The cancellation of Awake couldn’t have come at a worse time for its UK broadcaster Sky Atlantic. Only one episode of the show had aired over here when the news broke, and immediately I started seeing posts on various online forums to the effect of, “Well, I'm not bothering to watch it now – what’s the point of getting into something if you know it’s been given the axe?”
If you are thinking like that, I urge you to think again. Not just because the show’s great, but because, having seen the finale, I have even better news.
It has a conclusion.
Well, sort of.
Not all the questions are answered but a lot of them are, and we’re left with a wonderfully tantalisingly ambiguous final scene that demands all kinds of fun discussion and interpretation.
In fact, it’s such a satisfyingly debateable ending, you almost wish the show had been marketed as a mini-series that concentrated on its mystery arc and ejected a few of the less interesting “case of the week” episodes along the way. To be fair, there were only two of these. From episode five onwards, the show starts playing with its unique format in all manner of intriguing and clever ways.
Perchance to dream?
In case you haven’t come across it yet, Awake concerns a cop who, following a car accident, finds himself living two parallel lives. In one, his wife died in the crash. In the other, his son did. When he falls asleep in one reality he wakes up in the other. And in each reality a shrink tries to convince him that the other reality is a dream.
The show has massive fun exploring this premise and can rarely be accused of predictability. At its heart is Jason Isaacs, giving a thorough compelling performance as cop Michael Britten, who may be creating one (or maybe both?) realities through an inability to accept either his wife or son is dead. The way he uses information from one reality to solve crimes in the other is an added mystery that spices up the show and makes his colleague suspect he’s losing his mind.
It’s a brilliant show, that could so easily have become mawkish but never does, and, from the middle of the season onwards, improves with each episode, introducing new and shocking revelations. The precredit teaser for the final episode is worth five stars alone (it’s one of the tensest things I’ve seen on TV for a while) and then it gets even better.
And, as I said, the finale is so well constructed, that even though showrunner Kyle Killen has said the final scene was supposed to be a set-up for season two, it acts just as superbly as a Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected -style twist. Although it’s not really a twist, more of a… ah, but that might give things away. It also follows a scrupulous logic if you’ve been following the series closely, not just in terms of plot mechanics but in terms of what we know about Britten’s character. In other words, though the premise is high concept, the finale is character-driven
Can’t wait till it’s aired here so we can all discuss it. I have a theory (somewhat backed up by what Killen has revealed online) and I’m sticking to it… But I could be wrong.
Catch up now
As luck would have it, the next episode to air on Sky Atlantic this Friday is “Oregon”, which is when the show really begins to step up a gear. It’s not too late to pick up on the show. And you don’t need to worry about the fact it’s been cancelled – although some things are left up in the air, there’s a Prisoner -style sens of closure… of some sort.
In fact, like Britten, I’m in denial. It wasn’t cancelled, no. It was a mini-series. It was meant to be a mini-series all along. And it’s a damned fine mini-series that I’ll be raving (and arguing about) for years to come.