After last week’s iffy episode, it pleases me to no end to see Awake rebound to heights unseen since its pilot as ‘Oregon’ proves to be quietly emotional. Oh sure, the police procedural component is familiar, but it is also exciting and reinforces some of the questions viewers have had about the series thus far.
Let’s bitch it out…
Unlike last week’s ‘Kate Is Enough’, which spent so much time balancing the two worlds that neither really came into focus, ‘Oregon’ spends the majority of its time in Green (son is alive) world. As a result we finally spend some significant time with Detective Bird (Steve Harris) and learn that Michael’s (Jason Isaacs) odd behaviour since the accident has not gone unnoticed.
The majority of the episode focuses on the case-of-the-week, which is one of the most standard police stories in modern procedurals: the serial killer storyline. After Michael discovers a body while jogging, the M.O. fits the pattern of supposed dead killer named Gemini. Enter FBI agent Santoro (Megan Dodds), the officer who shot Gemini and is responsible for dealing with any copycats. While other reviewers feel that the case is too familiar, I think that the show keeps it interesting and moves it along at a good pace. While the “clue from one world leads to another in the other world” doesn’t really work for me (the flower logo from the abandoned pawn shop which refers to the coffee franchise in the other didn’t exactly speak to each other), I am willing to overlook it.
That’s because after Michael falls under suspicion from both Santoro and Captain Harper (Laura Innes), Bird visits him in holding to discuss Michael’s behaviour. This is a scene that I’ve been waiting for since the pilot: a character finally questions Michael’s sudden solitary policework and the fact that it’s based on hunches and happenstance. Not only do we get a better sense of their relationship, but they actually begin to feel like partners. With Detective Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) in the red world, it makes sense that there’s tension between them because they’re newly working together, but with Bird there’s supposed to be a history. The hurt in Bird’s tone is evident and the scene is well played by both actors. I hope that this recognition that Michael is acting strangely doesn’t simply disappear back into the background next week.The other significant development in the story is less prominently featured, but does hang over the proceedings. Hannah (Laura Allen) is in Oregon to check out going back to school when Michael discovers a shipping estimate. The address is what leads him to Gemini in the green world, but in both Michael is struck by the ramifications of the move. As he confides in Dr. Lee (BD Wong), Michael elaborates that he didn’t take Hannah’s suggestion seriously. I really liked Wong in these scenes as he asks Michael to consider Hannah’s perspective and what she may be wanting. The suggestion that their marriage is in trouble – highlighted in a gorgeous set of intercut scenes featuring Michael and Hannah entering elevators solo – was adult, engaging and nicely underplayed by all involved. Similarly Hannah’s confession at episode’s end when she tells Michael that whenever she sees him she sees their son, Rex (Dylan Minette), and that she would never leave him.
The concluding sequence: another intercut set of conversations between psychiatrists Lee and Evans (Cherry Jones), who both agree that moving to Oregon with Hannah and staying in Los Angeles with Rex could force him to identify which life is reality and begin the process of letting go. Michael stubbornly reaffirms his position from the pilot, which is that the only way to let go is if he chooses, and he refuses to let go of either. If you’re looking for clues on which life is real, this is undoubtedly frustrating. If, however, you’re engrossed in the relationships in the show, then you may have – like me – been happy that Michael remains committed to both lives.
- The inspiration for entering the abandoned warehouse where Gemini is squatting makes no sense to me. I can understand it when elements of the crimes speak to each other, but it seems really strange that the name of moving company Michael sees in the red life is inspiration enough to go into a derelict building in the green life. It simply doesn’t work for me.
- It seems as though the actors are beginning to settle into their characters, and this is evident in Michael’s interactions with both partners. In the red world, I quite like Detective Vega (Wilmer Valderrama) and Michael’s scene outside of the faux-lead pawn shop when Vega learns the $100 lesson about (paid) informants the hard way. They have good chemistry, which is something I haven’t seen much of between these two in the last few weeks.
- No mythology, despite the appearance of Capt. Harper in the other life tonight. Guess that means she’s been involved in trying to kill him in both?
What did you think of the episode? Did you miss Rex (seen briefly in only two scenes)? Does it feel like they’re fleshing out Bird and Vega? And why do people hate Laura Allen as Michael’s wife?!
Awake airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on NBC