TV Review: Awake: Season 1, Episode 3 “Guilty”

Genre: Fantasy | Procedural | Drama

Air Date/Time: March 15 at 10/9c

Network: NBC

Created by: Kyle Killen

Director: Jeffrey Reiner

Writers: Howard Gordon & Evan Katz


When Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs, Brotherhood and Harry Potter) regains consciousness following his family’s car accident, he is told that his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, Terriers) perished, but that his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, Lost), has survived. As he tries to put the pieces of his life back together he awakens again in a world in which his wife is very much alive, but his son Rex died in the accident. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive he begins living two dueling realities. Trying to regain some normalcy Michael turns to his work solving crimes in both worlds with the help of two different partners, Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris, The Practice) and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, That 70’s Show). He begins to solve impossible cases by using his dueling realities to gain unique perspectives and link clues that cross over from world to world. Helping Michael to navigate his new existence are his bureau assigned therapists Dr. Evans (Emmy Award winner Cherry Jones, 24) and Dr. Lee (BD Wong, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit).


Another great episode as the series settles into a pattern, but don’t worry, it is a pattern of action, neither complacent nor slow, as we are continuing to be shown that Michael’s dual lives are both wonderful and horrible, with a lot of ambiguity thrown into the mix.

After that GREAT reveal at the end of last week – come on, how cool was that?!! – you should probably be reminded that this isn’t a three-part miniseries. It is a show that will hopefully go on for several seasons. We are therefore not going to be given the answers to everything right off the bat. Just like so many wonderful shows that have an overriding mythology (Lost, Fringe), this one will not give up character development for the sake of giving a big reveal every week. There may have been more than one thing wrong with The Event, but ironically one of them may have been that it was almost totally reveal/new question/reveal/new question with almost no character development. As hungry as we all always are for answers, I am beginning to believe that no show with a mythology can live on answers alone.

If, however, you just can’t stand not getting Giant Answers Every Week, my recommendation is that you embrace these early episodes as allowing you to imagine almost anything. Spin away at your theories and enjoy, without being hampered by those pesky writers and their supplied answers!

Having said all that, it’s possible we are given another piece of the puzzle this week; it’s just very quiet. If I’m right, I can see  it developing into something pretty big. Ha!

As with last week, the procedural plot line is somewhat familiar, but the application of the framework of this show makes it interesting, and gives the opportunity to show a little bit of movement on the Does Anyone Believe Him front. Or was that just my interpretation? Time will tell. I’m hoping that they’ll get a little more daring with the procedural aspect, more along the lines of the pilot. But again, I don’t believe that the procedural aspects are meant to be the focus of the story, any more than the reason/s for the dual life are meant to be the focus. It is character development, both in living with and processing grief, and in the bigger questions of faith in others and in relationships, openness to the unknown, and the manner in which an ordinary person deals with extraordinary circumstances that should be and are the focus.

The psychiatrists’ explanations for Michael’s experiences in his “dream world,” as they each refer to the alternate reality, continue to be interesting and quite plausible. They even get me wondering, periodically, if maybe one side or the other actually is a dream. But then I realize we are shown scenes without Michael, so unless he is dreaming that those things are happening without him actually witnessing them, then neither side can be a dream. Continued excellent work, by the way, by BD Wong and Cherry Jones in those parts.

Dylan Minnette as Rex is given a chance to show some range and really runs with it, it’s a very strong performance. Laura Allen gives off a heartbreakingly beautiful glow as Hannah talking about Rex. Wilmer Valderrama continues to do well as the young new detective caught in the middle, unsure of where his loyalties lie. Steve Harris is terrific as always and will hopefully get more to do in the future. Jason Isaacs is again masterful of the huge range he is called upon to play. He really is a joy to watch.

The screener I was given comes with a note that music, amongst other things, may not be in final. The music on my screener was terrific this week, so I’m hoping it will stay intact just as is when it’s broadcast. The action music is excellent, mostly drums, but the quiet spiritual music is really beautiful and quite effective as well. The music credit, according to the reportedly not-final credits, goes to Reinhold Heil & Johnny Klimek; thank you, gentlemen. Editing, direction, sounds, lighting, are all seamless and therefore unobtrusive and supportive; the color washes continue perfectly. Kudos once more to all involved in the varied production aspects.

Will this week’s title turn out to be a theme that also harkens to the larger mythology of the series? It certainly has a layered meaning for the episode, woven throughout in both obvious and more subtle ways. Last week’s title, “The Little Guy,” ended up having a different reference in each reality, with one of them having to do with the bigger mystery/mythology, so it’s possible that “Guilty” may do so as well.

There are triumphs and there are tears this week – I do hate crying, but this is mist-and-sniffles-inducing, not a bawl fest, and I didn’t feel manipulated. I’m afraid that a show that deals with the loss of a spouse or child is going to continue to require a tissue periodically, but I’m okay with it so far. We get character development, action, exceptional acting, and a smattering of sci-fi; this makes me a happy viewer. A solid episode in a solidly produced and presented series.

I give Awake, Season 1 Episode 3 “Guilty” Four Out of Five Stars.



Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for