Sunday, July 15, 2012

Postmortem: Awake

A few months ago in my review of Awake on NBC, I wrote:
Unlike The Firm on NBC, Awake is actually a good mid-season show.  I've been watching this over the past two months, and I'm hooked.  I'm bummed that there's a 90% chance it will be cancelled.  Not Firefly bummed, but I would still like to see another season of this show (or see a satisfying end over the next month or so).
The show did get cancelled.  It didn't even stand a chance with its ratings.  But get this ... it had a SATISFYING ending.  I was almost blown away.  The ending does leave the possibility of 2nd season, but it also closes the entire story arc for the whole show.  There was no rushing the end like in Pushing Daisies.  There was no unresolved cliffhanger like in Alcatraz.  Everything was figured out except for one small detail, and I'll get to that in a moment.

If you haven't watched the show yet, I recommend that you stop reading this post right now to avoid spoilers, and go watch its 13-show run.  Right now, Hulu Plus is showing all the episodes.  The last 5 episodes are free to watch, both on Hulu and  iTunes is selling the whole season for $29.99 (or $2.99 an episode).  Netflix doesn't have it yet, but probably will in a few months.

And if you have watched it all, here come the spoilers...

When I watched the season finale, I thought I had it all figured out.  The blue world was real and the red world was the dream.  The events in the red world were becoming more and more insane.  The red world was the one that tended to contain the hallucinations and the hints of a conspiracy theory with the male psychiatrist.  The red world was where Detective Britten processed information from the blue world and figured everything out, which he finally did.  But then even after saying goodbye to his wife one last time, and talking to the female psychiatrist, he created a third, even more absurd reality (with no added color tones) in which both his wife and son are alive.  The look on his face said it all at the end ... something was wrong, but he didn't care--he was happy.

But then, I discussed the show with my actuary friends online, and one of them provided a totally different take.  The red world was real, and the blue world was the dream.  I was about to argue my points as to why I was right when I realized we were both right.  In my friend's view, Detective Britten couldn't handle his son's death, the hallucinations, and his boss winning the battle.  So, he created the blue dream world which was more stable--a perfect getaway.  Then in the end, he completely lost it and retreated fully into his safe blue dream world.  But then deciding it wasn't good enough--why not retreat even further into another alternate reality where everyone survived the crash?

Then there's another possibility where that last world is the real world, but that point of view is difficult to support.  Was he in a coma the whole time, and he just woke up to find everyone alive?  No, that doesn't quite work out.

My actuary friend and I agreed on one point.  The show came to its best point in the last episode when the two psychiatrists finally met each other (in his midway dream sequence).  The female, Dr. Evans, was practically gloating that she was winning, while the male, Dr. Lee, was explaining why this was a terrible development.  And that's actually what pushed the whole show along--all those sessions with the psychiatrists.  Their analyses were excellent.  They always brought up good points, and at the same time they were a little self-serving, almost as if trying to protect their own existences.

Either way, in the end, Detective Britten figured out the purpose of his car accident.  The bad guy died.  In the blue world, he succeeded in stopping his boss.  In the red world, he failed miserably.  And whichever world it was that was real (now that we're 95% certain that at least one was a dream), it doesn't matter, as Britten lost himself entirely to an impossible reality where he can finally be happy.

Awesome ending.

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