After the misstep of last week's 'Guilty,' Awake is thankfully back on track with a solid episode in 'Kate is Enough' where Det. Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) deftly maneuvers between his two realities as a police detective, but comes to the conclusion that when tasked with being the father of a grieving child, he is at a loss.
Rex (Dylan Minnette) responds to what would normally be a minor inconvenience – his friend Cole (Logan Miller) borrows and breaks his tennis racket – with the kind of pent-up rage reserved for a more egregious error. Obviously, the racket belonged to his mother Hannah (Laura Allen), but Rex is not interested in discussing the incident any more than he wants to open up to his father about their shared loss.
Only, to Britten, it's not a shared loss; he still sees Hannah and spends time with her – something Rex is no longer able to do. So when he watches his child grieving, and seems unsure of what action to take – push too hard and risk further rejection from his son, or push too little and allow the gap between them to widen to an insuperable degree – Britten utilizes his two realities in a subtle way to better understand Rex's frame of mind.
Throughout 'Kate is Enough' Britten runs into people who have all dealt with loss and grief, and come out the other side – for better or for worse. Whether this is a case of incredible coincidence stemming from his fractured realities, or as Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) and Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones) would suggest, a manifestation of his subconscious to deal with the turmoil in his own life, the episode wisely does not say. Nevertheless, Britten's is faced with two versions of someone from his past: Kate (Brianna Brown), Rex's old babysitter, or "the Rex whisperer," as Hannah calls her.
In the Hannah-verse, Kate has gone on to become a successful investment banker in New York, and runs into Britten at the scene of a possible homicide involving a young woman who may or may not have jumped from a yacht to kill herself.
While in Rex-land, Kate is a drugged-up, struggling actress who goes by the name Amber. It turns out Amber is involved with a fellow named Charlie who was beaten and murdered for the contents of his safe.
What the episode manages to do so well is take the procedural aspects of each case, and even though they take up the bulk of the episode, have the outcome of the separate investigations not actually matter – it's what Britten picks up along the way that counts. Britten takes information that may seem trivial in one reality and applies it to the other, sometimes with negative results, as was the case with the paper airplane, and sometimes with a more positive outcome, like finding the false bottom to the can of shaving cream that appeared in both realities.
In the end, it turns out the suicidal young woman was actually murdered for threatening to blow the whistle on a tech company that was falsifying information about its product. At the same time, Amber winds up being an inadvertent accomplice in Charlie's murder – intending to help rob the victim until it got out of hand and he was killed. Again, it's not the cases themselves that are important, but Kate and her two disparate possibilities stemming from the death of her sister years ago.
In a particularly well-crafted scene, both Kate and Amber recount the aftermath of her sister's death and the influence her mother had in each eventual outcome. Investment banker Kate had a mother who wouldn't leave her be, even though she too was suffering with the loss, while junkie Kate's (Amber) mother eventually stopped trying, and Kate wound up losing herself along the way (perhaps the reason for the name change?). The two Kates become a template on which Britten can relate to Rex, and hopefully get him to open up – which he does.
For the second week straight, we are given no further hint of the conspiracy involving Britten's superiors, which felt like an addition made when production went on hiatus. Instead, 'Kate is Enough' acts as a bridge to tie the audience closer to Britten, Rex and Hannah – evidently because we may soon find out one of them is indeed gone. But more importantly, seeing Rex grieving and being forced to deal with it shows us how fragile Britten's condition really is. He only wants to maintain these two worlds, but here Britten comes to the realization that sustaining this dual life means sustaining the people he so desperately wants keep close to him.
Awake continues next Thursday with 'Oregon' @10pm on NBC.