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Awake: That's Not My Penguin

"Exactly what is so great about seeing reality as it is?"

It's my turn to take over the reviewing duties this week, and I got the one with the penguin. How delightful.

This episode suggested that Michael is schizophrenic, and that hiding his symptoms means that he will become increasingly more delusional and, eventually, dangerous. Except that he's not hiding his symptoms. He's telling not one, but two psychiatrists. Okay, he's not telling them everything. And he's not trying to "get better" because he doesn't want to face reality. Whatever that reality is.

Michael's dual world experiences were paralleled by Gabriel Wyath the Third, a resident of the Vista Psychiatric Hospital grappling with two realities, and let me segue for a moment to say, what an interesting name for a hospital in the context of this series. "Vista" has two definitions, according to Merriam-Webster:

-- a distant view through or along an avenue or opening : prospect; and
-- an extensive mental view (as over a stretch of time or a series of events).

This time, Michael was at the mercy of someone else's dangerous delusion instead of his own. Gabe, or as his sister refers to him, Trip, for "the third", or "triple", isn't living in the Red World or the Green World. He has chosen to live in an imaginary third world where his sister is alive and still hiding from "Dr. Wild" (another great name). Gabe even said that he'd be crazy if he wasn't trying to save his sister. In the end, Michael decided to support Gabe's delusion, even in the face of hallucinations that may or may not have been caused by a drug called ketamine. Every time the penguin appeared, I laughed out loud. Perfect.

Most of the action with the hostage situation took place in the Red World, with a nice Michael/Rex bonding moment in the Green World. It's interesting that we got the reverse last week. It's also interesting that there wasn't a single reference to moving to Oregon this time. I take this show as it comes, and I don't know what is real. If I do have a theory (and I mentioned it before in a comment on Josie's review of a previous episode) it's that everything -- both worlds -- are a delusion that Michael has chosen because he cannot bear reality, and I think that's what this episode was saying. I'm fine with it if I'm wrong, though.

I am continuing to be impressed by the level of detail in this show. Were the penguin hallucinations a result of the drug and the memory of a children's story Michael and Hannah used to read to Rex, or did Michael insert the drug into the story and follow it up with hallucinations? It was fascinating that Michael was knocked unconscious and didn't transition -- but then Gabe drugged him and he did transition. That was a deliberate choice by the writer and director, so it must mean something. We're also continuing to get scenes in both worlds that don't involve Michael (Hannah calling Vega on the phone, Rex hiding his delightful girlfriend, Emma, in his bedroom). This time, the connection between worlds was a strange double ring that Rex stole from Michael's box of evidence and gave Emma. The label on the ring ("Wild") had the same name as the imaginary kidnapper as well as the cemetery where Gabe's sister was buried.

It's also interesting that Michael is confusing the details of his two worlds and might be experiencing sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation? More complexity on top of an already complex situation? Dr. Lee said that at a certain level, Gabe knew what was real. Maybe Michael does, too.

Bits and pieces:

-- Rex is adjusting to the loss of his mother. He has chosen Emma, a forthright, upfront girlfriend who has progressive and loving parents who know that she spends the night with her boyfriend. Very refreshing. I liked that Michael connected with her, too.

-- The needle that Gabe stuck in Michael's chest made me think of adrenalin in the heart used to revive someone, not a sedative. Was that deliberate? Is the real Michael in a hospital somewhere, and did his heart stop?

-- Rex: (to Emma) "So you're allowed to sleep over at your boyfriend's, but you can't have Cap'n Crunch?"

-- Dr. Evan: "Are you experiencing hallucinations?" Michael: (glancing at the penguin) "No."

I thought this was the best episode yet. Four out of four... what should I choose? Imaginary penguins, double rings labeled "wild," or dead man switches?

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Agreed Billie. This was the best episode so far and it was just brilliant on every level. I was also quite shocked that Michael didn't transition when he was knocked out only to do so after he was sedated. Quite interesting no?

    Honestly I am heartbroken that the ratings are so terrible because this is one show that deserves another season. So much crap is on the airwaves these days that it would be a crime for Awake not to be given more time to explore its wonderful world(s).

    Oh and I was seriously giggling like a freak every time that penguin made an appearance too. It was so deliciously amusing!

    Wonderful review Billie :)

  2. Jason Isaacs is simply brilliant. I don't think this premise would've worked with someone less talented.

  3. Is there any chance that Dr. Lee is actually performing mind control experiments on Detective Britten via his dreams? Because I was completely creeped out at the end of the episode when he told Britten to "try to get some sleep.". Seemed a bit sinister to me... Perhaps... ?

  4. I want one with a penguin! :-)

    This was great, and not just because of the penguin. For two weeks in a row, the therapists have said he's making progress, even though he clearly is not. Right?

    The flashback to the crash was interesting. Did Britten see himself looking over the cliff?

  5. I'm really loving this show, and my main hope at this point is for a satisfying conclusion before cancellation. Kind of amazing that this concept got the green light in the first place, but I'm grateful. I'm definitely less interested in the hints about some kind of big conspiracy and more interested in how Britten manages his internal double life.

    This episode finally introduced something that's been nagging at me; how has Britten managed to avoid confusion? The little wrist bands are helpful, sure (and the red world/green world is a good visual strategy for the viewer), but until now he's managed to keep it together a little too well. Personally, I have trouble managing the details of one life.

    Great review, as always!

  6. I'm really enjoying the show, though I sometimes still get confused as to which characters inhabit either "reality." It seems as if Britten was starting to have the same problem in this episode. :) I do hope NBC gives Awake a chance to build its audience.

    I do have one nagging question about this episode. Billie, you included this quote in your review: Rex: (to Emma) "So you're allowed to sleep over at your boyfriend's, but you can't have Cap'n Crunch?"

    The cereal they were eating may have ended as Cap'n Crunch, but it clearly started out as Froot Loops, or something similar. Did they just change their minds about which cereal to use mid-way through the scene and think no one would notice?


  7. Very interesting episode. (Yes, I'm just finally getting to it.) I actually found Gabriel's relief at Michael's story about his sister incredibly affecting, and Michael almost coming to the edge of the truth (whatever it is), just to willfully back away from it, was also quite poignant.

    I'm still convinced Green World is not real, but I'm not entirely sure what I think about Red World anymore. I'm leaning towards "It's real, but Michael is starting to suffer from delusions due to his fractured mental state" (and the ketamine). Hmmm ...

  8. By far, the best to date. I'm coming more and more to the opinion that the Green World is not real and that seemed to be really reinforced this week. Everything that takes place in that world seemed to be a direct consequence of what is happening in the Red. But, I loved Emma and her "progressive parenting."

    I was really struck by a bit at the end when Michael goes to bed in the Green World, but does not go to sleep. Instead, he seems to be having flashes of the Red World and is then woken up by what he thinks is Dr. Lee. For anyone who's ever been woken up in the middle of a dream, this makes a sort of sense.

    But, like Jess, I am not 100% convinced that the Red World is reality as we would define it. It just seems to be more closely tethered to it than the Green.

    This show continues to improve. One of the highlights of the past year.


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