In “Ricky’s Tacos,” Dr. Lee, one of Michael’s two therapists, mentions the idea of pentimento, where an artist has the intention of drawing one thing, then draws over that idea with another image. Awake as a series is possibly dealing with a pentimento, since the show began as a psychological look at a man who has lost both people he loves and tries to keep them both alive, but the show seems to think that may not be enough. With the show’s second episode, “The Little Guy,” we were given the idea that maybe the accident that caused Michael’s predicament may not have been such an accident after all, but rather a conspiracy against him. We haven’t heard anything about this conspiracy since, but in this episode, the idea comes back, yet it doesn’t seem like Awake is the type of show that needs to be drawn over.
The show’s dual cases also deal with the idea of pentimento pretty heavily. In the red reality, a tattoo that has been drawn over completely changes the murderer of a man found on a construction site. In the blue reality, a good-natured kid, played by Charley Koontz, otherwise known as Fat Neil from Community, is suspected in the case of a girl that was raped and murdered. But by looking at the clues a little deeper, Michael and his partner Isaiah find out that the rapist is someone closer to the girl in question, her father, played by Christopher Cousins (Ted on Breaking Bad).
Michael’s entire life now is one big pentimento. He is handed two separate scenarios, yet decides to live with both of them. He can’t choose and adamantly refuses to do so. It seems like his subconscious is trying to lead him in the right direction to try to rewrite the double life he is dealing with now. While getting some lunch at Ricky’s Tacos, he hears the drive-thru talking to him, saying that it all starts with the Westfield case. I wonder if this moment is one of Michael’s hallucinations. It’s not as obvious as having a penguin around all the time, but subtle leaks in his sanity may be just what make Michael break down. It turns out that the Westfield case was a case that Michael was involved with, but then his accident happened. The case was solved and closed, but Michael wants to check out the situation, just in case. In both realities, we see Michael investigate the now empty (except for the rats) office building, yet he finds nothing there. Once Michael’s boss Harper finds out about this, she calls Carl, the two of whom are the only people we know of so far involved in the conspiracy. In the red reality, when Michael tells Harper that he and his wife are moving, Harper once again calls Carl saying that their problem just solved itself.
It seems like Michael is now trying to figure out ways to keep himself and his wife from moving. Once the realtor gives him the list of things they need to do before they can sell the house, he grumbles that once all the repairs are done, they won’t want to leave. I also don’t know what the show was trying to lead us to believe with this, but in the blue reality, the girl who died was named Sabrina Ferris, yet we see that there is a real estate company named Ferris Diamond Real Estate. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, but the show draws no attention to it. It wouldn’t be bad if the show decided to throw in these little hints at differences between timelines just for those who are looking a little more closely.
While I don’t think the show needs a conspiracy theory, I am intrigued to see where this is all heading. I mean, the show has already set up the mental breakdown of Michael, the fact that he is now hallucinating, him trying to deal with moving in one reality AND the fact that he might have to deal with a serial killer in another. Amongst all of this, does Awake truly have to have an ulterior motive to why Michael crashed his car? It doesn’t seem so. But with half of the season finished, there have been only a handful of missteps so far. At this point, I do have complete faith in Awake, that the show will deliver, regardless of if it seems unnecessary in the present.