Continuing to highlight its procedural aspects, Awake spends most 'Guilty' utilizing old action movie tropes to drive the basic plot of the episode, but somehow still manages to deliver some compelling moments with Britten's wife and child.
Saying that 'Guilty' borrows from old action movies is not a joke; the thing hits every mid-1980s action plot device with such precision, one would expect to see Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger pop in as a matter of respect. The episode opens up with convicted killer John Cooper (Clifton Powell) using his trip to dialysis to make a break for it with the help of a paralytic he persuaded a sympathetic nurse to provide him.
Det. Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is called to head up the manhunt, as he was one of the two arresting officers in the Cooper case – the other being Det. Jim Mayhew (William Russ), Britten's former partner. While Britten, Mayhew and Freeman (Steve Harris) are exchanging pleasantries, which seemed to suggest a hole in Britten's memory of his wife's funeral, Cooper is drugging Rex's tennis coach Tara (Michaela McManus) and absconding with Britten's son.
After contacting Britten and arranging a contrived meeting to discuss his innocence, Cooper is gunned down by some LAPD officers before he can deliver some kind of information on the whereabouts of Rex (Dylan Minnette). Thankfully, before the episode can get completely out of hand, Awake has Britten again address and utilize his condition by moving out of one consciousness and into the other, where he believes Cooper may still be alive and able to provide some clues that could save his son.
Traveling to the "Hannah-verse," Britten is faced not only with the time constraints of saving Rex's life in the alternate reality, but also forced to let his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) down because of his responsibility to another world she isn't even a part of – something his Hannah-verse therapist Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) expressed concern would eventually happen. While Hannah is paying tribute to Rex at the community center where he volunteered, Britten is questioning the still-incarcerated Cooper and beginning to believe that the inmate is indeed an innocent man.
Meanwhile, facing the possibility that he may die, Rex leaves his father a video message on Tara's phone. While touching on important aspects of the show such as Rex's state of mind in regards to his father, it also appears to be happening while the reality is ostensibly sans Britten – meaning one existence or another is not entirely dependent on his being in it. Whether this is a one-off occurrence, or it will actually mean something down the line is hard to say, but it seemed interesting at the time.
For anyone who hadn't already caught on, it's made clear that Det. Mayhew framed Cooper after he stole about $900k from the murder victim. Although it's way too convenient, Britten manages to get Internal Affairs to record him getting a confession from Mayhew, which he uses to free Cooper and gain knowledge of where Rex might be stashed in the alternate reality. Apparently Cooper had a mid-desert shack for such an occasion in either universe.
After Rex is saved, Tara gives Britten the video Rex recorded, and it brings up the topic of guilt, which Britten discusses with his therapists. Dr. Lee naturally sees the whole incident as a way for Britten to confront his own guilt, but surprisingly so does Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones). However, she is more concerned with the fact that even after going to such great lengths of conjuring up an alternate reality in which Cooper was set free, Britten is still plagued with guilt of having played a role in his conviction. She leaves her patient with the question of where his inability to forgive himself comes from.
There was no mention of the conspiracy regarding the accident that killed his wife and son (separately?), but 'Guilty' did set up some nice guidelines regarding Britten's use of his separate realities to serve one goal, and suggested that he may be holding himself culpable for his family's deaths.
Awake returns next Thursday with 'Kate is Enough,' @10pm on NBC.