‘Awake’ – ‘Say Hello to My Little Friend’: Is this the real life?

A review of tonight’s “Awake” coming up just as soon as I destroy a sacred song from your childhood…

I have exactly one complaint about “Say Hello to My Little Friend,” which otherwise was far and away the best episode the show has done since its pilot, so I will get that out of the way first: I wish that we didn’t go into the episode already knowing that the Britten family’s car accident was anything but. In general, the design of the show suggests it would probably be best off if we only saw things from Mike’s perspective – or, at most, from the perspective of Mike and then of Hannah in red world and Rex in green – because then we know what he knows, and we feel what he feels and absorbs the same information and emotional punches when he does. And given what little we knew about the conspiracy, it was easy to get impatient at times with him for not realizing that the mysterious figure played by Kevin Weisman (revealed to be Bird’s new red world partner Ed) played some kind of role in running the car off the road. Had we not known any of this, it might have cost us a tense moment or two in earlier episodes involving Captain Harper, but the payoff in this episode would have been so much stronger.

That said, the rest of the hour was fantastic, as it played not only with the structure of the show, but the emotions of our hero by showing us what happens if he stops going to sleep in one reality and waking up in the other.

I particularly like how the script (by Kyle Killen and Leonard Chang) kept mirroring moments in the pilot, from Dr. Lee again asking Britten to start at the beginning (in this case, the moment when green world ceased to exist for him) to another scene where Britten breaks down at the sight of an empty house, not sure which reality he’s in – or, worse, perhaps fearing that he may have wound up in a third reality where both Hannah and Rex died.

Beyond toying with the mechanics of the cross-world set-up(*), what made “Say Hello To My Little Friend” so effective is how it forced Britten to finally confront a truth about his situation – even if it doesn’t turn out to be the truth – by recognizing that one of his two loved ones is dead and he needs to finally grieve. Just tremendous work by Jason Isaacs throughout. And though the flashbacks to the crash were repetitive by design, they still packed a whallop by showing us our first real glimpses of Hannah and Rex together, alive, and happy – and showing us in turn what Britten lost, even though he still gets to be with each one individually.

(*) Though I wonder how the dates get reconciled, given that Mike spent several days in red world before returning to green world only moments after he’d exited it. Then again, something similar happened – going in the other direction – in the penguin episode, so it’s possible the days eventually sync back up if Mike gets knocked unconscious often enough. Also, I was amused that in our first glimpse of Bird in the red world since the pilot, he’s grown a (not very convincing) mustache and soul patch, to prevent further confusion. I think at this point in the run, the only people still watching are the ones who can quickly identify the red filter from the green filter and figure things out accordingly.

I’m writing this as on Thursday afternoon, as news of NBC renewals are coming in. I don’t expect to see one for this show, unfortunately. It’s terrific, but the ratings are low even by NBC’s terrible current standards. I’m just glad that NBC has decided (for lack of better options, really) to air all 13 episodes. I don’t expect to get all of the answers about what’s causing Britten’s double life, which is the real life and which is just fantasy, etc. But I’ve gotten to see some terrific performances by Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette and company, and if the whole story won’t be concluded, everything Killen and Howard Gordon has said suggests we’ll get some level of closure in the finale in two weeks.

Compared to what often happens to low-rated critical darlings, that’s not bad.

What did everybody else think?