NBC’s Awake concluded its thirteen episode run last night with a thriller of a finale, ending with a last scene that packed so much emotion and heart that it was one of my favorite moments of television this year. As Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) walked into his kitchen to find not only his son, Rex, but also his wife Hannah, it was emotionally satisfying and heartwarming for me as a viewer. Throughout the first season of Awake, I have grown to care so deeply about Michael and his relationships with both Rex and Hannah that having the final shot of the series being Michael smiling at the two of them and simply saying “I’m good…I’m perfect” could not have felt more fulfilling.
However, the fact that both Rex and Hannah were there waiting for Michael does beg the question: what exactly happened to allow Michael to see them again? What does the ending of Awake actually mean? There are many conclusions that one could draw from the series finale: Michael died from the gunshot wound that he suffered and was thus reunited with both his wife and son in the afterlife; Hannah and Rex were actually alive the whole time and the entire series up until the last scene was just a dream; or that Michael somehow created a new reality, a new dream for himself, that put his family back together again.
Personally, I am a fan of the last option, especially because of the scene between Michael and his therapist in the Rex-Universe, Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones), that preceded the closing moments. In this scene, Michael, who had earlier in the episode said goodbye to his wife and the Hannah-Universe in order to thwart Captain Harper and her conspiracy in the Rex Universe, tells Dr. Evans that the arrest of Harper does not provide him with any closure. He still is searching for the right solution to his family being broken apart, and even though he believed solving the mystery behind the crash and putting those responsible behind bars would achieve this, it fails to make him feel any better. Dr. Evans empathizes with Michael but commends him on his ability to let go of his wife, to realize that his life with her was not real. Michael tells her that he is not so sure that he was dreaming the life with Hannah and then asks Dr. Evans what does the term “reality” actually mean; who is to say what is real to one person is real for another?
As Dr. Evans begins to argue with him, she is suddenly frozen time, and Michael leaves through the door of her office, only to walk into his own home, where he finds Hannah and Rex. I took this scene to signify that the Rex-Universe is real life, but Michael can still not let go of Hannah, still not let go of the dream. Therefore, he creates a new reality, or new dream, where all three of them are alive and together. It does not matter if the world he is living is not technically “real,” because to Michael, all that matters is being together with his family and feeling the realness of their love.
In a way, it’s a perfect ending for Awake, which was always at its best when it focused on the emotional connections between Michael and his family instead of the case-of-the-week procedural aspects of the show. A lot of Awake’s finale forces the audience to feel for Michael while also simultaneously making them ponder and question what is going on. The fact that in the end it does not matter for Michael about what is “real” and what is not should speak for Awake as a whole. For me, it never mattered which reality was a dream; the most important and interesting part of this show was seeing a broken man try to hold his family together in the only way he knew how. Michael’s moments of pain, joy, despair, and, ultimately, his final moment of happiness is what will resonate with me as I continue to think about Awake.
Now, I want to ask you, the readers, what did you think of the finale? What do you think happened at the end? Were you satisfied or left wanting more? Also, for more thoughts on the finale and the entire series as a whole check out this article from TVRage with thoughts from Awake creator Kyle Killen, where he talks about the show’s ending and what he takes away from the series.