Crashing Pilots: Awake Part 2

Time to Hit the Snooze Button on this Sleepy Drama

By Tom Houseman

April 3, 2012

River Tam is going to hate him.

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Readers, you are very lucky that I love you. Or rather, Kyle Killen is lucky that I love you. Had I not promised you, my dear readers, my lovely readers, my very sexually attractive readers, that I would watch a minimum of five episodes of every show that I reviewed for this column, I would have given up on Awake long ago. Had I willed myself to watch the second episode I would certainly have stopped after that. But no, I sloughed on, beaten back by the consistent mediocrity of this procedural mystery desperate to have its cake in one reality and eat it in the other, and now that it I have made it through episode five I am happy to report that I will never again watch an episode of Awake. Hallelujah.

Killen, the show's creator, must have known that I had given him a five-episode deadline in which to impress, because that fifth episode tried oh so hard to reel me in. And to be honest, if I had more faith in the show it might have worked. I might be willing to sit down next Thursday night as a way of saying, “okay, you've started building something here, let's see what sort of shape it starts to take.” But watching the first five episodes of a TV show not only gives you a sense of the potential the show might have for greatness, but also the pace of the show, how driven it is by overarching plots and mysteries and how likely it is to ignore those mysteries in favor of microplots that will be tied up neatly at the end of an episode. The impression I have gotten from Awake is that it is in no hurry to explain anything anytime soon.


There has only been one time in the history of ever when a show has successfully pulled off the scene where the people in power reveal that they have information that our protagonist doesn't which will lead to a much bigger secret. That was the Parent-Teacher conference episode of Buffy, and it was because it came a season and a half into the run of the series. It was earned. If you put that scene at the end of the second episode it will feel cheap and lame. What is more, if you drop that little bomb that hints at bigger things to come and then completely ignore it for the next three episodes, you are making it painfully clear that you are manipulating the audience by doling out tiny bits of information to make sure they keep coming back. It is entirely possible that the writers themselves are not sure where all of this information is leading them, but even if they do, they are moving in that direction at a snail's pace.

Yes, there was another such startling revelation at the end of the fifth episode that is supposed to leave our mouths agape and drooling in anticipation over what is to come next. So why is my mouth closed and my saliva planted firmly in my mouth? Because I know that this teaser isn't going to take us anywhere, at least not for a long time. We will get another couple of episodes of generic cop-drama stuff with filters to make it seem exciting and edgy, and then at the end of the eighth or ninth episode we will get another hint, not even a clue, just an indication that there is some sort of bigger secret hiding out there, which, let's be honest, we already knew. So what's the point?

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