Other Show Reviews / Television

Impressions: NBC’s AWAKE

The following are our impressions of new NBC TV show Awake. The show airs tonight, Thursday, March 1 at 10 pm EST. These impressions are based off of an early viewing of tonight’s pilot episode. These impressions contain mild spoilers but we recommend that you watch the show first and then read our thoughts. Enjoy.

Omarey Williams:

Going into this television season, Awake was my most anticipated show, hands down. I watched its trailer way more times than I probably should have. I was disheartened by the news that it was pushed back to the spring so that it could be reworked. This pilot makes it evident that this decision was the right one.

The show is well produced, the first scene especially, was shot beautifully. Making a car crash look so artistic is quite a feat. I think the producers used a neat feature to distinguish the two worlds from each other. Hannah’s world is bathed in warm orange and red colors. Rex’s world has a blue and green tint. This visual cue gives viewers the ability to know where they are.

The actors on this show are all quite brilliant. My personal favorites based on this pilot are Cherry Jones as Dr. Evans, Jason Issacs as Michael Britten, Steve Harris as Det. Isaiah “Bird” Freeman and Dylan Minnette as Rex Britten.

Michael Britten was portrayed with such a full range of emotions all the while being stoic and professional. The look of terror and panic in his eyes when he couldn’t find Hannah or his rubber band was heartbreaking. He is the most dynamic character and I believe he is sufficiently able to carry this show.

One the other side of the coin, one of the only issues I have with the show thus far is Laura Allen’s portrayal of Hannah Britten. She seems too cold and uncaring. Maybe she was painted this way to give a lot more significance to the moment where she finally asked about her son at the end the episode. If so, that was not worth it, at least to me. Perhaps her coping will be better explored in the future but for now I am not a fan.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the snappy dialogue. I especially loved the first conversation onscreen with detectives Britten and Freeman at the crime scene. I also liked the conversations that involved Tara. It seems like she will be a bridge for the Britten boys and I am interested to see how this plays out. My favorite line from the night was the one from Det. Freeman “I have been a cop for 20 years and I only ever saw hunches on TV.”

Michael’s final speech was poignant and holds what I think will be the key to the spirit of the show. He is a man just content to carry on living out both lives for as long as possible and I can definitely say I will be along for the ride.

Matt Thompson:

I’ve been waiting to see Awake for a long while now and the pilot makes the wait largely worth it. I love the high concept ideas behind the show. After getting into a car accident along with his wife and son, the main character, Detective Michael Britten, begins living two different realities. In one his son has passed on and his wife is still with him. When he goes to sleep, he wakes up in a world where his son is alive and his wife didn’t live through the accident. Those aren’t the only differences. He sees different psychiatrists, has different partners and takes on different cases. Each reality even has its own visual look. The scenario has incredible potential and we can see some of this in the pilot.

The cases he deals with represent the show’s procedural elements. While the two cases Britten takes on in the pilot are largely different, they seemed connected… at least to him. He picks up clues in one that help him solve the other. It is hard to say how the procedural elements will hold up as the series goes on, but the connections between the cases and how they could play into the ongoing mystery dealing with the two realities might keep them more interesting than they might be otherwise.

But it is how Britten deals with living in these two realities and interacting with both his son and wife that has me excited. The end of the episode makes it clear that regardless of what effects it has on him and whether one of these realities is not real, Britten has no desire to give either of these lives up. He doesn’t like the psychiatrists’ attempts to tell him that their side of things is the real one and the scene in which he wakes up unable to find his wife or his rubber band shows the kinds of ill effects living this way can have. I also appreciate the reveal at the end of the episode that infers he could be partly to blame for the accident. It seems alongside delving into the mystery of which reality is the real one, we will be finding out what actually happened in the accident.

I guess I should close by saying I feel like in the end that only one reality should be real. At the moment, I can’t see another satisfying way to finish all of this. Right now, I’d say the son’s should be real. Not because he seems more likable coming out of the pilot. While that is true and something that I assume will be less true over time, I think it would ultimately be the more hopeful ending with the son living on. But it is a bit early for all of this I suppose.

The Awake pilot shows great potential. One of its best qualities is the ability to evoke emotion from the viewer which was particularly apparent during scenes with Britten and his family. I look forward to seeing where all of this goes as the show continues.

Now that you have seen the show and read our impressions, share your thoughts in the comments. What did you like? What did you not like? Will you continue to watch?

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5 thoughts on “Impressions: NBC’s AWAKE

  1. I watched Awake on Omarey’s suggestion and it lived up to the trailer. I enjoyed it thoroughly because it masterfully balances a few genre types. First, there is the crime genre – Michael is a hardened detective with a keen sense to solve mysteries. Second, there is certainly a spiritual aspect to the series. Michael represents an individual emotional torn literally between two worlds and he is coping with missing aspects in each. Finally, there is a sci fi end of it. Is Michael crazy or is something more at work here? It’s smart, well written, and an intriguing premise which almost certainly means NBC will cancel it.

    • I am hoping the latter is wrong but I do agree with the rest of your statement. I am glad you enjoyed the show. Thanks for reading.

  2. I just watched the pilot. I really didn’t know too much about this show besides seeing a few commercials on NBC, but this was a very pleasant surprise. I really liked how it ended with Britten admitting he was going to embrace it. There is so much to speculate about this show I don’t even know where to start. I really hope people watched it, because I really want to see more!

    • Glad you liked it. Seems like a show that will be really fun to talk and speculate about like you mentioned. I’ll be on the lookout for the ratings tomorrow. Hoping for something above a 2.0 demo.

      • I agree with everything you guys said! I am so excited for more. I really hope it did well and continues to do well in the ratings. Matt Dorsey, thanks for checking out the blog!

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