AWAKE To The Divergent Realities Of NBC’s Midseason Puzzle


One of the year’s most intriguing series pick-up’s is the NBC midseason drama Awake. Drawing parallels with the blockbuster movie Inception due to its reality-blurring premise, Awake explores grief and life via the complicated coping mechanisms constructed by Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs).

Those worried by the show’s seemingly procedural core can take some heart from a new SFX Red Alert interview with showrunner Howard Gordon, who explains that there is an underlying mythology to be gradually explored.

First things first. With the show following Britten between two realities — one where his wife is alive after a fatal accident, and the other where his son is alive, which world will be given the most focus? Gordon (24) promises that both of the show’s realities will be given equal exploration:

“We’ll have episodes where this is a personal story in one that will inform the crime in the other. We have one that we are wrestling to the ground now, which is about the same crime with different victims in both worlds.”

As we discovered in earlier interviews, Britten will use color-coded elastic bands (red or green) to as a kind of totem to keep track of which reality he’s in at any given point. A system that he reveals with a therapist on each side (Cheery Jones and BD Wong) — both of whom try to convince him that the reality he’s currently in is the real one.

However, it wont simply be a case of the therapists trying to wake Britten up week after week:

“That can get pretty redundant quickly if it’s just about them trying to prove that retrospectively. We will experience the panic where he does question his own sanity, and when he questions if the reality he’s in is real. It’s a razor’s edge we’ll be walking.”

Indeed, one of the interesting conceits of Awake, is that Britten doesn’t want to know which reality is real, something Gordon believes will give the story longevity:

“I think what Kyle [Killen] masterfully did in the pilot is have a guy who is adamant about not uncorking those divergent realities. As a result, we really get to have a guy who is insistent, like the little Dutch boy with his fingers in the damn, but he definitely pays a price for it.

Yet it is also a tremendous gift and this duality gives him a very, very unique edge in solving crimes — of course, one of which is not real.”

This bleed-through, whereby Britten is able to use his unique experience to solve cross-reality cases, is another intriguing aspect of the series. And while there’s a procedural imprint laid down for the first season, Howard promises “there’s a mythology to it.”

As for our central character, Howard believes that the audience will be able to get behind and relate to Britten as he navigates his dueling realities:

“We have a guy who is confronting what is absolutely the worst possible loss one can imagine and — like 24 — I found it to be an amazing way to tell the story of a man that I relate to.

Behind it all it’s cathartic to exorcise our worst fears and find out who we’ve been, who we are and who we can become through the fractured lens of this really unique premise that Kyle created.”

Thanks to JD | SFX

It certainly has our interest. Sure, there will be a procedural element about it, but there’s also an overarching story in there waiting to be explored. It’s too early to say how they’ll balance the two, but I suspect we’ll see more mythology integration throughout the season. Fingers crossed because Awake seems to have real seriable potential.

Meanwhile, here’s another look at the trailer in case you haven’t seen it:

Awake premieres midseason on NBC

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