Better living through fractured consciousness. Also, a very important motorcycle.
While it initially seemed like Michael Britten is living in two different realities, it now looks more like he's living in two disparate halves that aren't too far away from coming together.
One of the more interesting elements of last week's pilot episode was the fact that Michael's two realities are informing each other, and that connections or conclusions he comes to in one can carry over into the other. Certainly, as seen in "The Little Guy", it can help his detective work. He solves the murder of a fertility doctor in one reality by following the clues in the case he's working in the other (that being the murder of the alternate version of that same doctor, who is a homeless man). However, the case in the Hannah Reality (somebody's going to have to figure out a more succinct way of referring to these alternate realities), goes unsolved. Dr. Evans, who's excited about the fact that Michael's unconscious mind is acting in this way, posits that Michael doesn't find the killer in the Hannah Reality because he's trying to solve the riddle of his family.
Michael and Hannah find out that young Rex had been receiving his mail at his best friend's house. Hannah initially can't bring herself to open up the package addressed to Rex, as doing so would be too depressing for her. Eventually, she bites the bullet and it leads her to finding out something new about her late son: Rex and his buddy Cole had taken some initiative to secretly build their own motorcycle when their parents said they couldn't have one. The motorcycle isn't so important, but Hannah is affected by what it represents: Rex' independent spirit and his drive to work hard and get what he wants for himself. It's a piece of her departed son that she gets to discover and keep, and Hannah is profoundly amazed by this. Laura Allen plays this piece of Hannah's emotional awakening so gorgeously when she talks about how it's good to feel something other than devastation when she thinks about Rex. It's a way for her to take her first step away from overwhelming grief and to live her life again. It's all very moving and wonderful.
The motorcycle looms large in the Rex Reality as well. While Michael spends much of this episode unable to relate to Rex without Hannah there, he eventually realizes that the motorcycle is something the boy needs at this point in his life. As a result, rather than blow up at Rex, he encourages him and uses it as a way to bond with him. Late in the episode, after the motorcycle is discovered and accepted in both realities, we are treated to a lovely montage that draws the parallel between what the bike means in the two realities.
The shot of Michael watching his wife and his son ride the bike around the block cements the assertion he made to Dr. Lee in the pilot episode about how living this way is the only way Michael can keep his family together. It's not the best solution, but he'll take it. This leads to some friction in the Hannah Reality, as Michael and Dr. Lee argue over whether or not Michael should try to free himself of his delusions. The interplay between the two psychotherapists continues to fascinate, not just because they never meet each other. They use two different theories to guide Michael through his dream issues, but while Dr. Evans is wide-eyed and excited about the development of Michael's realities tapping into each other, Dr. Lee stands firm in his belief that Michael must live in one reality as doing otherwise prevents him from truly dealing with the death of his son. They obviously don't agree with each other, but all they have to interact with is Michael, who is warming up to Dr. Evans while bristling at Dr. Lee's demands. While Dr. Evans is nurturing and always willing to hear more, Dr. Lee is confrontational and even a little frustrated. Neither one of them is willing to indulge the other's tactics, and Michael's interaction with the two therapists encapsulates their relationship with each other.
With all the good in the show so far, "The Little Guy" ends with a troubling development. Michael's boss (Laura Innes) in the Hannah Reality gets in his face about his obsession with solving the murder of the homelss guy, and at the end of the episode is seen pulling a cloak and dagger move by having a secret meeting with some mystery dude, who is implied to have engineered the accident that killed Rex in that reality (which wouldn't make it an accident anymore). Does a show like Awake have room for some kind of overarching conspiracy plotline? It would be tough for a show like this to get by on tone alone, but one hopes there would be enough mystery and sustainable character drama in Michael's story without having to introduce some kind of goofy play at intrigue and Hollywood style conflict. Until we see how this plays out, let's remain cautiously optimistic.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch