As the creator of Awake, Kyle Killen, put it on Twitter, “Awake is canceled, but still on. Zombie show!” So, in that respect, continuing to cover the late series is somewhat bittersweet. But with ‘Two Birds,’ the writers do seem to be heading toward some kind of resolution that has the unenviable task of explaining the two realities while also tying in the corrupt cop conspiracy in such a way that it doesn’t feel as though the show was waiting for season 2 to be completely resolved.
Ever since ‘The Little Guy,’ Awake has been hinting at a scheme surrounding Det. Britten’s accident (Jason Isaacs) that has Captain Harper (Laura Innes) and what we now know is another precinct’s captain named Carl Kessel (Mark Harelik) as major players. Apparently, the whole thing started when Britten got too close to discovering a large amount of heroin that Harper and Kessel were mixed up in. So naturally – or at least according to Britten’s questionable memory/sanity – the thing to do was assign a fellow detective, Ed Hawkins (Kevin Weisman), to run Britten, his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) and son, Rex (Dylan Minnette) off the road and hope they all died. As luck would have it, the accident left Britten alive, and now full of Jack Bauer-like rage.
Acknowledging the possibility this is all just prelude to a massive twist, the idea that a small group of corrupt cops decided to kill one of their own because he was getting too close to the truth is concrete enough – if you signed on to Awake looking for concrete answers of that particular flavor. If you were hoping to find something a little more tuned to the acknowledgement of Britten’s struggle with grief, the concern of his dual realities, and the promising science-fiction elements contained therein, well, maybe next week’s episode will have what you’re looking for.
All pondering of the conclusion aside, ‘Two Birds’ does manage to start off strong by having Britten try and plead his case to Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) and Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones), as they both remain highly skeptical of his evidence linking Det. Hawkins to the crash that claimed his wife, or son – depending on the therapist he’s talking with. As in the pilot, there is some fantastic editing and writing that allows two conversations between three people to appear as one cohesive interchange, basically setting up the remainder of the episode.
One of the things Awake has excelled at is showing Britten’s ability to cope with the situation he is in, even if that means not really addressing the catastrophic loss he was dealt. Now, following the breakdown Britten suffered at the thought he was responsible for Rex’s death, that pain has been channeled into anger upon the flimsy excuse he remembered seeing Hawkins’ face in a side view mirror, in the dark, while traveling at high rate of speed. Dr. Lee and Dr. Evans think of this convenient memory and conspiracy as yet another coping mechanism created by Britten to escape the anguish of losing his child and/or wife.
In his determination to chase down Hawkins, Britten sends Rex to his aunt’s house and tells Hannah to stay away from their house. It’s unfortunate that two key players would be pushed aside like that in what is now the series’ penultimate episode, but here’s hoping more of them will be seen next week.
Britten confronts Hawkins in his house, and after shooting him in the leg, manages to get a confession and knowledge of another conspirator (Captain Kessel) before he’s forced to shoot Hawkins in a struggle over a gun. When Det. “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris) shows up at Hawkins’ house, Britten handcuffs his partner so that he might explain the not-so-subtle details of said conspiracy. After offering a solution to the encrypted laptop containing the proof Britten needs, Freeman knocks his partner out, sending him to the Hannah-verse.
Once there, Britten moves to enlist Freeman’s help again, not once complimenting alternate reality Freeman on his soul patch and mustache. Freeman agrees to copy the file Britten needs from Hawkins’ computer, and in a tense, Pepper Potts vs. Obadiah Stane sequence, the audience waits wondering if some files will copy to a flash drive before the bad guy notices. While Britten is off getting the files hacked, the trio of evil cops, Harper, Kessel and Hawkins decide their only option is to kill Britten and Freeman.
We are left with Hawkins dead in Rex-land and Freeman dead in the Hannah-verse, while Britten is stuck in a holding cell in one reality and possibly dying from a gunshot wound in the other. Beyond how to get Britten out of his respective predicaments, the conspiracy thread appears to have been presented entirely – leaving the larger question regarding the true nature of Britten’s divergent realities and how his existence in both can continue now that he’s ostensibly dying in one.
Since Awake began as an exploration of grief and loss, the conspiracy still feels like an odd disturbance. Here’s hoping the writers find a way to integrate it into the remaining unresolved elements so that this frequently great show may end on a high note.
Awake ends next week with ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ @10pm on NBC. Take a look at a revealing and intriguing preview below: