For those who haven't watched it, I strongly encourage you to go to Hulu or use the power of Google to discover this detective mystery/fantasy/drama. For those who have, I'm sure you've got your own theory as to what the heck is going on.
If you're an avid "Awake" fan, don't read on unless you have watched the first 11 episodes and/or don't care about how the series may end. If I'm right about my theory, there'll be a ton of spoilage going on.
WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!!
So the premise of the show is truly unique: After a car accident, Detective Michael Britten now is experiencing two realities: One in which his wife died in the accident but his son survived, the other in which his wife survived and son died.
When he falls asleep in one reality, he wakes up in another. As you can imagine, keeping track of what's happening in which reality is totally messing with Britten's head. To make things weirder, these realities share common as well as obscure links as he tries to solve crimes in these two realities. In many cases, a trivial event in one reality turns into a major crime-solving clue in the other reality.
The net result is that Britten has become a genius crime-solver who has to see two shrinks, both of which claim they exist in the "real" world, and who apparently never gets to sleep.
Furthermore, having his wife in one reality and his son in the other creates some crazy situations for his family (I'm keeping this part vague).
Honestly, the initial premise of the TV show sounds gimmicky, but it's executed flawlessly. The actor who plays Britten (Jason Isaacs) is perfect for the part.
2ND WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!!
So have you watched all 11 episodes yet? If you haven't, you really should stop reading this. Continue at your own peril.
So the whole premise for watching, ultimately, is to find out what the hell is really going on with Britten. And the obvious mystery: Which of the two realities is the "real" reality and which is just a dream?
This is what got me hooked into "Awake" -- trying to figure out his mystery. And although it took me 11 episodes, I think I figured it out. Read on if you want to know how (I think) "Awake" will end.
FINAL WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!!
FINAL WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!!
FINAL WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!!
OK, so let's go crack the "Awake" code. Let's start this deductively, by first eliminating some of the more obvious and common theories.
Theory 1a: Wife Is Real, Son Is Dream
Theory 1b: Son Is Real, Wife Is Dream
The show would have you believe that it must be one of these theories. And while either scenario is technically plausible, from a storytelling viewpoint, neither is acceptable. Assuming the series gets a proper wrap-it-all-up ending, at the end at least half the storyline never existed if you accept one of these theories. It's the equivalent of a middle finger to the viewing audience: "Hey, we just got you emotionally invested in two worlds but we just made one up for the hell of it."
Also, it's too damn obvious of a conclusion. And as you watch the episodes, there are no hints dropped that make you think one is more of a dream than the other. There are better theories than this.
Theory 2a: Britten Is In a Coma, It's All A Dream (and Wife and Son Are Probably Alive)
Theory 2b: The Entire Family Is In a Coma, The Wife Is Sharing The Dream With Dad, and The Son Is Sharing a Second Dream With Dad
So for a while I came up with and believed Theory 2a for a while, mainly when Britten started seeing hallucinations as well as the fact that there was just way too much crossover going on between the two realities. And under this theory, I presumed that when Britten solves the mystery behind his car accident, or some other catharsis with his wife and son, he'd wake up in his hospital bed with his wife and son waiting for him. Happy ending and all.
That theory works ... but it has a nagging flaw. You see, a few episodes in the show totally breaks this paradigm by showing scenes WITHOUT Britten in them. So part of me was like, "well they have to tell the story somehow" but the other part of me was like "this totally destroys the theory." You don't dream unless you're in the dream.
So that lead me to Theory 2b to explain this discrepancy. The entire family is in a coma: Wife and Britten share this "mind-meld" while in a coma, and his son and Britten share a second "mind-meld" reality. So at some point, all three will wake up and hug each other, realizing that they shared some crazy X-Files-type paranormal dream state. Happy ending and all.
Theory 2b held up pretty well ... until episode 11 just destroyed it. And revealed the true secret to understanding the show.
FINAL WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead!!! No Turning Back At This Point!!!
I don't know if the show's producers were aware the show might be canceled by the time they produced episode 11, but if they did, it makes sense. Episode 11 was a gamechanger because it introduced a boatload of new twists to the storyline, and finally spelled out what the endgame is for Britten.
And for better or worse, it gave away the show's secret by being too clever about it. But I suppose at this point, facing certain cancellation, there's no need to hold back the storyline any more.
So the major spoiler for episode 11 is this: The car crash was no accident; another police officer tried to kill him on purpose. Ostensibly to cover up another crime.
This revelation was revealed by an imaginary figure that pops into Britten's reality who just happens to look just like the police officer. Britten all of a sudden has a flashback that this guy tried to run him off the road, and remembered that he was at the accident site as well (pretending to help as a cop responding to the accident he caused).
There's a crucial scene where you see this bad cop look down at Britten, then look off camera (presumably to some unknown co-conspirator) and shaking his head "no" -- the implication is that bad cop failed to killed Britten and he's still alive.
If you thought that, you were dead wrong. Literally.
They repeat this scene several times in the episode, marking its importance. There are two crucial "aha" moments here. The first: It's clear that Britten survived the crash and was conscious when he saw this "bad cop" ... so why didn't he remember his face when he saw him again? The second is this: What if the "bad cop" shaking his head no means the OPPOSITE of what the show wants us to believe.
More fundamentally, what if "Awake" establishes a major red herring that would totally shock you once you realized how the show was really set up to be interpreted in a much different manner?
So once I took the show under this new theory, it all comes together in a neat package. Everything fits perfectly. So what is this theory?
The 'Sixth Sense' Theory: Britten Died In the Car Crash (Or Is In Purgatory), The Two Realities are HIS WIFE'S Coma Dream and HIS SON'S Coma Dream, and Britten Is a "Ghost" Who Drifts Between The Two Dreams
One of the things that nagged at me was how a detective like Britten, who doesn't seem to have a particularly creative mind, could create two highly detailed realities. This theory overcomes that issue.
Episode 11 really lays the groundwork for this theory. First off, it proves that imaginary people can travel from one reality to another. The show sets up the pretense that Britten is a "real" person ... but what if he's just a spirit capable of jumping into dreams?
But you ask, if Britten's dead, how the hell did he get into his wife's coma dream and his son's coma dream? Here's where "Sixth Sense" logic comes in handy. According to that movie, when dead people turn into ghosts, their spirits won't rest until they "fix" something wrong in the living world.
Britten solves mysteries; perhaps the thing he's supposed to "fix" (aside from his family relationships) is to solve HIS OWN murder. So he can rest in peace.
So when the "bad cop" shakes his head no, let's interpret that as "Britten didn't survive the crash" and that when we see Britten wide awake while his wife and son are knocked out, it's because in reality, he already died. That explains why he didn't remember seeing the "bad cop" before the car crash.
So if you can accept the idea that Britten is really a spirit, then it explains how he can enter and exit two different dreams without needing any sleep.
This also makes sense cinematically. They use a red filter for the wife and a blue filter for the son. While it's obviously done so you can tell which reality you're watching, it also aligns with the concept that these dreams could be separate entities.
Furthermore, the scenes without Britten now fit under this theory. If this is the wife's dream, then you'd expect to see scenes with just her in them. Same with the son.
So wait a sec ... so why all these mysteries? Is the wife and son actually dreaming them up? In the "Inception" sense, yes. They created the worlds these mysteries reside in. Britten is merely participating in them, projecting his mysteries, clues and presence to influence the coma-state dreams of his wife and son. While his wife and son never witness the crime-solving parts, they see when Britten is at home with them after solving those crimes.
So if the series is allowed to end neatly, I predict that the last episode will see Britten solving his own murder-by-car-crash, and transmitting enough information to his wife and son to give to Britten's detective partners to put all the baddies in jail once they awake from their comas.
It'll probably have some sort of cathartic moment when Britten realizes he's been dead all along, but before splitting the scene, say a proper farewell to his wife and son, so that when they wake up from their comas, they will be prepared to spend their lives without him. I also wouldn't be surprised if they name an important plot point in the show Michael in honor of dead ol' dad.
The final final scene would probably be at Michael's grave site, and at that point, the wife and son will share some comment that makes them realize that it wasn't just an ordinary dream, but that it was really Michael's spirit with them all along. Thus completing the blowing of the minds.
Thanks for reading this long-winded analysis of "Awake" -- I know it's dumb for a poorly rated show to take over my mind and blog like this, but what can I say ... I like solving a good mystery.