Entertainment Magazine

Review #3530: Awake 1.13: “Turtles All the Way Down”

Posted on the 29 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Story by Kyle Killen, Leonard Chang, and Noelle Valdivia
Teleplay by Kyle Killen
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik

The final episode of Awake didn’t answer the bulk of the questions I had coming into it, least of all which world depicted throughout the season was the “real” world, but the last section presents a neat open-ended befitting of the series. It gives rise to more questions that the series unfortunately will not have the chance to answer. What we got in these thirteen episodes that varied somewhat in quality was sometimes a meditation on what it’s like to mourn the loss of a loved one and also a standard police procedural.

Review #3530: Awake 1.13: “Turtles All the Way Down”

The last few episodes have had less of the former and more of the latter. This is what sort of happened in the finale. The first half of the episode focused on Detective Britten getting more and more clues to point towards the one person who betrayed him and murdered either Rex or Hannah. The second half reconciles his unique situation of splitting realities and seeing which world survived. The dual nature of the episode (and the series overall) was appealing at first, but proved to be something that couldn’t be sustained in the long haul. So maybe I feel glad that “Awake” is ending now instead of drawing out the string by potentially going to darker and stranger places than it already has shown so far.

If you step back and look at the “conspiracy” to kill Michael and his family, it’s not quite the compelling mystery that it was initially presented to be. Two high-ranking officials in the LAPD covering up a heroin smuggling ring that lined their own pockets with money. The motive is flimsy, and that doesn’t reflect well on Captain Harper’s character. It also doesn’t diminish her betrayal of Michael, a man she has known and worked alongside with for a long time.

The first half of this finale goes through the express motions. Harper decides to get rid of Kessel, which she does do in an effective fashion, making it look like a suicide in an anonymous motel room. It’s interesting to see that Harper has a continuing romantic fling with Kessel, although there’s little depth to the relationship because we’ve seen so little of them together. All of that is occurring in the Rex world while Michael struggles to function in the Hannah world. He can be forgiven for that because he was shot in the gut by Hawkins at the end of the previous episode.

Michael’s actions in the Hannah world are strangely compelling, as he enlists Dr. Lee’s help not only from a mental standpoint, but a physical one as Michael forces the doctor to treat the gunshot wound. Were it not for Vega giving Michael up to the police, he might possibly have died in the Hannah world. Honestly, there was a little part of me that wanted to see that happen just to see how the writers could have dealt with Michael’s death in one of the realities. In the Hannah world, he ends up in jail, and the episode dovetails both worlds in a really perplexing scene where Michael meets himself on both sides of the prison visitors’ glass booth.

That scene is key because it clarifies which world is “real” and which one is Michael’s overactive imagination. I’ve been of the thought that the Hannah world was real and the Rex world was the dream. So the writers pulled one over on me. The Rex world is “real” and the Hannah world is the dream. The scene that follows is also key, as both worlds start merging together with the appearance of Detective Vega in a penguin suit showing Michael the key piece of evidence that proves Captain Harper was in on the conspiracy that destroyed the Britten family. Combined with all of the evidence he got from both worlds, Michael puts the entire puzzle together. The broken high heel, the name “Edward Munte”, Hawkins, the storage unit with the heroin.

After a heartbreaking goodbye scene with his wife (a gorgeously-lit scene with both of them expressing a lot of emotion along with their history together in just a few lines of dialogue), Michael confronts Captain Harper and brings her down. I should say that the fact that he didn’t shoot her was not a surprise to me. The case is solved, and yet, Michael doesn’t feel that good sense of accomplishment. He feels only emptiness, which is understandable. He won’t see his wife again. She was killed for a small thing: heroin and money.

It’s at that point that things get even weirder. Dr. Evans freezes in place, and Michael walks through another door. What is on the other side? A third world, one where both Rex and Hannah survive. So yes, in a sense, an ending like that might invalidate what happened in the series prior (it also skips a concrete explanation for why and how Michael created both realities in the first place). But it also presents an interesting possibility: Michael suffers a full-on mental break from reality here, as prescribed by Dr. Lee throughout the episode. The case is solved, yet he’s not willing to let go of losing any of his family members so he has to create a reality where both survived as another coping mechanism.

We could also consider the possibility that Michael is dead along with Rex and Hannah in the accident, and that the final scene of the episode was essentially Michael’s form of an afterlife. These are maddening questions presented by the open-ended nature of the episode, but it’s a futile task to dwell on them since the show will not continue. So, I view it as an imperfect perfect ending for a show that was always too unorthodox to be on a broadcast network.

Grade: 8/10

(Series Final Average: 7.8)


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