Awake's Michael Britten is already living in two worlds, and after Thursday's episode, he may soon be living in a third.
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Britten (Jason Isaacs) has been slipping back and forth between two realities ever since a car accident killed either his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) or his son Rex (Dylan Minnette). In Thursday's aptly titled episode "Oregon," Britten learns that Hannah is far more serious than he thought about moving to the Beaver State to pursue law school — and to escape the pain of losing their son.
"Obviously she's devastated by the loss of her son and yet she needs to stay in perpetual motion," Allen tells TVGuide.com. "She can't stop or it's the end for her. I think she's relentlessly optimistic. She's trying to stay buoyant and move forward and think about the future. She loves Michael and she wants to be with Michael ... but she's ready to leave the house and leave town and start something new."
Naturally, Britten isn't a fan of that decision, which will strain the couple's relationship, Allen says. "I think she really presses him," she says. "Hannah is asking him to quit his job basically. He's been at this precinct for as long as they've been together. ... I don't think that she realizes what a threat moving actually is for him."
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Indeed, the episode, which also finds Britten using clues from his dual realities to track down a serial killer who is believed to have been dead for many years, poses an interesting hypothesis. Both of Britten's therapists (Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong) believe the move to Oregon would actually benefit Michael's healing. If he is physically removed from the world that his mind is multiplying into alternate realities, they argue, eventually the imaginary reality will fall apart.
"Michael's connected with things that are more material like [Rex's] bedroom and all the trophies and everything," Allen says. "He needs to stay in the house. ... [In Oregon], there's no Rex's bedroom upstairs. This alludes to the ability to cross between worlds — that [the bedroom] is like a portal or something."
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But perhaps the real problem isn't geographical at all. Rather, Hannah refuses to acknowledge Britten's "dream world" because it's too painful. "I think it's the real crux of the problem in their relationship," Allen says. "There's kind of an unspoken rule that we don't talk about his dreams anymore. We can talk about Rex, but we can't talk about the dreams because any time he mentions new information about Rex, it's almost a threat her. In some way it's like saying, 'You really didn't know him.'"
That may not be the case for long, however. "There's a big piece of new information that comes at us about Rex that Michael has access to before I do, and it's a big challenge to get our heads around," Allen teases. "You pull these threads and suddenly there are all these new things you learn about the son that you thought you knew. It kind of keeps him alive in a new way and yet it humbles her too because she thought she knew everything."
Even though Hannah wants to move, Allen insists that her character does not want to move away from Michael. "There are some awful statistics about real-life couples who don't make it through the loss of a child," Allen says. "She doesn't understand his situation — that somehow he can keep his job going and not grieve like she does so emotionally. But it's not that she wants to go on without him. She's actually really connected to Rex through him. I think she sees her son in him, and so to lose him would really be for her to lose Rex."
Awake airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.