Dear person who tried to start a flame war with me on Facebook because I disliked the finale of a TV show that you, apparently, love, on the one hand I thank you. If it weren’t for your completely overblown reaction, I probably wouldn’t have written this post. On the other hand, sit down and STFU. See, what happened was this:
Warning: There. Will. Be. Spoilers.
Did you hear about the TV show, Awake? Yeah, not a lot of people did, which is really too bad. It was a good show. Jason Isaacs, who was the horrible Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series, lost his blond creepster wig and starred as Detective Michael Britten, a police officer who along with his wife and son was in an awful car crash. Either the wife or the son died, but Britten doesn’t know which because he fluctuates between dream state and reality so completely that he’s never sure when he’s awake or asleep. He’s basically splitting his time between two realities, both of which feel legitimate to him. As I am completely enamored of anything that resembles liminality, I couldn’t help myself, I had to watch a show that played with the liminal as a driving force behind the plot. Much as it pains me, though, I could also see how it was maybe a little too cerebral for network TV and I wasn’t surprised when I heard NBC yanked it. And, they decided not to renew it fairly early in the show’s season. That’s fine, that’s cool, the producers were given enough time to create a wrap for the series, and they’d done so well at manipulating the two timelines. I had faith in them. I was a little bit bummed when I tuned in to the finale, but hey, what’cha gonna do, right? *clink* Here’s to a good run.
And not good-woah. Cop-out-finale-woah.
I’ll spare you all the details, but suffice to say, I still don’t know what happened to Detective Britten. It’s totally unclear. Did he, as was briefly mentioned during a session with one of his alternate (or was it real?) reality shrinks (since he goes to therapy in both universes), simply create a new, third reality for himself where his wife and child are both alive? If so, then Brazil engineered that sort of ending better, because A) you knew the protagonist had gone mad and B) the question then became, does this movie, in a convoluted way, have a happy ending or not?
If Awake‘s ending is indeed meant to show he’s completely broken with reality, then it’s dissatisfying on a few levels. First, it simply doesn’t successfully portray that break (hence my questions). AND if his complete break with reality is final, then the conspiracy he’s been uncovering and the bad guys the viewers have grown to hate, win. Unlike Brazil, this TV show doesn’t take place within a dystopian totalitarian setting, so Britten conceivably could have gone up against the power structure in place and made a difference. If he willfully broke from reality and created a space for himself where his entire family is alive together, then he went in an instant from a crusading, tragic hero who’s maybe a little dotty, to someone who’s codependent and kind of selfish.
So the dirty cops get to sell all that heroin? Is the short man alive or dead? Which family member really died? Which of his partner cops was a real detective? Did the one partner really get killed? What about the son’s pregnant girlfriend? And to the cynics in the room who think, “Ha! Well, that’s real life, sweetheart. The bad guys win, the good guy checks out one way or another and nobody’s happy at the end,” I say with nary a trace of malice that I DON’T WATCH NBC FOR ITS TIES TO REALITY. I mean, even reality TV doesn’t pretend to be reality, unless you think the contestants on America’s Got Talent (can’t bring myself to link to it, and I don’t apologize) actually have talent. If you want to get real about reality TV, then NBC should have renamed The Biggest Loser, and called it The Hunger Games because there’s for sure got to be a lot of hungry people walking around on that ranch. Tough break that Suzanne Collins has a lock on that title now. (NBC people, call me, we’ll talk.)
Anyway, back to Awake. Too many loose ends. I know it’s a show about liminality, but that doesn’t mean I want the finale–which is by definition a non-liminal event–to leave unanswered questions.
If, on the other hand, it was all a dream and he simply wakes up…I feel CHEATED!!!
Remember when they killed Bobby Ewing at the end of season seven of Dallas, and then brought him back for the end of season eight? And then it was revealed that all of season eight was a dream Pam had?
What kind of lazy plot turn is that? Don’t they pay writers to come up with stuff? Isn’t that, as a creative industry, what the world of TV is supposed to do? Instead, if this was their idea and I’m supposed to believe that all we went through with Detective Britten through the series is a dream? Then…OK, well then he’d better split his reality a third time because he’s not getting nearly enough therapy, and hey, TV execs, thanks for nothing.
There were some good points to the episode. I thought the scene where he confronts himself in jail was well-done, and I loved the scene where he said goodbye to his wife, which was poignant and beautifully written (so I suppose that IS one question answered, since he wouldn’t need to say goodbye to her if she were still alive…unless it was all a dream, in which case him saying goodbye to anyone in the demented world below his forehead doesn’t mean squat). And it was so worth it to see Wilmer Valderrama in a penguin suit, posing as some kind of dreamworld mentor. He’s decidedly more benign than Frank from Donnie Darko, but I would imagine they exist in these furry incarnations for similar purposes.
Sadly, Wilmer Valderrama in a penguin suit can’t make up for a thousand and nine plot holes or a totally lazy way out. And so I voiced my displeasure on the Facebook fan board, because what else is that thing for. What I think I said was, “What the crap with the most dissatisfying ending ever?”
And then someone–whose reply was immediately deleted off thanks to a vigilant staffer at the NBC nerdery, but not before I saw the notification flash up–said, “Clearly you have terrible taste.” I did want to respond, but as I said, vigilant staffer, speedy deletion. If I replied at that time it would have gotten even weirder. But here’s what I would have liked to have said:
Look, I get that you like the show. I get that this show has impact for you, is clearly emotionally relevant and that you’re going to miss it when the next fall lineup starts. But really. A personal attack? On me? I’m not the one who effed up your show on you. I’m not the one who wrote a lazy ending or decided to pull the plug. And if you did really, truly, deeply love the finale and thought it was the best thing you’d ever seen, and I didn’t…so what? That’s like me thinking everyone who doesn’t like to eat chicken are assholes. But even more so, it’s like me defending factory chicken farming against people who like to eat chicken but say that sort of farming method might be unethical, because I feel threatened by your lack of total and unquestioning agreement with me on chicken. I didn’t like the stupid episode, OK? I’m allowed not to like it. Further, I’m entirely allowed to cherry-pick things I did like about it, and evaluate the series episode by episode, if I want. Know what? It won’t reflect one iota on what sort of person you really are, unless you take my opinion personally and start slinging mud. I thought the show embodied faux intellectualism and created more questions than it answered. You’re free to love it all you want, and that doesn’t affect me as a person. But before you go spouting off about my lack of taste, take a minute to think about your lack of class or inability to think about pop culture with an ounce of nuance. I don’t have to love things just because you do. Get over yourself. (I’ll pop-analyze this person’s victim complex somewhere else.)
Some people seriously need to relax.