The week after Awake‘s best hour since the pilot, the show returns to the procedural rut. We do, however, also see a return to the conspiracy angle that’s gone unexplored since 1×02 ‘The Little Guy’. So where does this leave us?
Let’s bitch it out…After ‘That’s Not My Penguin’, I felt like the show was about to turn a corner. I was convinced that from here on out, the case(s) would be more directly involved in the discussions that the show has been promoting since its pilot. Some of those questions include: what is the nature of Michael’s (Jason Isaacs) condition, how is he managing both worlds and, most importantly, how are his relationships with his family progressing? For me the show remains at its best when its giving us face time with wife, Hannah (Laura Allen) and son, Rex (Dylan Minette). Although neither were front and center last week, the emerging storyline about the move to Oregon allowed the show (and Michael’s dual shrinks played by BD Wong and Cherry Jones) to ask more interesting questions about the longevity of Michael’s coping mechanism.
So it’s unfortunate that tonight doesn’t play to those strengths. It does, however, reintroduce the idea of a potential conspiracy at the heart of the show. That’s right, folks: Laura Innes’ Captain Harper is baaack! This week we get another piece of information that may reveal the truth: a case at Westfield he was working on before the accident. Currently it is an empty warehouse in both the red and green lives. Harper, meanwhile, is suitably dodgy about the case – she reassigned someone to work it after his accident and its considered closed. Clearly it’s important enough for park-bench Carl (Mark Harelik) to put some kind of plan into action, which Harper desperately tries to call off when Michael speaks to her about moving to Oregon. (Side Note: Did anyone else notice that Michael and Harper’s hug is in slow-motion and Michael’s expression seemed slightly confused as though he realized something when they touched?)
The respective cases, meanwhile, are standard procedural. My biggest gripe with the cases on the show thus far is that they frequently feel undercooked, like the writers have pulled reruns from Law & Order or CSI and reheated them on a lukewarm setting. I’m not suggesting that every week can – or should – be on the level of last week’s case, but lordy do they need to make the cases so obvious? Perhaps its all my Breaking Bad viewing, but as soon as I saw actor Christopher Cousins as the anguished father (in the green life), his guilty status was all but guaranteed. And as soon as they showed the close-up of the tattoo on the red side, I called ‘El Diablo’ and then waited for the reveal.
Sure, the show is about more than its cases, its mythology and its conspiracies, but given the slow start to the mythology and the exasperating time lapse in conspiracy episodes, all we have left is the cases. The show isn’t overly interested in involving either Hannah or Rex (who is barely glimpsed), so the majority of our time is spent watching generic police cases. The solving cases using information across lives was novel in the pilot, but now, seven episodes in, I want more.
I can’t help but compare Awake to another intriguingly premised show – Pushing Daisies – which also employed a procedural format mixed into a seasonal arc. The distinction is that Daisies always used the relationships between its characters to inform the crime. Although Alan Sepinwall makes a good point that the illegal immigrant who murdered his brother is a variation on Michael’s “dual life”, these little tidbits are too few and far between to satisfy.
With the last third of the season starting next week, I’m beginning to accept that the series may not be interested in exploring what I thought it would (see also: me and TVAngie’s feelings regarding Smash). The question now becomes, where will the show go next?
- No Rex this week. Anyone miss him? As much as I’m enjoying Dylan Minette, the show seems to be struggling to find ways to incorporate him into the narrative. Hannah, in comparison, has been more of a presence since the debut of the Oregon storyline in the last few episodes.
- Just like last week’s drug induced penguin visions, Michael has a strange hallucinatory (or is it?) experience in ‘Ricky’s Tacos’. While driving through the titular establishment’s drive-through, the intercom orders him not to leave LA and directs him to investigate Westfield. When he pulls through, however, the cashier doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Is Michael crazy?
Awake airs Thursdays at 9pm EST on NBC