This review contains spoilers.
1.10 Slack Water
For those readers who make it a weekly habit to read these Awake recaps, it may seem like I’ve been a little harsh of late. I don’t hate the show, or at least I don’t want to, but things have gotten depressingly predictable since the promising early stages. The central mystery has all but ironed out by the show’s events and producer’s comments, and the character of Michael has become little more than a casual observer of his own life.
Those problems are all magnified this week, and the episode, looking back, may just turn out to be the one that killed the show once and for all. It’s no secret that the viewing figures (in the US; it starts in the UK on May 10th) have been absolutely awful so far, dropping every single week. While I think the acting on the show is quite fabulous, and the weekly case as good as the best police procedurals on TV, the use of the show’s unique dual reality format has been underwhelming, and the unfolding of its mystery far too slow.
Remember how excited everyone was when the Gemini killer called Michael on his way home, or when the penguin paid a visit? Nothing like that has happened since. The case this week isn’t too memorable, as a youth and an elderly woman are killed in a dodgy apartment block. Assuming that the culprit was after the former and the lady was caught in the crossfire, Britten and his partner investigate. It turns out that the building’s landlord wanted to sell up, but had to get rid of the last elderly resident before he could cash in.
The red world is a bit more interesting from a soap opera-y point of view. Last week we discovered that Rex’s girlfriend became pregnant before he died, and is still with child in just one reality. Michael and Hannah visit Emma’s parents and offer to adopt the child, but they’re adamant that they want a closed adoption elsewhere, washing their hands of the problem once and for all. After some not-so-gentle nudging from Hannah the next day, Emma decides she wants to keep the lovechild after all, and she ends up staying with the Brittens when her own parents kick her out.
I’m not entirely sure where the writers are heading with this storyline, as I was expecting Emma to lose the baby throughout the episode. She never does, and the three of them are playing happy families in the closing scenes. It seems primarily to be a narrative tool to keep Michael in L.A., but seems counterintuitive in this regard. As said before, Oregon was probably the strongest episode Awake has produced, and it was partly because the prospect of moving to Portland was introduced. Would Britten be able to keep a hold of two worlds in two different cities? We might never find out.
Michael is so unbelievably passive throughout the whole thing. Could a man straddling two realities, two jobs and two families really be this laid-back? Once he’s told Hannah about the potential grandchild, he takes a firm backseat, letting Hannah make all of the important decisions about their shared life. The choice to stay in L.A. seems to spell trouble for Harper and her mysterious friend, at least, but explanations about heroin dealers don’t bode well for the sci-fi elements we were all theorising about. Apparently, one world really is a dream, it’s a simple as that.
I hope Awake pulls out something special for its final couple of weeks, as I’m almost certain it won’t see a second season. Will it be annoying if the reasons behind Britten’s ‘madness’ are never explained? Yes, but it might just be better that way.