Awake‘s few but hugely passionate viewers came away from Thursday’s series finale with many questions. Of course, we’re still wondering which reality was in fact real. But also: What did the final scene mean? Was it all but a dream? Or was that dream-come-true moment in fact Michael Britten’s biggest nightmare? And what twists were on tap for the Season 2 we sadly never shall see? (Hint: baby versus babe!) TVLine invited series creator Kyle Killen to field some burning questions.
TVLINE | Just to confirm: The season finale played out exactly as you always intended it, even knowing that renewal was looking iffy?
It really did. I mean, our ratings weren’t great, so there was some suspicion that we might not be back, but nobody had any idea what NBC would do. And literally, that last scene was something we had talked about from before the pilot was even written. Post-Lost, [network execs] are looking to make sure that you have flagpoles that you’re heading toward, and that was always our Season 1 flagpole.
TVLINE | Obviously there has been much speculation about what the heck we watched last night. Will you go so far as to say that it was not all a dream? That there was a car accident?
I’ve seen some really interesting [theories], and I wouldn’t say that anyone is wrong — except the people who are calling it a Dallas or a Newhart, any variation on “…and then he woke up.” That is absolutely not what we intended. If you watch the last few minutes again, I’m not sure what the argument for that [interpretation] even is. I suppose there’s the überpossibility that he’s in a coma and now having a third dream in the coma, but in no way should it be interpreted as, “He woke up and his family was fine. He’d just been having two nightmares.”
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TVLINE | I reckon those people are just trying make sense of the fact that both Hannah and Rex are alive in the final scene.
Right. For us, while it provided an uplifting and hopeful ending [to the season/series], it probably would have been a sign that he was getting worse. He had reached a place where he seemed to part with Hannah’s world, he seemed to sacrifice that to get the answers [to the conspiracy] that he did. Dr. Evans pointed that out to him, that he’s once again on that precipice of understanding and accepting. Instead, he does what he’s done from the beginning — and that’s where “turtles all the way down” comes from. Infinite regression. “What if I’m still in prison in the red world, and all the crazy stuff that happened after… was a dream? Even if one of these [worlds] is a dream, why can’t I have a dream within a dream?” Once he realized [he could], it’s as if he seemed to dream the thing he wanted more than anything — to be reunited with his wife and son.
TVLINE | His epiphany with Evans was that he can have both worlds and dream within them.
Right. Going forward, I don’t think he would become a lucid dreamer, but in that moment it delivered something that his psyche had desperately wanted for a long time. For me, Twin Peaks was a seminal show, and what we started to miss from the red-versus-green [story] and the procedural crossover clues and the fact that they were both completely grounded and therefore impossible to tell apart, was that despite being a show where half of it took place in his imagination, we rarely got to play with any “fun” imaginary elements. This [finale] was always intended to open up a third space, a dream space, to introduce some of the more surreal elements.
TVLINE | That was my next question, what Season 2 would have looked like. A similar weekly procedural, but now with an added avenue through which Britten could glean clues?
For us, the balance of his personal stories versus the procedural would have taken some time to work out. Toward the end of the season we become more interested in his personal coming-apart, and the dream space. And though it ended with a positive grace note, it would have potentially been a bigger problem, a sign of things worsening for him. One of the elements we were very interested in involved Michaela McManus, who did a fantastic job as Tara, Rex’s tennis coach and a potential love interest in the [“green”] world. In Season 1, the procedural — really the dual procedurals — crowded out those things….
TVLINE | Plus it was too soon.
Totally right. [The onset of the Tara romance] was slotted for the end of the season, but you needed to be planting bread crumbs all the way along, and we ultimately didn’t get to it. In the second season, we would have liked to have gotten into his personal stories and how those two worlds played off each other a little more, while dialing back the procedural element.
TVLINE | Along those lines, many viewers are siding with Dr. Adams, that the “green” reality with Rex was the real deal. Do you want to leave that open to interpretation?
It’s open. Each time someone on staff would say, “Do you realize this pushes it more towards this…?” it always turned out that someone else on staff could make a counterargument in an equally compelling way. I could make a pretty strong argument for “red” being the reality. In “red,” he’s in a place where he’s in prison and the person that ultimately destroyed his family is going to get away with it, so if anything were to cause your psyche to fracture and imagine a world where you do win, where you do catch the person…. I think it would be the horrible pressure of realizing you might be stuck in prison. That’s in some ways a just as compelling argument for “red.”
TVLINE | Was the pseudonym “Ed Munte” by chance an anagram for something — perhaps, as one of my readers suggested, “unmeted” as in “without dimension”?
I wish I could take credit for that. Your reader is more brilliant than we are.
TVLINE | Also, to be clear, that was not Hannah appearing pregnant in the final scene, but just an expectant Laura Allen?
That was just [actress] Laura Allen pregnant, yes. But Hannah’s unexpected pregnancy was going to be the counterbalance to the Season 2 arc with the tennis coach.
TVLINE | You have a lot to be proud of here. You pulled off 13 episodes with nary a clinker in the bunch and many of them absolutely outstanding. That said, would it be a bit of added validation if Jason Isaacs scored an Emmy nomination?
I’d love that for him; he did amazing work. It actually would be the supreme validation just to get a nomination, because it would have to come from the work. He’s not going to get a [network or studio] campaign like other actors with resources. You don’t really do that with a cancelled show, so that would be an incredible commentary on the work he did. In fact, while it’s flattering to see the fan base engaged in having the show continue, that’s a little more of a long shot than pouring those resources into mounting an Emmy campaign to have Jason remembered.