Resolution Project 2017: Staying Awake for Day 5

For 2017 my resolution goal was to finally watch Day 5. I suppose it’s fairly appropriate that I viewed the first episode of Day 5 at 4:00 am after pulling an all-nighter at work. After getting home I simply wasn’t tired and, after trying to find other ways to amuse myself, finally thought what better time to begin a series about people who can’t sleep. And while in my case, sleep was merely eluding me, for the people in Day 5, falling asleep means death.

Minor spoilers below

A quick introduction to Day 5 — if you’ve read any of my writings here at Speculative Chic, you may have noticed my love of Rooster Teeth. Lazer Team and RWBY have both made it onto My Favorite Things lists, I watch Achievement Hunter Let’s Plays, and have a two-year membership in their FIRST program. One might say I’m a fan. Day 5 is the one and only serious drama they produce, introduced several years ago at RTX, a convention they hold for Rooster Teeth fans.

On the surface, the story is simple — one night people went to sleep, the next morning they didn’t wake up. The problem is worldwide and spread within minutes. But what the hell caused such a thing? And how do you fix such a problem when not sleeping for too long will also kill you? Provided you don’t just pass out first, of course. Day 5 poses a lot of interesting problems and brings an interesting mix of people who struggle to stay awake in hopes of solving them.

Initially I thought the main character, whoever it may be, would be played by a Rooster Teeth crowd favorite, Joel Heyman. After all, he was on the Day 5 promo poster, as well as in the snippet I saw while at RTX2014. But I quickly realized that the main man would be an unknown to me. Drug addict Jake, played by Jesse C. Boyd, was who I would follow throughout my sleep-deprived journey. Everyone’s reasons for staying awake through the death-sleep pandemic varied in some ways I hadn’t considered. While I would have been awake setting up book displays, Jake was on a drug bender. Eventually he meets young Sam (Walker Satterwhite) who explains all the deaths Jake is coming across (including his little sister’s), and together they remain awake until the pivotal day five where things really kick off and they meet up with Ellis (Davi Jay), a pilot who was flying a red-eye when things started, and later Ally (Stephanie Drapeau), an overnight doctor.

Everything begins quietly enough. There’s no panic for resources or safety like in a zombie apocalypse since everyone is already dead (and saying dead). No one’s waving a gun for no good reason since the goal is to just stay awake to survive at this point. We’re at the end of the world, and everyone is basically civil to one another. Even when they visit a rave that’s rife with drug use no one gets violent, and when people are done partying, they simply lay down and don’t get back up. In fact, it was really nice to see a non-violent end of the world for once. I know, it sounds really weird to say, but every time we approach an apocalypse, people are always at each other’s throats for resources like food and water, weapons and more. Here, even the animals die if they fall asleep. It’s literally the end of life as we know it, aside from creatures that don’t require sleep (or a specific type of sleep at least — sharks are fine). Rather, people just want to stay awake for as long as they can. That’s it.

Of course, that doesn’t last forever. Likewise, not everyone is content to sit back and wait until they can no longer remain awake. Ellis quickly discovers a specific point from which he believes the death-sleep pandemic originated and wants to see if he can shut it down — whatever it is. Ally is intrigued until she hears a radio signal from her girlfriend Lex about a safe place in Austin where you can sleep. And there are a handful of other people out there who don’t have drugs or adrenaline to keep themselves awake and resort to pain to do the job. Making things worse are hallucinations, paranoia, and panic attacks, making them violent and dangerous to other people. Eventually being awake isn’t the only problem in everyone’s lives. As if that wouldn’t be hard enough by the fifth day of no sleep.

The storylines then diverge: Ellis strikes out on his own to stop the source while Ally, Jake, and Sam go to check out what Lex seems to have discovered. I don’t want to spoil anything more from there, suffice to say that things get very edge-of-your-seat and holy-cow-what-the-hell-is-going-on?

I think my favorite episode was 1.04: Sweet Dreams. Yes, maybe because that’s where we finally see Joel Heyman as Bill, and I’ve been dying to see Joel in a dramatic role. He’s lovely, by the way. But aside from that, I loved his character’s short, but sweet arc (FYI, the fact that the girl he was with was named Nicole has no bearing on my feelings but was a fun surprise), as well as the reason they give for Bill constantly refusing any methods to stay awake. Bill has a brain disease called fatal familial insomnia. I looked it up to see if it was real — it is, and it’s quite terrifying. People with this disease absolutely cannot fall asleep and it will kill them. It makes Bill a very unique character in this very suddenly screwed up world, and I really hoped we’d get to see more of him. I really wanted Bill and Nicole to succeed, for as simple as their goal was, and by the end of the episode I was in tears. Even now, thinking about it, I’m getting teary-eyed. Damn, Rooster Teeth, you did good.

I’m very invested in all these characters, and though Rooster Teeth is a small company compared to the giant movie-makers and TV producers out there, the quality is top notch. You can tell they worked hard on this — the empty world they’re working in, the acting is on point, and I’m totally willing to suspend my disbelief that so many people would be this functional after 5 days with no sleep. Most people stop functioning normally after 48, and the longest documented amount of time someone has gone without it was 11 days (undocumented was 18). As you can tell, I looked up a lot of stuff about sleep after watching this show. It’s just such a fascinating, yet at the same time, frightening concept. Heck, a part of me even started to get curious, especially after my all-nighter — how long would I be able to go without sleep? Not that I intend to try, mind you.

I binge-watched the hell out of this, and boy did I get an ending I did not expect. They certainly know how to make you drool for more when it comes to cliffhangers. Lucky for me season 2 is finished and ready for its own binge-watching session. I offer a tip of my hat to Josh Flanagan, Chris Demarais, and Matt Hullum, the creators of the show, for making such an enjoyable and engaging story. I look forward to seeing how the next season expands, and if we get some answers.

Please note the only way to watch Day 5 is with a Rooster Teeth FIRST membership which you can find more about here — although they do occasionally offer 1-month free trials.


  • Alice December 7, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    It affects animals? My first thought was I wouldn’t even bother trying to stay awake, I don’t want to live in a world without dogs.

  • Shara White December 7, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Sounds interesting, but I too wonder about the desire to stay alive when sleep would be so, so, SO easy. You’d have to find a cure, and FAST.


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