Now that the series premiere has spelled out the rules and core concept, Awake takes a step back from the perplexing conundrum of Det. Britten (Jason Isaacs) splitting his time between two separate realities, and settles into the less taxing role of telling a procedural story – while using the series' unique properties to do so.
In 'The Little Guy,' Britten and his partner Det. Freeman (Steve Harris) are investigating the murder of a Dr. Mackenzie, who apparently died of a heart attack. After some thorough blood work and analysis by the medical examiner, it turns out Mackenzie was a diabetic and his heart attack was brought on by an injection of potassium chloride.
Jumping to the other reality, Britten and Det. Vega (Wilmer Valderama) are knee-deep in the death of a junkie, also named Mackenzie. Being acutely aware that his two realties have a tendency to intersect, Britten approaches the investigation with an enthusiasm that is somewhat off-putting to his recently promoted partner. Vega is further discouraged by the particular interest Britten pays to the eyewitness account of what seemed to be a paranoid schizophrenic, who inisisted that junkie Mackenzie was murdered by "a little guy."
Homing in on the "little guy" statement, Britten immediately puts that theory to use in Dr. Mackenzie's induced heart attack case. Britten declares the most likely suspect – the doctor's disgruntled partner – innocent, mainly because at 6'11" he's too tall to fit the description given in the other reality. It's a little too simple, but we'll go with it since Britten is able to wrangle enough details from the would-be suspect about a football game to be certain he actually watched it on the night of the murder. Despite Freeman's reluctance, the two press on, and begin to look for the real culprit.
Meanwhile, in therapy, Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) begins to take a hard-line stance against Britten utilizing the other reality (or dream) as any kind of tool, believing it to be utterly unreliable and a simple act of wish fulfillment. Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones), however, is fascinated by Britten's ability to access his subconscious in such a way that it provides him insight to things nearly everyone else overlooked.
Things aren't as simple at home (in either reality), though. Britten's wife Hannah (Laura Allen), refuses to look at a bunch of mail their son Rex (Dylan Minnette) was having sent to his friend Cole's house – feeling that she's simply not ready to be reminded of his passing. Britten expresses his dismay at this to Dr. Lee, who reminds the detective that Hannah is dealing with a loss that he doesn't have to – by benefit of still being able to see and communicate with Rex.
Rex, on the other hand, is distancing himself from his father - and to a certain degree, his friend Cole (Logan Miller) - by beginning to follow the interests of a girl named Emma (Daniela Bobadilla), though that looks to be something which will be explored in greater detail, later.
Despite her reluctance, Hannah finds out that Rex and Cole were (are) building a motorcycle together – even though both parents forbid them to have one. Hannah sees this as a vibrant aspect of Rex's life that she was previously unaware of, and encourages her husband to see it this way as well. Following his wife's lead, Britten nonchalantly mentions to Rex to 'wear a helmet,' rather than begin a confrontation about his son's duplicity. The act serves to bring father and husband closer to his respective loved ones.
Back on his case(s) Britten and Freeman zero in on Sam, the son of one of Dr. Mackenzie's patients. It turns out Dr. Mackenzie is a fertility doctor, and Sam hacked into his mother's medical records for information on his late father. After finding out that Dr. Mackenzie was actually fathering the children of his patients, the detectives learn that Sam committed the murder in a somewhat feeble effort to stop the doctor's disgusting practice.
Britten doesn't fare too well in his investigation with Vega, however. Intent on finding "the little guy," Britten earns the ire of not only Vega, but also his superior, Harper (Laura Innes, from The Event). At first it appears Captain Harper is acting out of concern for Britten's mental state, but we soon learn that she and a mysterious man are actually involved in the accident that began this whole ordeal.
Does Harper's mention that the accident took out Britten's whole family have anything to do with the overall mystery of the show? It certainly seems like creator Kyle Killen and the other writers have begun to set up something of a much larger, serialized story to keep viewers interested.
Awake returns next Thursday with 'Guilty,' @10pm on NBC.