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Awake: Ricky’s Tacos

“I like a speaking oracle as much as the next guy, but I wish you could count on them to be more specific.”

Awake has a lot to juggle: two worlds, two cases per episode (most of the time), emotional issues with Hannah and with Rex, and a weird conspiracy—not to mention Britten’s apparent hallucinations. While the procedural elements work as a skeleton, each episode has typically fleshed out just one element of the larger tapestry, and this week’s entry gave us some interesting information about the conspiracy. Sort of.

The Westfield case consisted of three victims, each tied to a distribution center, killed by three different shooters. As he was investigating the distribution center, Britten lost his wife/son in the car accident and took some time off. While he was out of commission, the distribution center closed, as did the case. But apparently it’s linked to the accident somehow, and Britten’s desire to scratch his investigative itch has made the mysterious Carl very uneasy.

Interesting, yes. But still to thin to make much of: unless Carl and Laura Innes work for a Total Recall-like organization capable of brain modification, I don’t think they could be responsible for Britten’s double worlds. Was Britten’s family killed to take his mind off the case? Honestly, that seems insane, especially since Laura Innes knows what’s going on but doesn’t seem like much of a villain. The way she handled the little girl in this episode was wonderful, humanizing, and showed a lot of interpersonal intelligence on both her part and Britten’s. I have a hard time believing that she’s secretly evil.

That resolution to the Green World case was strong, even though the father’s crime was Mystery Plotting 101. (And there’s no way that Fat Neil from Community could have killed anyone.) Despite the obvious solutions to both crimes, the detection and the payoff were handled wonderfully, as always. I felt genuinely bad for Pablo/Jose, who lived with the guilt and tried to make himself into a better man, the sort of man who never would have accidentally killed his own brother in a drunken rage.

In both cases, the answer was this week’s Word of the Week: pentimento. As Dr. Lee explained, that art historical term describes Britten’s struggles with changing course and moving to Portland. Britten has drawn over his memory of the Westfield case and added details related to his puzzling situation. Although…what exactly is Britten investigating? It seems to me like he’s just following his hunches and has no idea that the Westfield case is part of anything larger. After all, he’s completely unaware of a conspiracy. (Unless the Red World is a dream, in which case he is dreaming events that he’s not a part of. And dreaming up a conspiracy is ripe for some psychoanalyzing.) Is he just a “frightened mind, grasping at straws”? I hope not.

Handled with less grace, the psychoanalytic chorus to Britten’s Greek tragedy could be horribly annoying, especially when they shrinks parse the symbolism of darn near everything for us. But those scenes are neatly done, giving this show a sense of lovely depth rather than in-your-face symbolism. Although Awake’s ratings continue to falter, I continue to hope that more people will discover this show. Or that it will, at least, end in satisfying way with some resolution for the hero that isn’t tragic.

Bits and Pentimenti:

• Bird: “Suddenly she wants to have sex with you.”
Fat Neil from Community: “I know.”

• The ME: “I’m sorry. I just melted a dead body out of concrete, which is kinda impossible, so I thought you could spare 5 seconds.”

• Construction Boss: “You know what I mean. South.”

• Britten: “Yeah, he’s got a bug up his ass about the whole social injustice thing. Not me…My whole thing is code violations.” :-)

• The oracular drive-through guy was reminiscent of the Loa. I love the Loa.

• Does anyone know where the Tioga College scenes were filmed? That campus is used in a billion TV shows and movies, from Alias to Dollhouse, and I have always wanted to know where it is. Angelenos, now’s your chance to impress!

• Did Britten not notice that Sabrina Ferris’s last name was a part of Diamond/Ferris, his realty company?

Here is a delightful interview with Jason Isaacs about penguins. I don’t usually like reading interviews with actors, because most of them are idiots, but every time I read a Jason Isaacs interview I like him more. Even with the “punting.”

Three out of four chicken burritos, no sour cream.

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


  1. I liked this one too, even though, as you said, the resolution was Mystery Plotting 101. And I'm worried about the ratings, too. Love Jason Isaacs, love the show, I'm completely intrigued and I want answers. If we only get thirteen episodes, will we get answers?

  2. I've got this stupid, illogical hope that this is supposed to be just a 13-episode mini-series and NBC has just been stringing us along calling it a show. Everything will be perfectly resolved in May, and we'll look back at Awake with charmed satisfaction.

  3. I really don't understand the poor ratings. I think all the individual elements work perfectly. In isolation, the procedural elements, the mystery elements, the coping with grief elements, all stand on their own, and together form something greater than the whole. It's one of those shows which, although not mind blowing, is more than capable of holding our attention. Plus, I suspect that 'mind blowing' may not be completely off the table. It certainly has enough depth to surprise us yet.

  4. the Ferris connection totally jumped out at me when he was at the distribution center, and now it's in front of his house and he still doesn't notice?!? makes no sense with all the other little things he jumps on to solve cases "across the divide" as it were.

  5. Can anyone tell me the art history book to look-up pentimento by Dr. Lee? Thanks!

  6. Another solid outing for this superb show. I was almost completely won over to Jess' "Red World is real" theory until now. Unless Michael has completely lost the plot, would he be having auditory hallucinations in the real world?

    So, now I'm back to having no idea which is which or not or whatever. This is one time when the ride is worth the confusion.


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