TV Series

Act Like You're Asleep 2

Apr 5, 2024
Dimitris Passas

The unequivocal crown jewel of Greek crime drama, Act Like You're Asleep returns for its second cycle, clinging to all the elements that earned the audience's attention last year while further boosting the story's intricacy by adding even more suspense and umbrageous characters in the screenplay. The shattering, gory conclusion of the previous season shocked the viewership with its savagery, nevertheless, everybody agreed that it was a fitting finale, keeping in harmony with the story's trajectory as conceived by the seasoned screenwriter Giannis Skaragas. The latter proves that he is one of the most mature Greek television writers in today's expanding landscape of Greek productions, some of which recently went beyond the national boundaries and were added to the catalogue of prominent streaming platforms such as Netflix. Thus, one wonders why Act Like You're Asleep hadn't had the opportunity to become known outside Greece as its high production values, pitch-perfect performances by both the lead and supporting actors, three-dimensional characterization, and plausible dialogue shape a picture that sticks to the audience's minds and hearts. It should be noted that the show won the Best TV Series Award in the 2023 Seoul International Drama Awards, a prestigious accolade and a cherished acknowledgment of the creators' work.

The second season is set a few months after the tragic incident that claimed the lives of several people, many of them teenage students, and Nikolas (Spyros Papadopoulos) lives in a self-imposed exile, spending his days idly in a camper van and struggling to come in terms with his guilt over the school-shooting episode.

The action commences when Nikolas's close friend and ex-principal of the school where the massacre took place, Stelios (Vassilis Eftaxopoulos), asks him to return to active service and work alongside him as a teacher in a new school, Alexandrino. Alexandrino is the educational institution favored by the members of the country's financial elite and the students, in stark contrast with those of the previous season, live in opulent residencies while leading a posh lifestyle. Nikolas succumbs to Stelios's persistence and reluctantly agrees to join him. During a reception that takes place at the school premises, the physical instructor gets killed by an unknown assailant, and his body is found strangled and mutilated, the victim missing his genitals. And that's only the inciter of the plot that unravels in a frenetic tempo and involves both the teachers and the students as well as several other characters, some of whom we've already met in season 1.

What makes Act Like You're Asleep an irresistible watch is the complexity of the story's characters, an attribute that should be credited to the craftsmanship of Skaragas's screenplay and the cast's top-notch acting. While the plot embroils a few clear-cut villains, the rest of the characters are drawn in exhausting detail, with Skaragas meticulously avoiding passing judgement on their morality and flouting the tradition of the black-and-white portrayal that has become so predominant in crime shows at an international level. The audience empathizes with the protagonists even when they employ dubious means to achieve justice and that also happens with several of the students whose transgressions may come across as blameworthy. Nevertheless, we feel a certain sympathy for them when the camera lingers on their face and reflects a whole tapestry of emotions that sometimes come to the surface while others remain concealed. Each character has their own background and their motivations are frequently modified as the story ploughs forward. In the universe of Act Like You're Asleep nothing stays still. Everything is in constant flux and the convoluted relationships between the story's agents form a kaleidoscopic web weaved by ambivalent friendships, unholy alliances, failed attempts at intimacy, and genuine love that shines a light on the overall bleakness of the story.

The show is directed by Alekos Kyranis whose aesthetic touch is manifested onscreen in various ways. The expert camera work allows the actors to display the full extent of their skills as their faces are put in the frame to express all of their angst, fear, joy, and many times hate. Dimitris Kapetanakos and Nicoleta Kotsailidou are splendid in their respective roles of Issaris and Grammikou, the two cops of the show who are also an item, living together and enduring the eternal problems of symbiosis. Tzeni Theona is stunning and it shows, her magnetic/seductive presence always stealing the thunder from those unfortunate enough to share with her. Fotini Baxevani's portrayal of Betina, who faces a predicament of unfamiliar menace when a young man who claims to be her abandoned son shows up and turns her family life upside down, delivers one of the most nuanced performances in the series and is even more alluring in the scenes where Betina is unleashed and not afraid to declare the extremes of her emotional state. Alexandros Kalpakidis, who is known to the Greek audience through his involvement in past TV productions in which he often played supporting roles, plays the most abhorrent villain of the show, Limnios, and does his character justice. As far as the younger members of the cast are concerned, Michalis Artemisiadis as Stavros and Faye Fragalioti stand out from the rest and leave many promises for a bright future in acting.

I can't help but believe that Act Like You're Asleep is immensely underrated and by that, I mean that the show could easily cross the borders and gain international praise. As a production, it has nothing to envy from its American or European counterparts and proves that Greece is in a far better position in creative and artistic terms than ever before.

Join the Discussion