His performance makes the story engaging and helps the complicated plot line be easy to follow. Another aspect of the story that helps this show stand out is that the murder mysteries are well done. Lastly, the writers balance the action and plot development expertly between both realities.

The producers didn’t know episode thirteen would be their last, so there are some plot twists left unanswered, but enough was answered that the story concludes in a satisfying manner, if not a bit surreal. There may never be a season two, but you would do yourself a disservice by not catching this riveting police drama with a fantasy twist.

Original Air Dates: March 1 – May 24, 2012 (USA)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-14
Network: NBC

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 75%


Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (social drinking, smoking, drug abuse)
Language: 2 (d/h words)
Nudity: 2 (one episode features Jason Isaacs’ butt, which may be a bonus for some viewers.)
Sexuality: 2 (suggested love making)
Violence: 2 (guns, murder, car chases, typical police drama violence)

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