The Series Finale of Awake: Perfectly Satisfying for the Head and the Heart

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The second half post contains major spoilers for the final episode of Awake, and the beginning of the spoilers is clearly marked.

I wasn’t going to write about last night’s series finale of Awake.  But as I watched the final moments of the episode, I found myself a little misty-eyed, and I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

via amazon.com – © NBC

You see, what Awake managed to do was create a finale that was satisfying on both an intellectual and emotional level – a rarity for a cancelled program.  When I think back to some other programs I watched that ended their run after thirteen episodes, none of them felt as complete as Awake’s “Turtles All the Way Down” did.  The Nine revealed a huge plot twist in its final moments, and the attempt honestly felt tacked-on.  Kings wrapped up one chapter of its story, clearly setting the stage for future stories.  The closest I can think of to the perfection of the Awake finale was Journeyman, which satisfied on a human level but didn’t wrap up quite so neatly as Awake.

That said, even though there was a sense of finality to the Awake finale, that doesn’t mean that a second season couldn’t have existed.  The final moments of Awake contained just enough ambiguity to fuel future seasons, and that, I think, is what made it so special.

Below, I will attempt to sift through what happened in the Awake finale, so spoilers follow from now on!

Everything about “Turtles All the Way Down” pointed to the conclusion that the Red World, in which Hannah survived the crash, was the dream.  Events seemed more surreal – and Britten’s actions more erratic.  When Green World Britten came to visit Red World Britten in prison, I just knew that this one had to be the dream.

The scene in which Dr. Lee and Dr. Evans follow Britten down the hallway only solidified this feeling.  Green World Dr. Evans says, “This is fantastic,” which Red World Dr. Lee says, “This is madness.”  Of course Dr. Evans would be glad that Britten has finally realized the truth, and Dr. Lee wouldn’t want Britten to proceed with this realization because it would then mean that all of the Red World – including Dr. Lee – would cease to exist.

If I had any doubts that the Red World was the dream, the scenes that followed smashed them.  Everything about Britten’s goodbye to Hannah was so final that it seemed like solid proof that Hannah was dead.  And the image of the two Brittens meshing into each other seemed like the nail in the coffin.

If only things were so simple.  I should have known that Awake would throw a wrench in this seemingly tidy answer.  When Dr. Evans froze in the middle of talking to Britten, I at first thought something was wrong with my TV.  But then the door opened – and Britten crossed the threshold into perhaps a third world in which both Rex and Hannah are still alive.

The beauty of this scene is hard to put into words.  Suffice to say that, however hokey it may be, seeing the whole Britten family together – and not in a flashback – just worked.  But was it real?  That is the question.

Given the mind shenanigans of Awake, it’s entirely possible that the final scene of “Turtles All the Way Down” was just a dream within a dream.  Britten said in “Say Hello to My Little Friend” that he would do anything to have another moment with his son.  Imagine what he’d do to see his wife and son with him again.  The final image of Awake shows Britten closing his eyes before the screen goes to black.  Would the hypothetical second season have opened with Britten awaking in the Green World having just had the most splendid dream?

Regardless of the answer to these questions, Britten had the chance to see his wife and son together with him once more, giving both him and us the audience closure.  I daresay that I cannot think of a more perfect way that Awake could have ended.

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