‘Awake’ Recap (Series Finale): Penguins All The Way Down
So which world is real, anyway?
If you were watching Awake specifically to get an answer to that question, which is to say, because you wanted to know whether “reality” could be found in the red world, the green world, both worlds, or neither world, or to learn a little bit more about the mechanism by which he was moving from one world to the other, then I’m sorry you wasted thirteen hours. Really, I am.
But from the very beginning, Michael made it clear to his therapists (and to the viewers) that discovering the truth about reality was not his concern, and that he would actively avoid it. And this is a finale which remains true to that declaration, and provides a decently realized (if flawed) send-off for the characters and premise.
Anyhow. Remember how I was wondering if Green Harper might be a bit more innocent than her Red counterpart? Well, the first scene proves me wrong: she’s much more ruthless than the in-over-her-head Harper of the red world. Harper arranges to meet with Captain Kessel in a sketchy motel, and then shoots him in the head, worried that he’ll drag her down with him when Michael and Bird come after him.
Which they do: after finding the heroin in Kessel’s storage locker, the police search for him, only to find his body. After surveying the motel room scene, Michael’s a it disappointed. It’s so anticlimactic–he’d wanted to take down Kessel himself. Kill him even.
Michael wakes up in the red world, where he’s been seriously wounded by a gunshot. Hawkins is driving him to his own precinct so he can murder him and have Kessel cover it up, but Michael manages to kick in Hawkins’ seat, cause an accident, and escape. Michael goes running to Dr. Lee’s house and forces him at gunpoint to take him to the storage locker, but there’ no heroin there. Michael gets mad when Dr. Lee tries to phone 911, and locks him in the locker.
Still bleeding badly, Michael arranges a meeting with Vega. He tells Vega to ask Harper for help, still thinking he can trust her. But Harper introduces Vega to Dr. Lee, who convinces him that michael is delusional. Vega turns Michael into the police and after convalescing he winds up in prison. When Harper comes to visit Michael, he sees her get a phone call from Ed Munte, which he remembers is the pseudonym under which Kessel checked into that motel in the green world. Realizing Harper’s been behind this whole thing, Michael tries to strangle her, and has to be pulled off of her by four guards.
That’s when things get really weird. Michael’s next visitor is… himself from the green world? After Red and Green Michaels agree they need to stop Harper, Green Michael opens all the doors in the prison for Red Michael to escape. It’s very clearly becoming obvious that the red world–or whatever this is–is a dream. In a long corridor in the prison, Michael approaches a glowing door. He’s followed by Dr. Lee and Dr. Evans, who bicker over whether the door represents a breakthrough for Michael (Evans) or a further depth of psychosis (Lee). But when he tells them to shut up they both disappear.
Through the door is Kessel’s motel room, where Vega is wearing a big penguin costume. Penguin Vega shows Michael that the heel of Harper’s shoe broke when she killed Kessel, and the tip was left behind at the scene–the clue he needs to take her down. Then he disappears from that place and shows up on a date with Hannah. He confesses to her that all of the wackiness he’s seen over the past couple of minutes has made him worry that the red world might just be a dream, which makes him reluctant to take down Harper because it might end the red world. But Hannah will hear none of it, and tells him to go get Harper. A door appears taking him back to his bedroom, where he lies down in bed and wakes up again in the green world.
Michael locks himself in a room with Harper and tells her about the heel. He also says that he looked into the name Edward Munte, and the pseudonym has been used in connection with her credit card. As Harper realizes the jig is up, Michael pulls a gun on her. But when Bird bangs on the door, Michael lets justice take its course.
Michael talks to Dr. Evans, who thinks this whole escapade has invalidated the red world once and for all. Michael’s not so sure. Just because the Red World devolved from realism into surrealism doesn’t necessarily make the realistic parts less real–maybe the red and green worlds are both real, and the only “dream” was the weird stuff that happened to him. He doesn’t know how this works, so who’s to say?
While Dr. Evans is forming a response to this, the world suddenly freezes, and a door appears leading back to Michael’s home. After he walks through, he realizes that he is not wearing a rubber band. This is a world without a color filter. And indeed, both his wife and his son are there, happy, safe, and alive. Michael is finally happy.
But am I? More or less, yeah. This was another really spectacularly done episode, with some great dramatic moments and some real emotional stakes that directly followed from the show’s premise, even though the show didn’t really resolve that premise. There’s plenty of room to interpret the ending. You might choose to say that this new world is finally reality, but that seems pretty problematic because if this is reality then there was no reason for Michael’s psychotic break. You could instead say that the Red World has been disproven, but that Michael is digging deeper into his fantasy by inventing the ideal world for himself.
But the “right” answer is really that it doesn’t matter. The ending shows Michael free from the two-world dichotomy in favor of a more complex, less defined situation. On the one hand, this opens up a whole host of other possibilities that might have been explored in the show’s second season, but on the other hand, it also functions as a pretty solid resolution to the issues raised by the pilot.
Plus, I’m not sure whether any of the narrative possibilities set up here would actually have been any good. I get the sense that this finale might have been better as a conclusion than as a starting point for something new. I’m going to miss seeing Awake on my TV every week, but at least it got the chance to air 13 really strong episodes. I’m sure another world out there where it didn’t.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook