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Reverie Meshes More With Reality

The Show So Far

In Reverie, Sarah Shahi returns to NBC in a sci-fi leading role, after playing neuroatypical and bisexual Sameen Shaw (RIP Person of Interest). She plays Mara Kint, a former hostage negotiator who failed to save her sister and niece and gave up on her career. Like most tv protagonists who have given up their specialized career, she’s a college professor now. Her former boss, Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert), recruits her to work at Oniratech, which has a bit of a problem. Oniratech created artificial dreams, and has started implanting the technology into people. However, some of their clients don’t want to leave their dreams. Mara is recruited to talk these clients back into reality. She’s aided by Oniratech leader Paul Hammond (Sendhil Ramamurthy, who’s never played a role where an experiment goes wrong) in learning the system. Mara can also occasionally wheedle an answer out of the mysterious Lexie (Jessica Lu) who helped create the system. Otherwise, she’s on her own.

There’s another issue. After her first victory in the pilot, Mara started hallucinating her dead niece. Hammond gave her medication to manage her hallucinations, or “derealization.” Unfortunately, Mara had just tossed all her medication (bad idea alert) and didn’t want to take more. At the end of last week’s episode, Mara tried to communicate with her dead niece. This is an idea that is almost comically dangerous. Will Mara save the people lost in their reveries without losing herself in the process?

Although Reverie’s first two episodes were somewhat mediocre, there are some real bright spots here. First, Sarah Shahi really shines here. Mara Kint is nothing like Sameen Shaw, although both are troubled. Mara sparkles in a way that Sameen didn’t, and it’s really a credit to Shahi as an actress. The cast is diverse in a way most episodic shows aren’t. Four of the five members of the main cast are people of color. The dream sequences are really well shot, easily separating dream from reality. However, the plotting isn’t the best. Both of the client plots so far have been stunningly ancivillious. In the first, a man who lost his wife in a self-caused car accident wants to stay with her forever in his dream. In second episode, the client of the week’s problem is that she has a bad heart and the reason she’s staying in the dream is that she’s sad due to a lack of a father, and she believes the dream can give her answers. Their dreams have been fun and pretty to look at, but they don’t always need such a hardcore message. The first season of Reverie is only ten episodes, which means that showrunner Mickey Fisher had a specific plan for this season. The overarching plot gets deeper on this week’s episode of Reverie, so let’s get into it.

The episode begins with a bank-robbing reverie. The client’s wife tries to wake up the dreaming bank-robber, but he doesn’t wake up.Mara starts the episode trying to talk to her dead niece. Even though Brynn isn’t responding, Mara’s just so pleased to see her. When Mara’s phone rings, she’s clearly devastated by reality literally calling her.

The client of the week’s wife, Annie, gets Onira-Tech’s attention by threatening a lawsuit. She’s planning to sue Onira-Tech because her husband, Nate, is using Reverie too much. If one could sue a company due to someone’s misuse of a service, I’m sure that we wouldn’t have videogame companies any more. Last week, I wondered whether someone would sue Onira-Tech for exploiting mentally ill patients. Rachel, last week’s client, wasn’t doing well mentally before she entered Reverie. Although you can’t sue a company for exploiting ill clients either, it makes more sense to the viewer than the suit presented. Anyway, Mara asks for one day to get Nate out before the lawsuit is filed.

When Mara goes into the client’s reverie, she discovers that he’s robbing banks, but he gets away. On her next attempt, Mara brings in an armored truck to entice him. Nate insists that he and Annie are better off inside Reverie, and arranges for his henchman to slam the armored truck into the wall. When Mara asks Annie what could be wrong, Annie tells her about a break-in. Nate walked in on the burglar, but told Annie to get over the burglary. Mara confronts Nate again, and he is taken away by an angry man with a motorbike and a chain.

Mara correctly guesses that this is the aforementioned burglar. Paul explains to Mara that the program can figure out what’s bothering a client, and can show them it. He uses reveries to cope with his anxiety, which, again, seems to be a bad idea. With Charlie’s help, the LAPD arrests the burglar, but they can’t keep him unless Nate identifies him. Mara goes in with this information, and Nate agrees to come out.

Lexie has spent the entire episode preparing for a presentation. Since she’s a grumpy tech person, this is fairly difficult for her.  Mara gives her tips on how to get her point across. This plotline is worth a mention because Lexie and Mara really connect here. It’s really gratifying to watch, and is my favorite part of the episode. Reverie is at its beset when focusing on the characters without frills.

Meanwhile, Charlie asks Paul how Mara is doing. He works out that Paul doesn’t know what Mara’s seeing, and that Mara could easily be skirting medical orders. Charlie goes to her house and realizes she’s seeing one of her family members, but he’s not sure which one. After she saves Nate, Charlie gives Mara an ultimatum: follow doctors orders, or leave her job. Mara chooses the former. When she gets home, Mara takes her meds. Then, she goes to face the visualization of her fear: her sister’s old house. She opens the door and goes inside. Unexpectedly, she sees Brynn. Even more unexpectedly, the house starts to fray, as if Mara’s in a reverie. 

Nate and Mara

Nate and Mara parallel pretty clearly. Both try to remain in a state where they can forget what hurts them about the world. Nate’s desperation to stay in his reverie is all about maintaining control. When he’s robbing banks, he doesn’t have to think about his fears. However, he loses control of his life by trying to keep control over his emotions. Mara’s desperation to trigger her derealization leads to her losing control. Unfortunately for Mara, this loss of control didn’t end when the episode did.

Conclusion

The plots in Reverie still aren’t anything to look at. However, the cast is still really watchable. On the brighter side, the overarching plot seems to be overtaking the paint by numbers episodic plots. Maybe next week will be a real turning point.

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    Siobhan is a MLIS student. Pronouns she/her.

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