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Awake: The Little Guy

After an extremely strong start, Awake — weirdly enough — didn’t have many expectations to live up to. As Jess said, it was so lovely, and yet the mythology was so apparently untenable, that we can be grateful for what we got. We all agreed it was wonderful, but very few of us seemed to be expecting much. (Finally, we have learned that the path to general contentness is littered with dead expectations.)

Awake’s second episode gave us a stronger sense of what to expect each week: cases in each reality, a bit of family drama, and perhaps a teaspoon of mythology. While “The Little Guy” wasn’t as wonderful as the pilot, it was still darn good…although I still don’t understand how there could be an “answer” to this strange and interesting premise.

The cases this week clued us in to this show’s values: storytelling over procedure. Britten continues to rely on clues from one reality to understand what’s happening in another, but it’s telling that the clues this week came from a crazy-guy ex machina, and that the homeless man’s murder was never solved. This isn’t Bipolar Law and Order. It’s a story about a man whose life includes policing.

While I wasn’t enamored of the police element, I delighted in Rex’s teenage shenanigans. (Your patience for those shenanigans is likely directly proportional to your own adolescence: I recall with great fondness the wackadoodle lengths I would go to in order to get to a show like Coachella or, in my case, the annual Bridge School Benefit, without my parents finding out.) Even before losing his mother, Rex was attempting to define himself without reference to his parents. Britten was willing to let Rex find his footing in the world, while subtly asking him to not leave Britten in the dark. That worked for me.

Equally subtle and honest was Hannah’s growing willingness to come to terms with Rex’s passing. One of the great tragedies in the pilot was the gulf between Hannah’s grief and Britten’s: she has lost her son, he has not — how can their marriage survive? But this week Hannah let go of the perky mask and got to enjoy her son’s crazy motorcycle-building plans without any of the attendant need for discipline that would be required if he were still alive. It was a pleasure to see her open up to enjoying her son’s memory rather than pushing the grief away, and it is a testament to the show’s skill that I care this much about a (frankly, rather annoying) character after only two episodes.

The last few minutes, in which Laura Innes’s police lieutenant spoke cryptically about all of Britten’s family being killed, and how she would handle it…well, I’m not sure what to make of that, yet. I’d gotten the impression from interviews with the showrunners that the mythology was not the goal here — but apparently it is. That’s good, in that it can mean forward movement. But we’ve seen too many shows collapse under the weight of their own mythologies lately, and I’d hate to see that happen here.

Final thoughts? I don’t have them yet. This show continues to impress, and I continue to manage my expectations. So far, that seems to be working out well.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. I was thinking, this is just another procedural with a twist. But then I liked all the stuff about Rex and the motorcycle. And then Laura Innes came in with that thing about possibly his whole family being dead, and I was intrigued. I would love this show to be innovative and cool and I'd love it if it surprised me.

  2. I didn't much care for the little conspiracy scene at the end. I honestly don't care about the mythology on this one, and would much rather just see Michael, Rex, and Hannah coming to terms with their lives and their grief. So the notion that there's some sinister machinations afoot felt like it came out of nowhere and really rubbed me the wrong way. I'm interested to see this week's episode to see how the overall feel and direction of the series is progressing. After Episode 2, I'm not feeling as enthusiastic about the series.

  3. Okay, strange thing: after proclaiming that I don't care about the mythology of what's happening to Det. Britten, I realized while watching this week's episode ('Guilty') that the show becomes psychologically a lot richer if you choose an interpretation for his situation. I'm amused that adopting one theory about the mythology (which I didn't think I cared about) has suddenly made the show much stronger for me from a character perspective. Looking forward to your thoughts on 'Guilty,' Josie.

  4. This show continues to confound my expectations. One of the (few) advantages in having shows aired significantly later is that one can see the end coming well before it does. In other words, I know now that this show will end after the 13th episode, so I am completely invested in it and am just going along for the ride.

    My favourite bits this week were Michael trying to make Rex as comfortable as possible -- a cooked dinner and the fabric softener. I also loved the way Michael handled the motorcycle incident, which led his son to opening up to him in a very real way.

    I, too, find Hannah a bit annoying. But, I respect the way she is trying to come to terms with the death of her child. One of the things I noticed that I thought was interesting was that Michael is making it home every night to have dinner with Rex, but he is not with Hannah. Not sure what, if anything, we are meant to take from this.

    The two therapists intrigue me as well. They do, however, seem to fall along gender lines. The woman is soft and supporting while the man is much more in Michael's face. I'm not saying that one is better than the other (in fact, I think Michael needs to hear both), but I find it an interesting choice by the writers.

    I'm willing to wait out the conspiracy theory, but I did pick up on the fact that the allude to his whole family being dead. Frankly, I'm not sure this element of the story is necessary as I am so enjoying the character bits, but I'm willing to wait to be surprised.

    Finally, the scene at the end cutting between Hannah and Rex on the motorcycle was lovely. Smiles on all three of them -- certainly a first in the series.


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