As Britten explains in the pilot episode, "I'm awake with my wife, then I close my eyes, I open them, I'm awake with my son." It's an intriguing premise, but is it, as some critics have argued, one better suited to film or mini-series than a 22-episode network drama?
The aforementioned car accident makes for a powerful opening, after which we are thrust headlong into Britten's dual life. As he moves from one world to another, we're brought up to speed through the central character's conversations with two different psychiatrists, both of whom are trying to convince him that the other world is a dream.
The producers of Awake are obviously aware that all this hopping between worlds could prove confusing to the viewer, so helpfully employ a different colour palette for Britten's two lives - the bluish tinged visuals of 'Rex's world' giving way to the warmer tones of 'Hannah's world'.
Awake boldly pushes beyond the standard issues that you might expect a show of this type to explore. Eschewing, for the most part, the seen-it-all-before elements of network crime drama, the writers give themselves breathing room to properly examine Britten's estrangement from his son, his wife's desire to have another child, and so on.
Most intriguing is the brief taste of the psychological ramifications that leading two lives could have on our central character. Waking up in 'Hannah's world' to find his wife missing, Britten begins to unravel...
We realise that without his wife and son, and without the signifiers that represent them, he would be lost. As BD Wong's Dr. Lee indicates, Britten's momentary breakdown may only be "the tip of the iceberg" - what toll will living two lives take on his mind?
The cast are more than a match for this challenging material. The dependable Jason Isaacs makes for a strong lead as Britten, though his most interesting moments come when the cracks in the detective's stoic demeanour begin to show.
Our two therapists also impress - Wong's firm, confrontational Lee contrasts wonderfully with the warm, gentle Dr. Evans, played by former 24 star Cherry Jones. Even Wilmer Valderrama - who spent years playing a borderline racial stereotype on That '70s Show - makes a strong first impression as eager-to-impress young 'tec Efrem Vega.
If there's one criticism to be made of Awake, it's that the procedural elements, when they do come, are easily the weakest part of the show. The pilot sees Britten working two different cases - a masked killer is knocking off cab drivers in one world, while in another, a double murder leads to a shocking child abduction.
Predictably enough, Britten begins to realise that details from the two cases are starting to cross over and he's able to uses clues from one world to solve a crime in another...
Many worried that Awake's unique format could see the show run out of steam in a relatively short space of time. But after watching the pilot, the bigger risk is that the show could become just another procedural drama, albeit one with a unique twist.
Let's hope that Awake continues to embrace the more imaginative and thoughtful aspects of this pilot episode. If it does, it could become something very special indeed.
Awake premieres on NBC on Thursday, March 1 at 10/9c.