A Brief Review of Awake on NBC

Enough people were saying positive things about NBC's new drama Awake that I had to rush catching up on its premiere episode, which was waiting for me on my DVR. The good buzz was right on target -- Awake is a strong new series, with excellent acting, a fantastic visual style, and crisp storytelling.

Actor Jason Isaacs makes us quickly forget his villainous role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter saga and instantly root for him as the detective Michael Britten who, after a mysterious car accident, is experiencing his day-to-day life in two separate realities -- one in which his wife died and his son survived, and the other in which the reverse happened. The rest of the cast is equally enthralling -- Laura Allen as Michael's beautiful wife Hannah and Dylan Minnette as their son Rex.

The show does a fabulous job of raising questions while keeping the plot moving and the pace brisk. Is Michael suffering from trauma and dreaming one or both realities? The cinematography presents each parallel plotline with a different subtle color scheme -- red and blue/green. At one point during the pilot episode, it abandons the color differentiation, making us feel the confusion of Michael as he wakes up unsure of which reality he's experiencing and panicking that maybe he's in a version where both his wife and son might be gone from his life.

Each reality has slight disparities -- Michael is seeing a different therapist in each "lifeline," Dr. John Lee (played by B.D. Wong) in one, and Dr. Judith Evans (played by Cherry Jones) in the other. Wilmer Valderrama is a uniformed police officer in one reality and Michael's detective partner in the other. (The great actor Steve Harris plays Detective Isaiah "Bird" Freeman, Michael's partner in the alternate state of events.) In the first episode, Michael solves two separate crimes, one in each waking life, with clues obtained from each one. 

It's a fascinating premise. I hope the showrunners have an answer to the mystery and aren't just making it up as they go along. If they can continue the excellent storytelling, it should be fun to see how it plays out.


Alyssa said…
Great review! I’ve also heard a lot of great things about this show and am happy that I have finally caught up with what’s going on. I missed the first two episodes, honestly because I didn’t even know of this show premiering, so thankfully I heard the greatness of it from my boyfriend and decided to check it out on my TV provider’s site Dish Online (online video portal like Hulu). I was rather surprised by it, since usually I don’t have the same liking for some shows as my boyfriend. I couldn’t imagine living a life like that, but I can completely understand where he is coming from being okay with the situation he’s been handed. I really like how each reality plays a part to each crime he is facing too and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out. A couple of my co-workers at Dish and I were talking about it today at work and decided we are a little worried about the show being repetitive. I’m no TV show maker or writer, so I’m very curious to see how the writers are going to keep us the viewers interested. I’ll definitely continue to watch to see. :)
Nick said…
Alyssa, I know what you mean about hoping they can keep it up. Have you see Toch yet? The first episode was amazing. I really hope they can keep that level of great storytelling going.
Alyssa said…
No I haven't actually seen that just yet. Is that the new one with Kiefer Sutherland? I've heard a lot of great things about it, so hopefully I'll be able to check it out soon. :)