To a certain extent, episodes of Awake seem to have a duality all their own, which coincides nicely with the show’s core concept – though it is blatantly a byproduct of a thriller aspect the show has seemingly tacked on at the end of certain episodes, beginning with ‘The Little Guy,’ and now here with ‘Ricky’s Tacos.’
On one hand, it feels like Awake is doing just fine exploring the condition of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) and his determination to maintain two realities and, to a larger extent, keep his family as close to him as possible. Then, as things seem to be going in the right direction, as they did in last week’s superlative ‘That’s Not my Penguin‘ episode, the notion that Britten has somehow fallen victim to an undisclosed plot between his boss, Captain Harris (Laura Innes) and some guy named Carl (Mark Harelik), shows up again. The only thing we learn, however, is we now know Carl is powerful enough to have Britten tailed and “taken care of,” before he can discover (or rediscover) what he wasn’t meant to.
What is it? We don’t know, yet. But it has to do with a company called Westfield Distribution and an empty building that a realtor hasn’t been able to find occupants for in quite some time. Strangely it’s the same realtor that plants a for sale sign in Britten’s front lawn, now that he and his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) have begun the process of moving to Portland.
As with ‘The Little Guy,’ the plot against Britten seems as though it was added at the last minute. Perhaps as something to unnecessarily spice this unconventional drama up a bit, or provide a story thread for members of the audience to grasp on to as the season progressed. Either way, at this point, the extra flavor has neither helped nor hindered Awake; it has merely produced one slightly awkward scene early on in the season and acted as a tease throughout ‘Ricky’s Tacos.’
The episode itself is a fairly standard one for Awake, inasmuch as Britten is helped with the two cases he’s simultaneously working by paying attention to the little clues he picks up in either reality. In the Hannah-verse, Britten and Freeman (Steve Harris) are called to what looks like yet another suicide of a young woman. The victim here is named Sabrina Ferris (odd that the victim had the same name as the realtor). Sabrina is thought to have been raped by Tim Wax (Charley Koontz), but it turns out she only had sex with him as a means to cover up having been impregnated by her father John Ferris, played by Christopher Cousins (Breaking Bad).
Meanwhile, in Rex-land, Britten and Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) investigate a cold case that involves literally digging up the past. After Britten tries to skip over hearing the technical aspects of extracting this particular body, Dr. Banks (Chris McGarry), in a particularly fun scene, replies: “I just melted a dead body out of a block of concrete, which is impossible so I thought you might have five seconds.”
After asking around, Britten and Vega soon conclude that, the poor sap in the block of concrete was accidentally killed by his brother , who then took the victim’s identity and tried to turn his life around.
The Pablo case hinges on an art term called pentimento, which Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) tells Britten about during a session. The term has to do with art historians finding evidence of another painting underneath a finished one, suggesting that the artist started over at some point, and that someone bothered to go back and dig up evidence of the previous painting. The concept works well with both the larger aspects of Awake‘s narrative, and in the episode itself. In a way, the Pablo and Sabrina case both reflect the feelings that Britten has with his condition and the pending move to Oregon. On one hand he’s creating a new life for himself, but something is driving him to reopen the case that will lead him to Carl and whatever it is he’s covering up.
Speaking of Carl, ‘Ricky’s Tacos’ ends with Britten giving his resignation to Captain Harper, who then gets in touch with the mystery man and tells him to call of his dogs – again it feels somewhat unnecessary, but the sense that Harper cares for Britten enough to protect him in this way is an interesting revelation.
Awake returns next Thursday with ‘Nightswimming’ @10pm on NBC.