‘Awake’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 7): Pentimento
On this week’s Awake, Michael investigates a really boring conspiracy and two really interesting cases.
In the red world, Michael and Hannah are preparing to put their house on the market so they can move to Portland, and Michael stresses about how to break the news to Captain Harper that he’s resigning. Later, Michael goes through the drive through at a Mexican restaurant, and hallucinates that the drive through tells him he can’t to go Portland until he’s uncovered the truth about the “Westfield” case. This refers to an empty building he was investigating prior to the accident, but when he goes to look there, there’s nothing going on there. In the green world, Dr. Evans thinks he’s just inventing a case to thwart his own move.
As usual, the episode follows two different cases. In the green world, college student Sabrina Ferris jumped off a building after throwing herself at Tim an unpopular, overweight classmate. Sabrina’s father explains that she never had any interest in Tim, but Tim was always interested in her because she was the only person who was nice to him. The autopsy shows vaginal tearing, which seems to indicate that she was raped, so Tim’s being charged with sexual assault.
Meanwhile in the red world, a body’s been found in the concrete foundation from a construction site three years ago. Michael makes the obvious Han Solo joke. It appears to be a match for Pablo Cabrera, an immigrant who had gone missing only a month after arriving in the states. Michael and Vega inform Jose, Pablo’s brother, about the body. Michael notice’s Jose’s tattoo: a tiger resembling the school mascot of Sabrina’s college.
So in the green world, Michael visits that college, where he meets Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend Chris. Apparently, the same day she had sex with Tim, she tried to get Chris to have sex with her as well. Chris refused, because he noticed she wasn’t acting like herself. He suggests to Michael that he might find the truth in Sabrina’s diary. This leads Michael to think Tim didn’t rape her–someone else did. Sure enough, she turns out to have been four weeks pregnant, and apparently she wanted to sleep with someone so they would think they were the father.
In both worlds, Michael keeps going back to that empty building, not knowing he’s being watched in the red world by Captain Harper and that mysterious guy from the second episode, now known as Carl. Apparently there’s something there that they don’t want him to find, and Carl’s prepared to take drastic measures. Later, Michael and Vega talk to the foreman of the construction sight, and learn about a sketchy figure who went by the nickname El Diablo, and had a devil tattoo. The foreman says some racist stuff which pisses Vega off, and Michael threatens him with code violations.
In the green world, Michael and Bird go looking for Sabrina’s diaries, and while searching her room they realize that there are marks on the floor indicating it’s commonly barricaded–a sign that the father has been abusing his two daughters. They take him in but have no real proof he molested his kids, so they need testimony from Sabrina’s little sister Ally. She’s reluctant to talk at first, but some empathy from Captain Harper draws the truth out. So the dad get arrested. Serves ’im right.
In the red world, Dr. Lee tells Michael that the warehouse is a dead end. He’s revising his past to create a case to stop him moving, like when painters paint over their old art and change a work–a process known as pentimento. This gives Michael a flash of inspiration–El Diablo has a devil tattoo, and Jose’s tattoo could well be an alteration of that tattoo.
Once they have Jose in custody they learn the truth–he’s not Jose, he’s Pablo. The man encased in concrete is Jose. They looked into Jose’s employment records and found pictures of a completely different guy. Jose, or rather, Pablo confesses that he and his brother got into a fight about Pablo’s deadbeat attitude, and although he didn’t intend any real harm, Jose hit his head and died. Pablo saw the opportunity and took it, using the new identity as a way to turn his life around, but he was always haunted by the truth. Hey, doesn’t this sound a little familiar to anyone else?
Anyway, Dr. Evans and Dr. Lee manage to convince Michael that the Westfield “conspiracy” is nothing more than an invention of his own brain, to keep him from moving. So in the red world, Michael finally tells Captain Harper that he’s resigning and moving to Portland. After he leaves her office, Harper calls Carl and tells him to call off his hit men. Huh.
This is the first reappearance of Awake’s “conspiracy” since episode two, and I have to say I don’t feel any better about it now than I did then. The storytelling here seems so silly and insubstantial, and it’s kind of at odds with what I see as the whole ethos of the show: the choice to take “reality” at face value rather than investigating the underlying facts. The trailer heavily played up the conspiracy aspect of this episode, so I was worried, but while those parts of this episode aren’t particularly successful, the cases themselves really are.
I was constantly struck by how well the show does emotional moments, like Tim’s testimony about how Sabrina was the only person who was ever nice to him, Pablo’s confession about how he stole his brother’s identity, Harper’s interrogation of Ally, and Vega’s reaction to the racist construction worker. That’s one of the things Awake has been doing really well, and when it’s as good as it is here it makes the more problematic parts a bit easier to swallow.
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