Hear that? That's the sound of your TV alarm clock, reminding you that Awake—NBC's long-awaited and critically acclaimed fantasy crime procedural—finally premieres tonight.
We fell hard for the pilot but lost sleep (ahem) worrying that Awake's premise might be too complex for network television. (Basically, a grieving homicide detective subconsciously created dual realities, one with his wife and one with his son, after a tragic car accident kills one of them.) Plus, after the show's production hiatus last fall, we feared that meant tweaking everything we loved about the psychological thriller.
Then we hit the Awake set, where the producers and star Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter's Lucius Malfoy) reassured us and answered our burning questions. And we've now seen the first four episodes and can promise you that the show continues to be amazing.
1. It's Not a Sci-Fi Show: Creator Kyle Killen emphasizes that there is nothing supernatural about Awake. "It's a serialized crime procedure—it's not a Fringe that asks you to delve into sci-fi," he told us. "It's a human story, and the crimes of the week are told on that level." The central mystery, insists Isaacs, is "incredibly simple": "Which of my worlds is real? And what would you do if you didn't know which world is real?"
2. You Won't Be Confused (Pinky-Swear): It's very obvious to viewers which version of Michael's reality you're watching. Although he sports a different-colored bracelet to remind himself which world he's inhabiting, the show uses a subtle visual device that makes it obvious for viewers. The version in which his son (Dylan Minnette from Lost) is alive is layered with a watery blue filter, and Britten usually wears blue himself. In contrast, his wife's reality is infused with a brighter, golden hue, and Britten often sports white shirts.
3. The True Reality Won't Be Revealed This Season: Let's get one thing straight: Although Britten and his partners (Wilmer Valderrama in his wife's world; Steve Harris in his son's world) solve a crime every episode, "We have no plans anytime soon to reveal" which reality is real, Killen told us. "It's not the focus—it's the thing he's trying to protect himself from, the thing he runs from." Rest assured, the writers and Isaacs know which one reality is real. "We have a very long-term secret planned for exactly what's going to happen, but our lips are sealed," Isaacs said, laughing: "I don't think even our wives know."
4. That Car Accident Was No Accident: One mystery will be solved by the finale of the 13-episode season. Britten doesn't know it, but he was an intended victim of the crash that killed his wife/son. And, says EP Howard Gordon (24, Homeland), "there is a meta-design to this first season—the conspiracy in the pilot really does come back around at the end." Central to this conspiracy is sinister police captain Laura Innes (The Event)—the only other person, Isaacs points out, whose character overlaps both stories.
5. Britten's Dreams Make Him a Kickass Detective: The clues Britten finds in one world help him solve crimes in the other world, which he explains as "hunches" to his curious colleagues, that are improving his solve rate in both worlds. "He's a very instinctive human being," Isaacs explains, "and because of what's happened to his wife and son, maybe his antennae are even more available to him, or maybe he's more sensitive to what's going on around him. But there's stuff that goes on in his world that he doesn't really register, but his subconscious does, and it gets explored in his dreams." Everyone should be so productive in their sleep!
Finally, know this: Contrary to some media reports, when the show halted production last fall, the producers were not reworking the scripts or the storyline. "It wasn't about change," Killen told us. "For us it was about catching up and making sure that the things that came at the latter half were as good and as polished as the ones that came in the beginning."
Awake premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC.
(NBC and E! are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
For more scoop on Awake, including how the Brit's fake American accent (like Britten's dreams!) is affecting other areas of his life, check out our interview above. And after you've watched the show, share your reactions in tonight's Save It or Sink It poll!