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NBC’s Awake Gives Crime Drama a New Twist

Matt Vaghi

Graphic Designer

Every morning when we wake up, there is a reassuring sense of reality as we drift out from our dreams. Once the day begins, these dreams swiftly disintegrate from memory. But what if we started to lose that feeling of reality? What if our dreams and our alleged reality began to mesh together, caus­ing us to lose grip on what is actuality and what is fiction?

NBC’s new, highly-antici­pated crime drama, Awake, pos­es this question as it follows the life of Detective Michael Brit­ten (Jason Isaacs) after a dev­astating car crash with his wife and son riding along. Since the accident, Britten has been im­mersed in two different worlds that switch back and forth ev­ery time he wakes up. In one reality, his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen), survives the crash, while in the other his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette), survives. In both of these worlds, Detective Britten is involved with ongoing police investigations. He is also re­quired by the department to see a psychiatrist to help cope with the losses and emotional stress of the crash. However, Britten, despite polarizing suggestions from the two doctors in the two realties, is unsure which one is reality and which is a dream.

The pilot of Awake is rather difficult to follow because of these two alternate realities. It’s tricky to keep both separate because they are very familiar. Although there are two differ­ent police investigations, they both have subtle connections to each other, hinting at some type of mysterious relationship between them. To help keep the realities separate, Britten wears a green rubber band in the one where his son is still alive and a red rubber band in the one where his wife is still alive.

Awake has an Inception-like feel to it because we, along with Britten, don’t know what world is reality. After such a tragic loss, it almost seems like Brit­ten is cheating the system by somehow creating two differ­ent universes that he can toggle between where he can see and touch his loved ones. Perhaps he is afraid to “choose” which reality he wants to accept be­cause he cannot cope with ei­ther his wife or son being gone forever.

Another mystery that will most likely be explored further into Awake is how exactly the car crash was caused. In the pi­lot, there was a suggestion that Britten had an elevated blood alcohol content level during the accident. This guilt may be a critical factor in the creation of these two alternate realities.

While the police/crime as­pect of the show is generic and similar to the numerous other crime dramas out there, includ­ing those that have recently been cancelled, Awake gives the genre a fresh new angle. The underlying story of Brit­ten’s alternate worlds, along with the fact that there are two cases per episode, create a captivating, original series that has a lot of potential. Although the lifespan of new broadcast shows are very short compared to those on cable and premium networks, Awake seems to have enough juice to keep it afloat for the near future.

Hulu, YouTube and iTunes have had the pilot of Awake available since Feb. 16 to create anticipation for the series. The NBC premiere of the show is scheduled for tonight, Thurs­day, March 1, at 10 p.m. and will air weekly in that same time slot.

Matt Vaghi may be reached at

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