Well this is bittersweet. Literally half way through the episode, I received word from TVAngie that NBC had cancelled Awake (awkward!). It’s especially disappointing considering that ‘Say Hello To My Little Friend’ is easily one of the best episodes the series has produced thus far.
Let’s bitch it out…Unlike the past few weeks, we actually have things to discuss because there is no dry, bland, boring case-of-the-week like usual. It’s almost as though creator Kyle Killen read my mind, flipped the bird to the procedural gods and finally told the story he’s been waiting to tell all season. And thank goodness, because this one is a doozy (and with culturally relevant sayings like that, I am apparently an eighty year old man).
We open with Michael (Jason Isaacs) spending an evening out in Green Life at the police carnival with Rex (Dylan Minnette) and girlfriend, Emma (Daniela Bobadilla). Clearly trying to play the part of ‘cool dad’, Michael agrees to bungee jump, but – in a moment of dizziness – he tumbles off the edge and falls towards the ground…only to wake up in Red life. Whew!
The episode briefly flirts with its conventional approach as Michael works a case with partner Vega (Wilmer Valderama), but – as we know from the cold open in Dr. Lee’s (BD Wong) office – something has gone wrong. When he wakes the next morning, Michael discovers that he is still in the Red life. Kudos to the show for not taking the easy way out; as Matt Fowler admits at IGN suggests a coma could have easily explained his inability to return to Green life.
Adding to the confusion – and recalling memories of 1×06 ‘That’s Not My Penguin’ – is the imaginary man (Kevin Weisman) that now follows Michael around. It is a little silly to watch Michael try to determine if the “little man” is tied to the case he’s working on since we all know that he’s tied to the accident. Eventually, after a dicey traffic chase scene and a police sketch, Michael discovers that the apparition is Bird’s (Steve Harris) partner in the Red life (Side Note: Say no to the molest-stache, Bird!).
‘Real life’ Ed Hawkins seems cagey, though, even after he helpfully elaborates that Michael’s familiarity with him is because Ed was one of the first officers at Michael’s accident scene. It’s plausible that he’s just a bit of a cold man, but savvy viewers know that we still have the conspiracy angle kicking around from 1×02 ‘The Little Guy.’ Remember, too, that Carl (Mark Harelik) mentioned the involvement of the “little guy” in the accident.
As a result the closing “twist” – that Hawkins was the one who ran the family Britten off the road six months ago – isn’t a huge surprise. I really appreciated that the show doesn’t hit us over the head with the realization that Michael’s blackouts began after seeing Hawkins at the carnival in Green Life, unlike some other shows (*cough Secret Circle cough*).
So where does this leave us? With a few episodes left, the reveal gives the series increased urgency and begins to tie together some of the loose threads that we’ve gathered over the last few weeks. Now, with only two weeks left (forever – thanks NBC), the show is on solid footing and looks to finish quite strongly.
- As SirBeegus observed, as amazing as this episode is, it would be a challenge to maintain this kind of energy for thirteen episodes. Not only is Michael manic for a good portion of the run time (causing car accidents, and prone to violent/emotional breakdowns), part of the show’s appeal is the low-key family moments that would have felt frantic. I’m not suggesting that the show didn’t dig itself into a hole the last few weeks, but if every episode was like this, it would be a very different show.
- What worked best for me were the moments of levity in between the confusion and the action. As Michael slowly comes to believe that he caused the accident (after failing to heed Laura Allen’s Hannah request to slow down and watch the curves), Michael truly and completely falls apart. The scenes in the hall as he implores Hannah to blame him for Rex’s death and their subsequent bedside chat is incredibly emotional and could land Isaacs some awards attention. Very powerful stuff.
- It also pays off – as I’m sure many of us knew it would – with a nice scene with Emma’s estranged father, Joaquin (Carlos Lacamara). It’s obvious that Michael would draw on his feelings of failing Rex in order to convince Joaquin to talk to Emma, but it is still effective. Isaacs has a way of selling even the most obvious or repetitive scene and making it feel fresh and emotionally resonant.
- I wonder what everyone else thought of the flashbacks to the night of the accident? Four times we hear Rex and Hannah massacre Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and four times we see the aftermath of the accident, with additional details revealed as Michael’s mind reconstructs what he’s been repressing for half a year. Guess Michael really is having a breakthrough – as Dr. Lee suggests – though likely not the kind the doctor is referring to.
- Finally, kudos for Captain Harper actress Laura Innes for tackling what is easily the most technically complex episode since the pilot. Well done!
Next week Michael goes on the run when Captain Harper and Carl realize he’s figuring things out. Hopefully this won’t turn into a dual life version of The Fugitive. Until then, chat it out (or lament the cancellation) below.
Awake airs (for two more episodes, at least) Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC.