'Awake' finale react: What just happened?
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Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the season/series finale of NBC’s Awake, stop reading now. If you have, share your theories on the ending and any burning questions you have in the comments section. We’re chatting with creator Kyle Killen Friday afternoon and will see what we can get him to answer. UPDATE: Here’s our interview with Killen where he addresses fans’ theories and where the series was headed.
I think what Killen and Jason Isaacs told us was accurate: It was a satisfying ending to the series in that we got an emotional payoff seeing both Hannah and Rex appear in the house at the end with Michael. It’s what Britten’s wanted all along — to have his family reunited. Of course, after the initial rush of happiness subsides, the questions set in. What’s your theory for what just happened and where the show would have headed in season 2?
Mine: Rex survived the accident and Hannah died. It wasn’t until Britten in the Hannah-is-alive dream world pieced together Capt. Harper’s involvement with the accident that Britten realized if he was going to convict this woman of a crime, he’d had to finally acknowledge that one had occurred and his wife was killed. That’s the deal he’s making with himself when the Michael Brittens meet in the dream jail and the therapists bicker. When he walks through the door and into the motel room where penguin-clad Vega points out how the tip of Harper’s stiletto heel had broken off in the rug, that was Britten, who’d been to the crime scene in reality, remembering it and imagining what would have gone down there because he’d doubted it’d been a suicide. Knowing he has the lead to close the case, he says goodbye to Hannah in the dream world, and we see dream Britten return to real Britten’s body in Rex-is-alive world and awaken. With Harper being interrogated, Britten goes home and sleeps.
The conversation he has with Dr. Evans is just a regular dream like we’d all have with people we know in it. He doesn’t feel closure because even though people are now believing him about the conspiracy, it doesn’t bring Hannah back. If the last dream with her in it felt real, why couldn’t he have another one? If it feels real to him, why isn’t that “real”? Dr. Evans froze because, again, that conversation was a dream Britten was using to reboot a new dream world — one in which he didn’t need to wear a wristband because both Hannah and Rex are alive. “Mornin’, I was beginning to think you’d never get up,” Rex said, which was Britten’s subconscious acknowledging that he’d spent so much time dreaming of Hannah. And when Hannah said, “Look at this, he lives,” it was his subconscious telling him he’s found a way to get through another day — to dream that she’s still alive and they’re a family.
Now, if that sounds at all feasible, the question becomes what does that mean for season 2? As Killen told readers during our live finale chat, producers had to pitch NBC the idea of what they’d do in the first episode of a second season before the network would sign off on the finale script. So, does this mean season 2 would have been Britten teetering back and forth between reality where only Rex lives and this “reality” where Rex and Hannah are both alive? Would that have been as compelling? How would the two worlds be connected without the conspiracy? Would Britten be able to have a new love interest in reality, or, since he created the other “reality” to stay with his wife, would it still feel like cheating to him and to viewers?
Your turn. Hit me with theories and questions. Things to keep in mind:
• In our live chat, Killen said: “The ending you see is the ending we intended for the first season before it even began. It wasn’t hastily slapped together in response to cancellation. It had been shot long before cancellation.” Asked how we should interpret the final shot, he quoted a reader named Alicen Nielsen who’d said, “Britten questions the rules of reality and makes his own. BRILLIANT.” There was only one ending shot.
• We may not get a straight answer from him about who’s alive and who isn’t: “If your question is simply ‘Which is real?’ I can’t help you. We didn’t approach the show that way. It was about a man living two lives, not a man trying to figure out which was real and which wasn’t,” he said in the chat. “We have our own answers, but really prefer to leave it open for interpretation and debate.” (I respect that, but I’d also really like to know what the people who spent eight months or longer working on the show thought.)
• In our pre-show chat, Isaacs said this wasn’t a sci-fi show. “One of those worlds is a dream,” he said. “It’s not a rip in the fabric of time. It’s not string theory. It was nothing more or less extraordinary than a man who had been in a terrible car crash and could not bear to lose either his wife or his son, so he unconsciously constructed a whole universe in his head. It is a man who is teetering under the weight of this psychological denial.” So I wouldn’t read too much into Britten’s time travel comment to Dr. Evans, though perhaps it’s what planted the seed for him to jump to a time when they could all be together in the dream.
• Killen also said that whatever answer we think we got in the finale might not be the final one on the realities. “When we wrote the episode, we didn’t know it would be the end of the series, so it would have been impossible to answer that question.” He also reminded us the show has a way of flipping things upside down when Britten’s certain he’s got it figured out… So most likely, whatever theory we have now is wrong, anyway?
• In regards to shopping the show to another network, Killen told our live chat readers, “We’re open to another home for the show but the chances are extraordinarily remote, so it’s probably best to think of and enjoy it as a miniseries.” He explained why in our pre-show interview: “There’s so many things aligned against you. Another network doesn’t want damaged goods from a competitor. It’s hard when you’re moving from network to cable, because the budgets and the deals are structured differently. So it’s sort of worse than starting from scratch.” Instead of trying to find the show a new home, he’d love for fans to start an Emmy campaign for Isaacs (who did some amazing work in the final three episodes). “Honestly, if you want to take up a cause, that’s the one to run with,” he said in the live chat. “You probably can’t save the show, but you could certainly help him get his due.”
• And just because, my favorite exchange in our live chat with Killen: “Kyle, what did Harper win the trophies in her office for?” His answer: “TREACHERY!”