Awake: A Change of Heart and a Change of Tone

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Awake: S01E10: "Slack Water"

As we near the end of Awake's first season (three episodes left!), reality has arrived uninvited to remind us that, barring some sort of miracle crafted by the Gods of Television, one season will be all the show gets, as a renewal is about as likely as Hannah and Rex ever having breakfast together again. There's a tiny part of me that wants the show to suck in its final episodes to ease the pain, but tonight's "Slack Water" made the relationships between Awake's characters seem so real and genuine that now more than ever I wish NBC would consider the potential of the series over advertising dollars and give it a second season.

Awake has given us plenty of great character moments, but they've mostly been of the extreme heart-tugging variety and built up over the course of an episode. "Slack Water" not only had those, it also had wonderful, real-world interactions throughout the hour. There were plenty of moments where it felt like we were watching real life rather a television show, and nowhere was that more evident than in the interactions between Michael and his partner Bird.

The two have been partners for a long time now, but tonight their detectiving (yes, I'm making up words, what of it?) and ribbing played out as if between old friends who know more about each other than they do about their wives. There's some serious McNulty-Bunk stuff going on here without the burning of clothes in a bathtub, as these two continue to becomes less like police detectives and more like drinking buddies we'd meet for happy hour. Vega and Michael are also chumming it up nicely, to the point where we no longer care that Vega once hosted an MTV program that involved homies telling other homies how fat their moms were.

This may be just me, but now that we're past all the "Oh my God, Michael is living in two realities" shock, Hannah and Michael are really coming together as a couple. The phone conversation they had after Hannah confronted Emma in the bookstore was as real and honest as anything you'll ever see on television. There was Hannah, sitting alone in her car, completely devastated because she made a buffoon of herself while talking to Emma, and there was Michael to pick her up. There's an amazing calmness and responsibility to Hannah and Michael's marriage, and the pair reminds me of (I'm approaching sacred television territory here, so bear with me) Tami and Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights—television's golden couple and the poster children for the perfect marriage. These wonderful little moments go so far in getting us to invest in Hannah and Michael's lives, and when you add everything that's going on with Michael, there's so much territory for this series to explore.

The tone of the show has also undergone a slight transformation over the last several episodes. There is some legitimate comedy going on here! Remember when Michael was completely lost in the evidence room and tried to set up the video game console? That was funny! Or when Michael sarcastically told the evidence room guy, "Yeah, I know where Stockholm is, thanks." More funny! Maya's old friend mistaking Bird for her good-for-nothing grandson Myron? Great! "You sound just like a detective..." Playful burn! Michael joking with Harper, reminding her of her old afro and the way she used to steal brownies from meetings? Hilariously unexpected! Michael's awkward going-away party... when he was no longer going away? Stop it guys, you're killing me! Awake, which was already ahead of the curve as a first-year show, made it further over the hump in "Slack Water" and showed us what kind of series it can be if given a chance.

Is it just because these characters are finding their footing with each other? Is it because the show can afford to spend a little less time on its conceptual aspect and more on its interpersonal relationships? Or is it just the natural progression of television, and characters simply need to time to develop? Whatever the cause may be, Awake isn't making it any easier to come to terms with the fact that it's leaving. (Netflix, get ready!)

And to top all this off, this week's case was incredibly interesting (one of my favorites of the season), and the Rex-had-sex storyline really paid off. There was some serious emotional weight to wondering what the fate of the baby was going to be. Emma wanted to keep her baby; she'd essentially been kicked out of her house by her parents, and she moved in with the Brittens to possibly start a new family and life with them. If you want to look way deep into this, you can say it was Rex's way of trying to unite the two realities, as a piece of him (literally) is now en route to Hannah's reality. It'll be interesting to see whether the writers will manage to also do the opposite, and have an echo of Hannah manifest itself in Rex's reality.

The one thing that might have been a little underwhelming in "Slack Water" was the conspiracy portion of the episode. Heroin? That's the big thing at the heart of this mystery? Clearly there's a lot more to this portion of the series, and thankfully it won't be long until we find out more.

There have been better episodes of Awake than "Slack Water," but aside from the pilot, I'm not sure we've seen another episode that's felt as confident in its characters. At this point, I'm just as content to watch Bird and Michael solve crimes or listen to Michael and Hannah talk about what's for dinner or see Michael and Rex talk about girls as I am in finding out which reality is "real" and which isn't. Awake is like if Friday Night Lights and Fringe had a baby. There's still a lot of growing up to do, but if this thing hits puberty it has the potential to be incredible.

Dream Log

– Crime Spree: The Video Game! With full, picture-perfect video chat! Nice to see that the PlayStation 8 exists in the world of Awake.

– I'm constantly going back and forth on Laura Allen's performance as Hannah. Sometimes she's great, while at others it seems like she belongs in a ripped-from-the-headlines Lifetime movie about a woman who falls in love with her gardener.

– Valuable lesson you should all learn: Never trust a landlord!

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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