Considering last week’s strangely apathetic episode, it is good to see Awake back to a place where things seem to matter to its characters. Perhaps that is why the reveal that Emma (Daniela Bobadilla) is pregnant with Rex’s (Dylan Minnette) child was saved until the very last moment of ‘Game Day‘: so that it would carry more weight after Britten (Jason Isaacs) had been getting used to seeing everything play out in two possible scenarios.
Now with ‘Slack Water,’ Britten and Hannah (Laura Allen) are faced with the fact that they’ll soon be grandparents, and naturally, their interest in Emma stems from wanting to have a role in their grandchild’s life. However, complications arise after Emma reveals she’s in line with her parents’ “progressive” thinking and plans to give the child up for a closed adoption. For her part, Hannah, perhaps unnerved from being caught unaware of not only the pregnancy, but of Emma entirely, feels that there is something keeping the young woman from revealing her true desire in regards to her baby. To some degree, this appears to be an effort to tie the seemingly random addition of what will be Rex’s posthumous child to Britten’s reluctance (need) to stay in Los Angeles in order to maintain the life he shares with his own child and the life he shares with Hannah.
As it stands, this element certainly makes an effective case for Britten and Hannah to remain in L.A., or temporarily postpone their move to Portland, but it has also (for the last two episodes, anyway) forced Awake to all but abandon the core concept of the show. And the problem is more than not analyzing the idea of grief and coping; it’s as though the compelling notion of a dual reality is no longer as important as bringing to term the supposed conspiracy involving Captain Harper (Laura Innes) and Carl (Mark Harelik) – which we find out in ‘Slack Water’ is apparently tied to a large shipment of heroin Carl is concerned may be oxidizing somewhere, and apparently Britten’s continued residence in L.A. somehow prevents him from moving or selling the stash.
Moreover, like ‘Game Day,’ the case in question has little to do with the overall story of the series, but seems to act more like filler until the episode can properly work out its reveal. The case is a rather perfunctory exercise that takes Britten and Freeman (Steve Harris) to an apartment building to investigate a double homicide that appears to be drug related. Thankfully for the police, the clues that suggest the crime happened contrary to what the physical evidence implies quickly line up and point to the landlord, Curtis Wilson (John Cothran, Jr.), who is trying to force tenants out of a rent controlled building so that he can sell it, and the rest of the surrounding property, for a handsome profit.
Most of the time, the cases in Awake seem to take on more importance than what we are given with this episode. Perhaps the reason ‘Slack Water’ feels so dull is the noticeable absence of not only Rex, but also Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) and Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones). Maybe this is the result of the hiatus the show took during production to iron out some of the scripts, in which case the ironing was really just adding some filler to the season and to help sow the seeds of some larger plot that has yet to be fully revealed.
The reveal in this particular episode happens to be that Hannah’s instincts in regards to Emma were dead-on, resulting in Emma staying at the Britten house for the time being. Apparently those “progressive” parents of hers also have a “not under our roof” policy when it comes to keeping the children of dead boyfriends. With Emma crashing on his couch (watching the X-Files), Britten now has the unenviable task of telling Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) and Captain Harper that the move to Portland is off. The look on Harper’s face is enough to confirm bringing Britten back into the fold opens the door for Carl’s threats against him to come to fruition.
Even though the last two weeks have felt strangely sub par with the rest of the season, the episodes themselves have remained entertaining in large part to the fantastic performances of everyone involved – though special consideration must go to Isaacs and Allen, for obvious reasons.
With luck, the last three episodes of the season will make an effort to explore and better define Britten’s circumstances and the event that put him there – which is beginning to look like the fault of others, rather than his own, as was suggested in the pilot.
Awake introduces Det. Hawkins (Kevin Weisman) next Thursday with ‘Say Hello to My Little Friend’ @10pm on NBC. Take a look at the preview below: