After two weeks, it seems like Awake is, for the most part, back on track with a mostly powerful episode that serves as another highlight for Jason Isaacs’ performance as Detective Michael Britten. Moreover, ‘Say Hello to my Little Friend’ offers a compelling look at a man forced to accept the possibility that not only has he really lost his only child, but also that he may have been the one responsible. It’s a compelling episode that is really only undermined by an insistence that there be a conspiracy subplot thrown for reasons that still don’t fully make sense.
Saying the conspiracy feels tacked on or thrown in seems to be because, in its heart, Awake doesn’t really want to be about a criminal conspiracy and corrupt cops trying to kill their own. The show seems to constantly be rejecting this additional notion, sloughing it off, only to have someone clumsily sew it back on. A perfect example would be when Britten, wakes to discover himself in bed with his wife Hannah (Laura Allen), despite having gone to sleep with her the night before, we are sated with this confusion as the plot of the episode and quickly forget about heroin shipments and clandestine meetings on park benches. This disruption of Britten’s normal routine works more convincingly than any conspiracy to bring the audience full circle, back to the moment of panic in the pilot episode where, having misplaced his colored rubber band, he is unable to recognize his current reality. In this instance, however, Britten has somehow gotten himself stuck in the Hannah-verse.
The first clue we get that something is a little amiss is the attention paid to a seemingly harmless run-in with a stranger at some sort of fair. That stranger happens to be Kevin Weisman (Alias), who, after Britten is cut off from his son Rex (Dylan Minnette), serves as the only mental anchor Britten has to Rex-land. Unfortunately, after visiting with Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) – whose absence from the last episode was likely a contributing factor to it feeling so off – Britten finds himself adrift, unwilling to accept this change in his condition as a step in the right direction and unable locate the answers quickly because his hallucination of a short guy with a big chin is merely a product of his own imagination. One can’t help but wonder if the penguin in ‘That’s Not my Penguin‘ was trying to tell Britten something similar.
Unlike the crossover clues Britten normally uses as waypoints to stay on course in his alternate reality investigations, the hallucination seems content to mimic Britten’s movements while he and Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) interrogate a spree shooter whose deteriorating mental state feels eerily similar to Det. Britten’s seemingly worsening condition. Furthermore, this hallucination is watching Britten and Hannah sleep, so that right there is incentive enough to get to the bottom of his appearance.
As luck would have it, while Britten is attempting to extend an olive branch to Emma’s (Daniela Bobadilla) father, Joaquin (Carlos Lacamara), the hallucination spots himself getting into a car. After causing a fairly decent wreck attempting to chase him down, Britten is left using the department’s sketch artist to try and ID the guy. Either because his features are so distinct, or the sketch artist just that good, he’s immediately identified as Det. Ed Hawkins, who, as it turns out is the new partner of Det. Freeman (Steve Harris).
After finding out that Hawkins was one of the first to arrive on the scene of his accident, Britten takes this to mean a closer examination into the events leading up to the wreck are in order. Sadly, Britten comes to the conclusion that he is responsible for Rex’s death, and this reality, the one containing Hannah, and now Emma and Rex’s unborn child, is the only true one. In a particularly devastating scene – likely as powerful as any in the exemplary pilot episode – the strength that Britten had been granted by still being able to see his son, evaporates and he is essentially crushed by the weight of his own guilt. Somehow, this all felt very satisfying and poignant, but with nearly 10 minutes left in the episode, it was clear a return to Rex-land was on it’s way.
Despite experiencing what Dr. Lee would call a breakthrough, the Hawkins hallucination continues to follow Britten – helpful as ever with his “I don’t know” answer to everything. The persistent vision forces Britten to remember the accident even more closely, which reveals Hawkins to have been responsible for the wreck – certainly as part of the aforementioned conspiracy.
Soon after, Britten wakes to find himself in the company of his son, practically where he left him, but the joy of the reunion is short-lived. The revelation that Hawkins deliberately attacked him and his family has apparently shifted Britten’s focus to seeking vengeance against all those involved.
With just two episodes left, Awake appears to be going into Mission: Impossible mode in order to provide answers to questions no one was really asking.
Awake continues next Thursday with ‘Two Birds’ @10pm on NBC. Take a look at the episode below:
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