Awake: A Change of Heart and a Change of Tone

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 TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (47)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Wow, what a show!!!



A re-think should be in order as this definately deserves at the very least one more season.



Do the right thing!!!
Reply
Flag
There still may be hope for Awake. Maybe just maybe if Awake gets an increase in ratings each episode maybe NBC will reconsider or a different network will pick it up. Awake has the potential to be one of the top shows on TV. NBC blew it because they don't promote the show in the least bit. We all have to come together to try and save the show. Email NBC excutives, spread the word about Awake, something.
Reply
Flag
NBC renewed "Whitney"... and yet they are quick to cancel "Awake" (despite the fact that they've done a piss poor job of promotion.
Reply
Flag
I love this show, so sad that yet another Jem is being canceled before it has a chance to shine! Jason Isaacs is incredible actor and if you liked this show I would suggest Case Histories!!
Reply
Flag
Totally agree.....then you must be a Brotherhood fan ( SHO ) If not, you will be after your Netflix marathon. A must see!
Reply
Flag
This show is great! Jason Isaacs is a superb actor. It would be a shame to cancel it after only 10 episodes. Besides the both worlds storyline, the cases are interesting too. Over the years, I've mostly watched shows from CW or Fox. In magazines, I've seen many other networks advertise new shows that never last. Why don't they have a better screening process or give the show a chance?
Reply
Flag
All I can say is "I love this show." If it's low in the ratings it could be because NBC did a lously job promoting it.
Reply
Flag
Thank you finally people besides me who would love to see Awake given a second season. While I realize the general TV viewing audience prefers the same old same old rather mundane shows and their ever dumbed down reality junk, there are some of us out there who would like to see quality shows on the networks once in awhile. Awake is something new and original and NBC would do well to stand up and be counted as a network provides it.
Reply
Flag
OK NBC-you are getting close to becoming the N-o B-ody C-ares network. Awake is a great show and God knows NBC you have taken a chance on some Really big flops and YES you did give them a second and third season-Forget Netflix taking this one(but that would be cool)

Hello FOX looking for a show that would merge nicely next to Fringe or Touch hint hint...
Reply
Flag
I really don't know why I continue watching anything on this network.

Quality has no value here..Book of Daniel, Kings, the

Black Donnellys and many more

I wish I wasn't crazy about Smash..
Reply
Flag
THANK YOU!



Black Donnelly's was amazing.
Reply
Flag
I love this show. I really wish it would stay awhile.
Reply
Flag
Love Awake, and think it would be a huge mistake canceling it. There are so many cookie cutter shows out there, think CSI, but this one is unique. C'mon NBC, please give this a second season!
Reply
Flag
I've been watching from the beginning and I am glad to see the show has become stronger as each episode goes by. I think a huge turning point was the secret we learned about Rex & his girlfriend but I also think the new relationship between Michael and his wife is just as powerful. I really do hope it's not too late for us to receive a second season.
Reply
Flag
I'm still going with Michael being in a coma...
Reply
Flag
SEASON/SERIES FINALE idea (or guess, or wish, or conjecture, or whatever you want say...i'm not claiming originality):



Like in Fringe, the characters are in parallel universes that are bleeding over into one another. In each universe, the mother or son did actually die.



(Perhaps this is where all human intuition and gut feelings and deja vu, all sixth senses come from?)
Reply
Flag
Agreed, one of the best episodes, and I also loved the humor and chemistry with so many of the characters this ep. I really hope we get a season 2.
Reply
Flag
Good episode! Although I'm not like "whoa, two realities. Awkward in a creepy way!" anymore, I still love this show, because it's still good when it's evolving. Great review!
Reply
Flag
The biggest thing I took away from this episode is that even black people think black people look alike.



Also, that I'm a riot.



Anyways, this was a lovely episode. I can't really explain it that the show has gotten much better, but it certainly feels that way. In watching this episode, it certainly seems like there's a better chemistry and rhythm between the 4 or 5 main characters and also between the real people behind making the show.
Reply
Flag
Agreed!
Reply
Flag
You just described this show as the love child of two of my all time Favorite shows! Hats off to you my friend.

Not quite sure I love Awake in that way yet (here's hoping I get the chance to!!) but I do enjoy it, a lot.

Reply
Flag
I love this show, a thinking persons show, finally! It's nice not to be talked down to for once on a tv show.

Can anyone tell me the name of the song / artist that was playing during Michael's going away bash? Love it!
Reply
Flag
the black keys - lonely boy :)
Reply
Flag
Absolutely love this show! But does anyone know for sure that it's being cancelled? Everyone assumes that for some reason but has an NBC rep actually said that? Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part but it would be a crime to cancel a show this good.
Reply
Flag
Loving every minute of Awake, absolutely brilliant TV. Great review of the episode and the possibilities too. Massive mistake if its canned before it has been given a chance to flourish. I just hope that NBC have some courage and faith in American's intelligence and desire to watch quality TV instead of prime time dross.



The series has just started on Sky Atlantic here in the UK, must have boosted the funds for season 2 a bit!
Reply
Flag
Staff
Don't look know but Awake just hit its stride over a nice cup of joe and is ready to kick some tv a**. Netflix get ready indeed.
Reply
Flag
Speaking of Allen's performance as Hannah and that last scene, could she have sat on that couch any more stiffly. She did not look like she was settling in for a good, comfy tv marathon with the fam.
Reply
Flag
Definitely a great show, and it really deserves a second season. I think the review touched all the main aspects, but I have some observations. An offspring of Fringe and Friday Night Lights? Well, I love Fringe, but was never engaged by FNL, and don't intend to watch it. I guess, perhaps I was expecting Awake to be more like Fringe and less like FNL, with the sci-fi elements being more on top.



The episode That's Not My Penguin was one of the directions I was expecting the show to take. I wish there would be a much greater exploration of Michael's dual reality. Which reality is real? What causes him to travel between both worlds? Is there a purpose for all that? Is anybody in control, behind this phenomenon? However, each psychiatrist dismisses the other reality as a dream, a coping mechanism. Michael just feels lucky he has his son and wife again, so he doesn't question his extraordinary condition. So, this very intriguing situation is stagnant and no plot progress is done in that area.

.

Still, Awake is great family drama, with a touch of sci-fi sprinkled on top, and an underlying conspiracy plot I feel ambivalent about. It could use more sci-fi at this point, but that's even one more reason I want it renewed, so these aspects absent now could be explored in the future.

.

Let's hope soon we see the headline: "Miracles Happen: Awake Renewed."
More+
Reply
Flag
I love the show, But this is not time for filler episodes such as this



Since it does not have much time left



I think the show must get a move on and dazzle us with mystery



Before it ends
Reply
Flag
You missed the funniest part of the episode. When Hannah asked baby mama if she need a plate, clearly insisting that she need a plate, and baby mama was like, 'nah, i'm good'

The look Hannah gave, fantastic acting!



Reply
Flag
I caught that. Things will definitely change for that family now that Emma is moving in. Pizza on cardboard!!
Reply
Flag
Such a good show. I will never understand why shows like Awake and Fringe rate so badly while crap like Jersey Shore is watched by about 10x as many people.
Reply
Flag
umm that was an xbox 360 >.>
Reply
Flag
Friday night lights and Fringe had a baby - great) that is exactly what we all need on TV) I laughed my ass off in fake Myron scene in nursing home. twice) It was very comfortable feeling to be among these characters. it was like flowing. effortless that's the word. case was not that great for my taste I was invested in it by our great characters (Michael and Bird can investigate cat on tree I will be watchin' for sure) but in the end case felt kinda weak. but that was minor complaint.

And I glad that it was a heroin conspiracy (it can be bigger and I/m sure it will) but for now it is fine with me it is realistic that way. And you see Tim there is just a wrong doing by captain lady in one reality and I can't see how she is involved in Michael situation. I think she is not.
Reply
Flag
Wonderful episode. It's exactly like Tim said - you feel like the characters are real and their interactions are very insightful. Most interestingly it's the characters that make Awake so strong. However, despite the undoubtable potential, there are still minor flaws. E.g. the acting of the old lady they questioned or the completely cliched music in the "conspiracy" scene were we got the heroine-reveal (if you can, rewatch: the music is totally absurd. It sounds like written from an undergraduate) or the dialogue in the same scene ("they can smell it on me" - seriously? So "they" are all gonna be like "Hey! You smell like cigarettes! You met that one guy we never see you with because you always meet in secret places!1!!").

But as Tim said: The potential is there and if given a chance to do what they want to - and imho Awake did NOT have a real one until now with this network - this show could evolve into something incredible.
Reply
Flag
what Tim said. And I want a second season of this, somewhere, anywhere!
Reply
Flag
This is a great show with great potential, but alas, such shows are often canned in favour of shows that have good ratings but will end up cancelled a short time later. NBC has a good chance here, but I doubt they'll take it.
Reply
Flag
Will be really sad if this series get canceled! What are you watching people?! Fringe getting nearly canceled and Awake only having 3 more episodes to go? While HIMYM getting it's 8th season...
Reply
Flag
I watched the first 3 episodes and just didn't get it. I love the concept, waking in an alternate reality, back and forth between the two. but why are the two realities do different? The difference his son or wife would make would not affect his wider environment.



I think Awake suffers from trying to be too intelligent. Had we seen his life before, we would know if one of these realities was not real (whichever one was the different environment to his old life).



Still.......... FringeFanatic posted here..... so if a serious fan of Fringe likes it (currently the best, most creative show on TV), it's worth another shot I guess.

Reply
Flag
I believe TV should never be criticized for being too intelligent. Awake is a smart, well written, fantastically acted, and emotionally powerful show. Similar to Fringe's first season, I sense Awake has the potential to be great. Of course we don't yet know if it will be renewed for a second season, but nevertheless, I strongly recommend everybody (especially Fringe fans) watch this show.
Reply
Flag
I want to like this show. Good cast and good acting, but I can see why ratings may be so bad.



Mom and son get forcefully divorced by death and share custody of dad, but only when he sleeps. With him still having both in his life, though separately, you sort of don't care or feel any empathy with a loss.



The crimes are forgettable and generic. Other cop shows have done, or currently do, better. Things like some item or image giving him a hunch for a crime in the other world does not help. I just saw the one about the football fan being killed and they find out through his looking at a key chain with a teams cap on it and connecting that to the victim's cap. What they found did not, in any way, need his hunch with the key chain, but should have been done through proper forensics.



Non-sensical penguins. Yes, it may have made sense, to some degree, at the end, but only how it connected to the kid. I did not get why it showed up in the hostage scenario though, and prior to his looking at the children's book, you had no way of knowing how he figured his kid took the evidence he was looking for.



I can see where the green-blue or orange-red worlds appear kind of dreary to people, and yes I think that matters to people. If I remember right, one reason I could not get into Veronica Mars was the overall neon yellow appearance to so many scenes.



The major subplot involving his Captain's involvement in his family member deaths was introduced too late and touched upon only twice. I guess a series finale would resolve the mystery of that, but not before having to sit through the previously mentioned problems season after season? Or would they resolve that early on and have him continue to get justice after finding out? Perhaps the first episode should have had more background to that and have it lead to the accident, but then the rest follows without his memory, if any, of whatever suspicions he may have had involving his Captain and whoever else.



Although the cast is good, I find you know nothing personal of them aside from the Britten character (named that 'cause he's British?). I get the show is from his viewpoint, but in the process let's start getting to know the others more so we can care more. I also think the show needs something lighter or more amusing to balance the darker aspects a bit. Maybe one of his partners could have had a sense of humor while the other remained serious?



It won't be renewed unless the same thing happens to it that did Friday Night Lights or Netflix gets involved, but Jason Isaacs will easily move on.
More+
Reply
Flag
Hahaha! I'm sorry Akyriel, but you just summed up everything that is wrong about mega-popular hit TV shows and what is wrong about the general TV watching public (at least those who Nielsen counts). Awake is an amazing TV show--not perfect, but unique and beautifully shot with incredibly real characters. It's a shame that it probably won't get a second season, even though it should.
Reply
Flag
Forgot to add that some of the things involving the nature of dreams and the psychological mind are going to be lost on those unfamiliar with such theories/concepts or who do not want a show that makes your brain hurt thinking upon it. I did not understand the the point the psychologist made about Britten knowing the Constitution and I had to ask what that was about. It was basically explained, but I can see the average viewer being in the same situation. If you have knowledge of such things, it works, but others want simple, but still logical entertainment, not a graduate course in those subjects. Some shows can be too smart for their own good.
Reply
Flag
Are you actually criticizing Awake for being TOO intelligent? Normally I would write something clever to counter your argument, but I wouldn't want my comment to be too smart for its own good.
Reply
Flag
If any show operates on the assumption that all viewers watching have the same inside knowledge of such things as theoretical physics, psychology, dream theories, etc. that the creators and writers do, when many viewers clearly do not, then it's too smart for its own good, as you lose viewers by failing to adequately convey (teach) its ideas and concepts in relation to the story thereby making it all basically understandable, and more importantly, enjoyable. Of course, in its failure to do that, the show may not be so smart after all. Those who watch having a working knowledge and/or a strong interest in the subject matter will likely follow along. It's a bit like "preaching to the choir". Those who do not will more likely move on to something that does involve them more. Then again, you have a potential problem with those knowledgeable ones criticizing things for being wrong.



To me, there is a better show in there, somewhere, mostly for all the other reasons I stated. This problem just loses a few more viewers.
Reply
Flag
"theoretical physics, psychology, dream theories, etc" are clearly not in the center of this show (I'm afraid). However, I can give you numerous shows including all this that had enough success to get several seasons?? (for a start obviously every successful SciFi/Mystery show)

I don't undertand where you're going. As long as the show itself explains its rules noone needs a PhD in anything. Wether Awake, Melrose Place, Fringe, LOST, Community or MASH - the real core of any story is its characters. If we find them believable, we will like the story - no matter what setting. And this counts for Awake more than most shows.
Flag
Fantastic review. #Awake is the best. <3
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook