In this week’s of episode Reverie, Mara visits a spy fantasy created by a woman with a previously unknown heart condition. Both her real and metaphorical hearts are hurting. While Rachel’s Reverie was only supposed to be for fun, the program picked up on her underlying issues and included them in the game aspect of her fantasy. Unlike last week’s Reverie, Rachel needs to solve her issues in the real world. Mara acts as support and guide, trying to get Rachel to accept reality as quickly as possible.
Along the way, we learn more about how Reverie works and about the team. The story is heartwarming with a dash of excitement, but the stakes are low. We know Mara’s not going to fail this early in the series.
Rachel Kauffman is looking for an adventure in her Reverie, since she’s been suffering from depression in real life. She wants some excitement to help kickstart her life. She enters Reverie through the gorgeous rounded library we saw last week and is thrilled to see her new look, complete with a change in hair style and color. She steps through the door to start her adventure, and enters a stylish hotel bar. Before long, she’s approached by Keystone, the contact from spy agency, who hands her a phone with her target displayed: Vater (not Darth Vader, which becomes a running joke), who’s a scientist that’s developing a bioweapon that he wants to sell to the highest bidder.
Suddenly, Vater’s goons appear, and a gunfight breaks out. Rachel loves it, until she rushes outside to discover that Vater is someone she recognizes, and didn’t put into her Reverie data. She whips off her wig, goes back to being herself, though still a spy version of herself, and follows Vater.
Charlie calls Mara in early to help Rachel. Though Rachel’s only been in her Reverie for a day, she’s experiencing ventricular tachycardia, a heart condition that could lead to a heart attack. Onira screens for psychological and medical conditions, so Rachel must not have known that she has a heart condition. They need Mara to get her out, fast. Mara asks if Paul knows anything about Rachel’s Reverie, but he explains that the designs of each fantasy are confidential. Onira doesn’t have access to anything but the data clients input while designing their Reverie.
They escort Mara into her new office, so she can work, and travel into Reveries, in private. The office has an alcove with a daybed for Mara to stretch out on while she’s in Reverie. Sweet.
Mara enters Rachel’s Reverie, and quickly gets caught up in her spy fantasy. As expected, Rachel is so caught up in her fantasy, which is set up like a quest game, that she refuses to leave, even when Mara explains that she’s dying in the real world. Rachel believes that her target is something so important that it’s worth risking her life for. She races off toward her next clue, leaving Mara to exit her Reverie to develop a new strategy.
Mara gets more information about Reverie from Paul. A Reverie can be based on a personal experience, or the client can feed stories into the computer to base their fantasy on. Some people just want to have fun and use Reverie as an escape from real life.
Mara describes the change in the way the Reverie characters interact with her. Now they treat her like everyone else, instead of freezing. Paul is excited at this news, because it means that Reverie is learning her, whereas before the program didn’t recognize her. The more time Reverie has to observe her, the easier it will be for Mara and the program to work together.
Mara works with Dylan to investigate Rachel’s life. Dylan speaks as if he’s a real person, with a past, likes and dislikes. He refers to what he and Alexis used to do together when they were little, which confuses Mara, but she tables it until she’s rescued Rachel.
After catching a glimpse of Brynn that morning in her apartment, Mara thinks she sees her niece for the second time that day. She chases the girl down the hall, but it’s another little girl walking by her office.
Dylan and Mara set up a meeting with Rachel’s most frequent social media contact. Anton is Rachel’s most recent ex-boyfriend, who Rachel pushed away after the aunt that raised her died. Anton explains that Rachel has a history of losing the people in her life. Her mom died when Rachel was little, she never knew her dad, and she was raised by an aunt who died recently after a long illness. When she went through her aunt’s belongings, Rachel found something that put her into a long term funk.
Paul asks Mara if she’s been having hallucinations since she had the Reverie implant. The 2.0 version burrows deep into the consciousness, and can cause side effects, specifically a ghosting effect called derealization. “2.0 is programmed to recognize images you’re emotionally connected to. Sometimes it’ll latch onto one, even when you’re not in the program.”
Mara confesses to seeing a couple of brief hallucinations of someone she cares about. Paul assures her that it’s a temporary effect, and instructs her to put away anything that might trigger memories of the person, such as photos. He gives her a bottle of mild anti-anxiety meds to take if she has another hallucination. Mara is reluctant to take them, since she’s trying to kick her pill habit.
Charlie interrupts to inform them that Rachel is having another episode. Mara needs to try again to get her out of the program. Mara asks Paul to help her change her outfit and acquire a gun in Reverie. He says he can get her anything she wants.
This time, Rachel is on a yacht and needs to get past more henchmen. Mara steps in and takes care of it. Rachel already knows that she needs to take the boat to its last location to find Vater.
Mara questions Rachel about the motivations for her Reverie, and what happened when she cleaned her aunt’s house. Rachel becomes angry and points her gun in Mara’s face. She forces Mara off the yacht, without answering the questions.
Charlie introduces Mara to Monica Shaw, the Department of Defense contact. He introduces her to Mara simply as an investor. Monica tells Mara that’s she’s been looking forward to meeting her, after Mara’s success with Tony, which she knows about because she keeps an eye on operations.
Charlie pulls Mara aside and asks about her side effects. He admonishes her to follow instructions for once. The doctors have given Rachel a new medication that gives them a little more time, so Mara can go home and get some rest.
Monica wonders why Charlie is so concerned about Mara. She doesn’t buy his answer, which involves the standard issue excuses of stress and new technology in her brain.
At home, Mara hears Brynn’s voice, and takes a pill, as instructed. Then she puts away her family photos.
Mara does more research into Rachel’s past, and realizes that the program is leading Rachel to her father, based on the target’s name, Vater, which means father in German. Paul suggests that she find someone to hack into Rachel’s laptop in order to continue her research. She begs Alexis to get past the security for her, even though Alexis is a genius who’s received a MacArthur grant when she was 17 and has better things to do. This gives Mara the opportunity to question Alexis about her past a bit, but Alexis isn’t forthcoming.
Mara discovers that Rachel found a photo of her parents with her as a baby when she cleaned out her aunt’s house. Rachel had never known anything about her father, not even his name, since it wasn’t on her birth certificate. Her aunt had claimed that she didn’t know anything either, but the photo showed that she was lying.
Rachel searched for her father in the real world, but without a name she was unable to find him. Mara insists that Charlie do a thorough search using his considerable resources, while she goes back into Reverie to try again.
This time, she tells Rachel that she understands why Rachel pushes people away, and she’s going to stay with her until the end of the program.
Charlie works with Dylan to search for the man in the photograph, which is 25 years old. That means that facial recognition can’t accurately ID him in the present day. There is another man’s hand in the frame, wearing a school ring from Sun Central High, 1986. Charlie focusses on that, since he’s found people before based on just a ring.
Rachel and Mara find Vater on the lower floor of a mansion. He’s open and friendly, inviting them to join him, and telling Rachel to ask her questions. She bombards him with questions about her father, from the profound to the trivial, but he can’t answer any of them. He just sits there and looks at her blankly, because he’s not real.
Eventually, Rachel breaks down in tears, accepting that he’s not her father. Mara convinces her that it’s time to go home.
Back in the real world, Rachel sees a cardiologist who determines that her condition can be treated with medication.
Charlie introduces Mara and Paul to Elliott Harrison, the man wearing the ring in Rachel’s photo. His friend Alan is Rachel’s father. On the day the photo was taken, Alan was going to meet his daughter, but he was nervous, so Elliott went with him.
Alan and Miriam had a deal that Alan would father the baby for Miriam, who was a single woman who wanted a child, but then they’d go their separate ways and she’d raise Rachel by herself. Alan never saw her or heard from her again after that. He felt terrible when Elliott told him what happened to Miriam. Rachel throws her arms around Elliott when he hands her Alan’s phone number.
Mara stops in to thank Alexis for her help with the laptop, and to tell Alexis that she can see how amazing the program is. She says that Rachel thought it was miraculous. Alexis isn’t interested in Mara’s praise.
Dylan breaks in to tell Alexis that it’s time for their evening game. Alexis’ whole demeanor changes, as she relaxes on her couch and smiles while she plays. Paul sees Mara watching Alexis and explains that Dylan was Alexis’ twin brother who was 10 or 11 when he died. Alexis never talks about what happened to him.
Rachel visits Alan, who’s been hoping she would eventually find him. He’s kept his copy of the photo all these years. He wants her to stay and meet the rest of his family.
Mara has another hallucination, but this time, she doesn’t take the medication. Instead, she gets out a photo of Brynn and stares at it. Brynn’s image solidifies in front of her.
Vater= Vader= father= Luke Skywalker’s father- that joke was deeper than you thought, wasn’t it?
In my dreams, Vater is developing a bioweapon and trying to sell it to the dark side because Reverie is aware of the Department of Defense plans for Reverie and is trying to send out a cry for help. So far, no one has been in Reverie long enough to understand, and/or they’ve all been wrapped up in their own issues. Reverie has a biological basis and huge potential for misuse. Monica Shaw is already hovering over Mara. Is she worried about what Mara will find out inside the program?
Dylan wonders why Charlie won’t allow the AI into his personal office. Privacy, or cover up? Charlie has a lot of irons in the fire, and a lot of secrets.
Is Mara simply trying to spend more time with the niece she lost, even though she’s seen how damaging that is, or is she hoping that Brynn will become an avatar for Reverie to communicate with her, the way the butterfly was and Dylan is? My money is on the latter.
Mara senses that the program is trying to communicate, given how many things she’s already seen that aren’t supposed to happen. Everyone ignores or suppresses the program’s attempts, assuming they’re mistakes. But it makes sense for Reverie to choose something important to the user, so that it’ll get noticed. The butterfly, Brynn and Alan were all ideas Tony, Mara and Rachel have fixated on. Reverie had a message for Rachel and Tony. It makes sense that there would be a message/lesson for Mara, and then an attempt to build an ongoing relationship.
So far, Reverie is a slow moving show, with very little information revealed and frequent repetition of what is revealed. The procedural aspect makes the show predictable, leaving it to depend on the likability of the characters and the potential for the science fiction elements to increase in the future. But spending most of each episode focussing on a new character, who’ll be gone the next week, means that viewers aren’t getting to know the regulars.
Many great shows have struggled in their first season, such as Fringe, Agents of SHIELD, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, so Reverie could just need more time to find its footing. But, at the very least, they need to quickly pick up the focus on the regular characters and the reveals of their backstories, and the focus on the technology itself. The reverie of the week only needs to take up half of the episode time. The rest should be devoted to world building, so that viewers have something to develop loyalty and continuing interest in. Otherwise, it’s really an anthology show, which is fine, but not something I’m interested in. One off characters don’t develop much.
Images Courtesy of NBC.