Season Analysis: Seemingly burdened by a concept that looked like it would work better as a movie or at most a miniseries, Awake did a more than passable job of stretching it out to a full season and looked like it was ready to make it work over multiple seasons if given the chance.
“That’s Not My Penguin”
Most of Awake’s episodes followed the tried-and-true cop show formula to an almost painful degree, but they were always saved (at least somewhat) by the twist that the lead detective was working two separate cases concurrently in two different worlds that tied into each other obliquely. “That’s Not My Penguin” thankfully mixed up the formula by having Detective Britten held hostage by mental hospital patient Gabriel. A hostage situation is not an unusual one for a stunt episode, but it did work strongly in Awake’s favor, allowing it to really take advantage of its premise in astute and truly weird fashion. Gabriel’s mental construction of an alternate reality obviously paralleled Britten’s situation, suggesting that Britten might be crazy enough for institutionalization but also presenting a contrast that showed that even if he is crazy, he has found a way to make it work (for now). Britten’s hallucination of Dr. Lee in the hospital actually served to demonstrate his ingenuity in solving this crisis, and it added to the whole show another layer to chew over by showing that hallucinations could possibly be appearing within Britten’s hallucination/dream. Combine that with the penguin hallucination in the other reality, and it seemed to be that Britten’s mind could be going in any number of directions at any time no matter what the location. More than any other episode of Awake, “That’s Not My Penguin” pressed the rhetorical question, “What’s so crazy about being crazy if you know how to make it work?”