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'Awake' is one of the best dramas on television

'Awake,' starring 'Harry Potter' actor Jason Isaacs, deftly handles themes of grief without going over-the-top.

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And this is where the series cleverly utilizes its concept in an original fashion. While Britten accepts his situation by going on with his life(s), working with his partners, Det. Isaiah Freeman (Steve Harris) or Det. Efram Vega (Wilmer Valderama), and coming home to either his wife or his child, neither of his therapists can accept this. Lee and Evans both implore Britten to reject the other’s hypothesis, and accept them as the true reality. But their patient is not convinced that one or the other is necessarily false – he is of the mind that the two are real, and his moving between them makes him whole.

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The intriguing thing is that Britten does not need any convincing, and maybe it’s everyone else who can’t handle the thought that they may not exist. Each therapist is adamant in providing irrefutable proof that the other reality does not and cannot be real, but the evidence they provide is really just to confirm their reality is not a construct of Det. Britten’s troubled mind.

Naturally, the episode (and perhaps the series, too) is rife with symbolism that serves to inform which reality Britten is in, but also hints at larger questions. There is the significance of the colors red and green, representing Hannah and Rex, respectively, and those specific colors pop up in each reality with enough frequency to suggest something is amiss. Additionally, there is the sense that an ambiguous force is subtly dictating events.

Several times throughout the pilot, Isaacs refers to “they,” which is obviously his superiors, but like the colors it is mentioned enough to suggest another element. They, who are they? There is a feeling of persons unknown who are pulling the strings and dictating, with subtle gestures, the events in Britten’ life. They = his superiors, but perhaps they = something more. They want to know if Britten is fit for duty, and they are peppering Det. Vega with questions about Britten’s capacity to do his job.

There is also the question of the accident, and Britten’s elevated blood alcohol level. Is Britten responsible for his son/wife’s death? He cannot remember the events that led to the accident, so that mystery is yet to be solved, but like Det. Freeman said, solved and fixed are not the same thing. This could prove simply to be a byproduct of the intrigue surrounding the nature of the program, so it will be interesting to see if it manifests in later episodes.

In regards to the pilot, which was directed by David Slade (30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Awake is beautifully realized in both performance and style. Utilizing his cinematographer from Days and Hard Candy, Jo Willems (who coincidentally also shot the pilot for FOX’s Touch), Slade manages to craft two separate, but equally believable realities. Given that many key scenes consist of only dialogue between Isaacs and either B.D. Wong or Cherry Jones, Slade still manages to pull an entertaining and swift moving hour of television from Killen’s remarkable script.

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