Last night I caught the series premiere of Awake on Hulu and I found it captivating. The basic setup: Detective Michael Britten (played by Jason Isaacs — Lucius Malfoy) is in a terrible car accident. After the crash his life bifurcates. In one reality, his wife died in the crash. In the other, he lost his son. He lives a full day in one world, goes to bed, closes his eyes, and wakes up in the alternate world. Again and again and again.
The show doesn’t nail down whether Britten is experiencing something supernatural or if his grief has made him delusional and one set of experiences is false. In each world, he’s seeing a different psychiatrist. Both of them are trying to convince him that the other shrink is wrong to to tell him to accept the other world as true. Meanwhile, the crimes Britten investigates in each world seem to be entangled.
In the pilot, each doctor tries to come up with ways tests that differentiate between reality and illusion. One of the psychiatrists (played by B.D. Wong) is much more aggressive than his counterpart. This proves he is real, he argues. The other doctor appears more passive because she’s just part of Britten’s subconscious. When Britten confronts his other doctor with this argument, she says that Wong is the illusion — he matches Britten’s expectation for what psychiatry should feel like.
I’m really excited to see how this show develops and what kind evidence Britten will decides counts as persuasive. On this blog, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how you decide between two contradictory worldviews that both line up pretty well with the evidence you’ve got on hand. I’ll keep watching this show and I’ll let you know if it comes up with any heuristics that seem useful outside this particular context.
Personally, I’ve not done too well in coming up with a way to spot that I’ve dreaming. Although I’ve heard you can’t read in dreams, I’ve certainly believed I was reading new stories in some of mine. Other times, I’ve tried to do something unusual in the hopes that other people’s anomalous reactions would confirm I was dreaming. [Unfortunately, in that particular dream, I tried kissing someone, and everyone’s horrified reactions convinced me I wasn’t dreaming, so when I finally woke up, it was from a nightmare].
Recently, I ended up practising ASL in my dream, and the signs seemed to be accurate, but I couldn’t fingerspell at all; I knew I wasn’t actually making the letter-signs. I’ll have to pay attention and see if I can use that as a test. Pretty much the only in-dream giveaways I know work now are:
- I turn out to be naked
- I can’t remember what happened before what’s currently happening (I have to already be suspicious to even think of this one)
- Lord Voldemort makes an appearance (This one doesn’t work very well, as I tend not to look a gift adventure in the mouth while I’m dreaming)
Anything work for you?