Over the past seven episodes, Awake has worked to offer new ways in which Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) and his two worlds can offer insight into one another that help to solve a case, offer new insight into Britten’s condition or provide clues as to the larger conspiracy that has been hinted at on more than one occasion. The beauty of the show, however, is when it utilizes the police elements to tell a better story about Britten and help move his story forward.
In ‘Nightswimming,’ Britten, naked at a college swimming pool and addressing two police officers from the high dive, begins the episode with a certain amount of whimsy. Awake isn’t necessarily a dreary show, but starting things off with the series’ main protagonist in the buff isn’t exactly textbook either.
After the rather curious opening, Britten and Freeman (Steve Harris) are working with Marcus Ananyez (Elijah Alexander), after he narrowly survived being killed by a car bomb planted at the behest of his (former) employer Maxim Basayev. After a little prodding by the two cops, Marcus is ready to enter the Witness Protection Program. Marcus’ wife Alina (Ayelet Zurer), is another matter, however. It turns out, Alina was unaware the seedier details of her husband’s employment, and after realizing that her life and his would soon come down to a single suitcase each, she flees. Naturally, Marcus refuses to cooperate unless his wife is safely brought into Witness Protection.
Mercifully, the episode doesn’t become about bringing Basayev to justice, but rather about bringing two people who have drifted apart back together. Of course, none of this would have any meaning if Britten and his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) weren’t in the process of moving to Oregon – a move which Britten still has some reservations over. Just as Marcus and Alina are about to be permanently displaced, so will Britten and Hannah; only their lives were interrupted under much different circumstances.
After tracking Alina down, Britten offers her the chance to enter Witness Protection on her own, or with her husband. One way or another Alina will be altering her life irrevocably; it’s up to her whether or not the love she used to know with her husband is enough for them to start over. To a certain extent, the same has to be said for Britten and Hannah: the life as they once knew it has ended, so they can chose to begin anew, or let the past keep them at a tepid distance. Given that the writers of Awake, largely Kyle Killen, have worked to make Hannah so likable – and a refreshing antithesis to the typical Hollywood grieving mother – it’s easy to see why Britten’s psyche (if it is indeed just that) pushes him to make a gesture that reconstitutes the love between the two.
Notably, Britten manages to do this without the assistance of either one of his therapists, Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) or Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones). The absence of his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) is also noticeable, but since this appeared to be just a standalone episode focused on Hannah, and the notion of people letting go those things from the past that prevent them from moving forward, there probably isn’t too much to read into with that.
Some of the other standout episodes like the pilot, ‘That’s Not My Penguin‘ and ‘Kate is Enough,’ all had elements that balanced the series’ larger mystery with grief and a twinge of optimism, which suggested Britten was headed down a new path that would lead him to some momentous discovery. ‘Nightswimming’ does this on a smaller scale; leading Britten toward something uncertain in Oregon – which is causing him to uproot more than his own life, but that of people who rely on him like Jake (Steve Lawrence) his C.I. But the episode also suggests that when it comes to Britten and Hannah, there is something from the past worth going back to, and the slightly sad trip down memory lane that eventually leads to a naked high dive plunge, is as good a place as any for this couple to start over.
Awake returns next Thursday with ‘Game Day’ @10pm on NBC. You can preview the episode below: