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Awake: Oregon

“How can it be worse than not moving?”
“Maybe you go backwards.”

Awake continued to settle comfortably into its procedural overcoat this week, offering a standard psycho killer + driven FBI agent + wrongly accused cop plot that, once again, equaled more than the sum of its parts, in part due to the astonishing amount of symbolic doubling that occurred throughout the episode.

There was just one case this week: the Green World serial killer known as Gemini (twins, in other words) who kills two victims in similar spaces, carving a Roman numeral II onto the bodies and leaving a two-dollar bill in their hands. Although Gemini was allegedly killed by the hard-boiled FBI detective who spent 12 years unraveling the case, Britten maintains that this killer is not a copy-cat but the real guy.

Britten, of course, is right. But thanks to the FBI agent’s unwillingness to re-write her book and re-write the past twelve years of her life, as well as some serendipitous eavesdropping that lets Gemini frame Britten himself for the crime, it takes a while to unspool the case. And, while Britten is vindicated, Gemini remains at large.

Britten mentioned to Agent Santoro that he’d put a man away for 10 years, and by the end of the episode, Agent Santoro, too, knows that she has made a mistake that will keep her up at night. If the Green World is the dream reality, Britten is projecting his grief onto this FBI agent as a way of working through his own issues about Cooper from “Guilty.” Santoro re-united with her family at the end of her trauma—the professional failure, in other words, led to a personal victory, particularly with her distant daughter.

That daughter, I think, is a reflection of both Hannah and Rex. Britten has worked through most of his issues with Rex in the Green World, but if the Green World is just a dream, then he still hasn’t worked through his grief in the Red World. And Hannah’s increasingly-serious desire to move to Oregon has sent Britten’s vision of his domestic life into a tailspin. He wants reunion, even if that’s impossible.

While it’s looking more and more likely that the Green World is the dream, I’m trying not to get stuck thinking about the show in just one way. However, I can’t deny that Britten seems to be processing both the detritus of his Red World day (exclamation point) and the more emotional issues (the moving company) in this week’s complicated Green World case. Puzzled and angry over finding the Mountain Top Moving & Storage invoice in the Red World, he “solves” that puzzle in the Green World and creates a narrative in which he is wrongly persecuted, blamed for something he did not do. Does he feel like Hannah is punishing him for not grieving the way she does? Oregon represented a threat to their marriage and their life for most of this episode, just as his “hunch” in the Green World almost did him in.

Britten’s refusal to accept that this killer is just an imitation of the “real” Gemini mirrors his refusal to admit that one of his realities isn’t real. If the Green World is a dream, then Gemini might also represent Britten’s unwillingness to acknowledge his own emotional “twinning.” He’s haunted by duplication, doubling, and unresolved mysteries.

I wonder how those realities will be affected by Britten’s impending move. (I also wonder how long it will take the show to actually move the Red World to Portland.) Will Britten decide to move Rex, no matter how much that might hurt the boy? Will the realities be maintained? It seems unlikely that all of the Red World cast, especially Britten’s partner Vega, will just disappear.

Those are interesting questions, but I’m not entirely sure that they’re the right ones. This isn’t a high concept SF show, and I suspect that rampant theorizing won’t pay off. Despite that, I’m still enjoying these episodes, no matter how hackneyed some of the procedural elements are. This is, simply put, well made. Jason Isaacs, in particular, is immensely likeable and interesting. Will Awake still hold my interest in five years? Doubtful. But I look forward to it every week, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Bits and Bits:

• Hannah: “Here the grass actually is greener.”

• Britten: “Who do you work for? Google?”

• Bird: “I’ve been accidentally pulled over often enough to know the difference between a profile and a suspect.”

• LA has 70,000 acres of parkland?

• Fun random parallel: losing his cell phone charger in the Red World; Gemini using his phone in the Green World.

• More scenes this week that Britten didn’t see firsthand. But he could be making them up in the Green World, and imagining them in the Red World.

• LA really isn’t that bad. The sky is blue most of the time. People aren’t as crazy as they seemed on Britten’s jog. Yes, the traffic is abysmal and sometimes time does slow down to a molasses crawl on the 405 during rush hour. Yes, I’d move to northwest Oregon in a gerbil’s heartbeat. But it’s not miserable here, and it is 70 degrees and sunny almost all the time.

Three out of four exclamation points.

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


  1. I thought this was a very strong episode, and it was interesting that nearly all of it took place in the Green World. I'm also starting to think the Green World is the dream world, mostly because the whole serial killer plot was so huge that it felt like something Britten's mind would make up. But the ending, with the killer about to get on a plane for Oregon, just weirded me out.

    Terrific review, Josie. I'm also thinking that this show might not work as a weekly series that goes on for years, but it might turn out to be an outstanding miniseries.

  2. I enjoyed this one as well, and continue to be unswayed from current my Green/Red theory. Certainly, this week's Green World happenings (with the arrival of threatening interlopers from Portland) seemed like Michael's subconscious attempt to resist or work through some of his fears regarding Hannah's desire to move there.

    I agree that I don't see how they can sustain the question about what's happening for more than a short season, but in the meantime, it is an intriguing ride. Jason Isaacs is certainly a compelling lead, and they often manage to hit some very resonant character notes.

  3. For the first time, I actually watched the episode trying to figure out which world was reality and which world was the dream. Although I am do not have any strong convictions one way or the other, I am coming down on the Green World being the dream -- for many of the reasons you list in your review, Josie. Excellent, as always.

    But what really, really jumped up for me was Hannah's "the grass is greener" comment. I could see it being taken literally (any colour will, indeed be more intense in reality) and figuratively, although Hannah herself would have no idea what she really said. I found it interesting that after Hannah made the comment, Michael went off in the Green World to find some beauty in LA.

    Another excellent episode. Since I am now watching this long past when it aired in the states, I know that we are only getting the thirteen episodes. Something tells me that is the right amount.


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