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Reverie Regresses to Episodic Mediocrity

This week on Reverie, Onira-Tech meets Mara’s ex-boyfriend, Mara tries to cope with her past, and the viewer engages in a game of trite trope bingo.

Reverie and Episodic Woes, Part 5 or So

In this episode, Mara’s ex-boyfriend Chris brings in a parapalegic patient who has become “addicted” to Reverie.

Screenshot of Mara's ex-boyfriend Chris

A man so relevant, he didn’t even garner a mention in the recap. Credit – NBC/Screenshot

Holly used to be a ballerina, but after a bicycle accident, she can’t use her legs any longer. Her accident devastated her, and she turned to Reverie for comfort (more on that later). Holly’s sister, Viv, freaked out after Holly had been in the program for 16 hours, and contacted Chris. After he snipes at Mara for giving up, Chris asks for her help. When Mara initially enters Holly’s reverie, Holly is dancing for an empty theater. When Mara asks her to leave, Holly pretends to agree and then hides behind a locked door.

What’s behind Door Number One? Credit – NBC/screenshot

Turns out Holly had lost more in her accident than it initially appeared. She lost hope in her relationship with another dancer. Additionally, she also lost the child that she was carrying and the hope of carrying another. It’s not clear whether she knew her unborn child was a daughter. Before Mara deduces Holly’s latter loss, Holly develops a soon-to-be-fatal pulmonary embolism. When Mara goes in for do-or-die time, she discovers that an imaginary version of Holly’s daughter, named Sadie, was behind the locked door. Holly asserts that she would rather die than live without her child and her dancing. Although there was debate regarding whether Holly had that choice with Reverie, Mara wanted one more chance. She discovered that Viv has MS, and objectively needs help. When told this news, and when Mara empathized with her, Holly gave up her reverie with one last dance.

I want to discuss Reverie‘s relationship with disabled characters. In 1/3 of the currently aired episodes, the client is a disabled character played by an abled actor. The first instance was Glenn in “Blue is the Coldest Color,” which had the episodic plot I enjoyed least. The portrayal of stereotypical OCD colored the entire plot, and not in a good way. In this episode, there was a “written-in” reason why Holly wasn’t played by a disabled actress: she’s a ballerina in the reverie. However, I think there could have been a way to write a character who Mara could empathize with in the same way that didn’t lead to cripping up, however briefly. This glaring lack of disabled actors feels even worse when one looks at the diversity in the rest of the show. I wish Reverie had made the choice to hire disabled actors, or at least avoid writing trope-filled disabled characters.

Who Deserves The Blame?

In this episode, characters dealt with issues past and present concerning the main arc. Mara tried to cope with her sister’s and niece’s deaths, while also dealing with Chris’ feeling of abandonment. (Side note: is it just me, or is this the first time that Jean’s name has been mentioned?). Mara consulted with Chris multiple times this episode, and Something that struck me throughout the episode was Mara’s apologies to Chris. She apologized to him in nearly every scene that they were in together. Maybe these apologies were warranted by Mara’s past behavior. Maybe Chris’ feelings are too raw, and he’s overreacting. The problem is that we don’t have any real information about what their breakup was like. If Mara’s going to be apologizing in practically every other scene, then I want to know why. Gruesome details are needed in this discussion. I don’t feel that, from the information we’ve been given, she needed to apologize quite that much.

At the end of the episode, Mara visited her murderous brother-in-law, who is in a coma (somehow). I hope Reverie isn’t planning to have her apologize to him, but I feel nervous.

Meanwhile, Onira-Tech as a whole had a couple ethical issues, that were both acknowledged and not by Paul and Lexie, our main scientists. First, Chris notes that Holly had been using Reverie to cope with her depression. This doesn’t seem helpful, especially since her unwillingness to let go literally leads to the episode’s plot. It’s even worse when Chris notes she’s more at risk health-wise due to her disability. Does Onira-Tech have a screening process that prevents people too sick to participate from getting access to the technology? I don’t know why I’m asking, the answer is clearly no. Chris also claims that Reverie could eventually become a replacement for therapy. That doesn’t seem to be a safe assumption, given what we’ve seen of the program. None of these issues are confronted in-episode, which is disappointing.

However, late in the episode, Paul and Lexie debate whether to let Holly kill herself. Paul thinks it’s a nice way to die. Lexie, as Onira-Tech’s CEO, insists that her death would encourage other depressed people to follow her example. I have to agree with Lexie: unless Onira-Tech comes up with better health rules, there’s no way that people won’t try to die in Reverie. I’m actually surprised this is the first attempt Onira-Tech has heard of. Onira-Tech has a long way to go in shoring up their ethics.

Conclusion

Here’s the thing: although the episodic plots have come across as trite trope bingo more than once, the actors sell it. Sarah Shahi should get a lot of credit for making the show consistently engaging. This is not to say that the supporting cast isn’t great, they are. However, the show is solidly on Shahi’s shoulders. Although I would have preferred that a disabled actor was cast, the last scene where Mara insists that Holly come back to her life was practically the episode’s engine. I really enjoy the show in general, but some of the plot-writing has let me down.

That’s it for this week! Next week Mara explores dark reveries, which I’m pretty sure the show covered a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter, see you then!


Images courtesy of NBC

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    Siobhan is a MLIS student. Pronouns she/her.

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