Awake Review: “Game Day” (Episode 1.9)
Awake has a silent brilliance to it. The show slowly gives you the clues you need, hints at ways you might be able to solve the weekly crimes yourself and then plays out, giving the audience all the information, allowing them to play detective along with Michael and his partners. The thing that makes this different from most detective shows is of course the dueling realities, so by putting us in Michael’s shoes, we have all the information he has as well in trying to solve the crimes with him. “Game Day” is one of the better examples of how Awake does it, even if the crimes are somewhat predictable in nature.
Both crimes in “Game Day” focus on the outcome of a football game. In the green world, it’s a game between LA and Seattle in which Seattle wins. Because of this, a fight breaks out at the game, leaving an LA fan with his head bashed in. In the red world, LA wins, leaving a gambling Laundromat owner $487,000 in debt, as his business goes up in flames, killing an employee. In a nice play with the color aspect, Seattle, whose colors are green, win in the green world, while LA, with their red color, win in the red world.
The show gives us the clues, shows us the crime scenes and interviews the suspects, giving us all the information, yet a discussion with Michael’s son Rex about lie detecting helps us solve the crime further. Neither outcomes come off as a surprise though. The man was killed by the brother he abused instead of a fellow player in the red world, and in the green world, the upset wife of the Laundromat owner burned down their building for the insurance money. If you’re expecting the culprits in each world to be the least likely characters you’re introduced to, it’s a pretty open and shut case.
“Game Day” works because of the relationship between Michael and Rex, who has been notably absent from the last few episodes. In the green world, Rex’s girlfriend Emma broke up with him for looking at another girl. Turns out though that the real reason is because Emma was pregnant before Rex’s mother died, but lost the baby. Rex tells Michael this, and he takes this information into the red world. Michael questions Emma about this, who admits that she is pregnant in this reality. Maybe this is the thing that will keep the Brittens in California, or is this just a way for Michael’s mind to stop the move, or both?
The addition of Emma’s pregnancy may come off as a cheap way to stop the move, but it’s also a great way to have a consistent reminder of Rex in the red world. We’ve seen the result of Rex and Michael living without Hannah, but rarely do we see Hannah and Michael dealing with the loss of Rex. Yes, the whole move to Oregon is motivated by trying to start over after Rex, but that doesn’t seem to be as huge a looming shadow in the red world as the lack of Hannah is in the green one.
It’s great to have Rex back, since he is one of the better-written teenagers in recent television. Rex isn’t overly angsty and will come to Michael when he needs him, rather than completely shutting him out. Most television teenagers seem to completely disregard their parents or simply just be complete assholes. Rex is complex in ways that only Michael can match on Awake, and the show could certainly use more of him.
The lack of therapist conflict in the last few episodes has been a breath of fresh air, allowing Michael to figure things out himself, rather than having him constantly contemplating which of these realities is the real one, if there even is an answer to that. The occasional addition of BD Wong and Cherry Jones is nice, but it’s not necessary to have them make Michael second-guess his life in every episode.
“Game Day” is weaker in the mystery aspect this episode, yet this has never really been what Awake is about. The inclusion of Emma as important to Rex’s past is an interesting addition that could either add complexity to the red world or just be an easy way out. Add into this the potential conspiracy towards Michael and many other things working against him, and these last few episodes of the season are going to be important as the show decides where it wants to go if it does receive a second season.