Movies, TV shows, and novels about humanity contending with a sudden mysterious disruptive phenomenon are becoming so commonplace that it might be useful to coin a generic term for such weirdness. Borrowing the title of one notorious example gives us Unexplained Global Happening, or UGH. While characters will speculate at length about an UGH’s origin or nature, no concrete answer generally arrives; the dramatic emphasis is on survival, trauma, or both. Such tales invariably sport a tantalizing what-if? hook that has you eager to know more. It’s the follow-through that’s often shaky.
Awake serves up a dual UGH—one instantaneous event that somehow produces two catastrophic outcomes. (A single line of dialogue attempts to hand-wave a connection; individual suspension of disbelief will vary.) While driving home one ordinary day, Jill (Gina Rodriguez), a former military officer who’s temporarily lost custody of her two children due to a drug conviction, suddenly loses control of her car, in common with seemingly every other driver on the road. Her immediate crisis involves escaping from the vehicle with her kids (who were with her on a visitation) as it sinks to the bottom of a lake, but she and the rest of the world soon discover that every device with a electronic circuit has become inoperable, ending the digital age in one fell swoop. There’s no time to consider the enormous impact that a total power failure would have on society, though, because this particular UGH fried human circuitry as well: Jill can’t sleep that night, and neither, it emerges the next day, could anybody else. Which is a bit of a problem, since mammals that don’t sleep will die within a matter of weeks.