This week, our story begins with a bank heist, the fantasy of young father-to-be Nate Hallo. He’s lounging at home for his Reverie, but his wife is frantic to get him out of his typical male ego trip of a fantasy.
As she gets ready for work in the morning, Mara, who must be the calmest, nicest person on the planet, talks with the derealization ghost of her dead niece, Brynn. She let Brynn back into her brain at the end of last week’s episode, despite Paul’s instructions to avoid encouraging the visions. Brynn is accommodating, but stone-faced, until the conversation is interrupted by Mara’s ringing phone. Mara didn’t find out much about why and how Brynn is there before the phone rang and she disappeared.
Of course it’s Charlie on the phone, asking Mara to consult on Nate’s case. Nate’s wife, Annie, is suing Reverie because Nate has been using the product addictively for the last 4 months, to the point where it’s ruining their lives. Annie’s lawyer, Daniel Baez, explains that Nate’s lost his job and the couple are in so much debt that they’re about to lose their home due to the overwhelming amount of time Nate spends in Reverie.
Charlie tries to dismiss the lawsuit by claiming that Nate’s time in Reverie is completely by choice, but Annie maintains that Nate has disappeared from the life they’ve built together, and the Nate she knows would never do that. He’s always been very devoted to her and to their family. They’re having a baby soon, and thanks to Reverie, she doesn’t even know if he’ll be there.
Annie wants the company to pull Nate out of his Reverie, but of course they can’t do that. Mara asks Annie to give her one day to go in and convince Nate to come out on his own. Annie agrees.
Mara settles into her cosy office nook and Appertus’s into Nate’s current crime scene. He’s just finished a robbery and is making his escape by standing on a car, tossing money to the gathered crowd, and shooting at cops, then catching a ladder to climb up into a helicopter as it flies away. As Mara will tell Paul, “If that’s not a depressed suburbanite’s fantasy, I don’t know what is.”
Nate ignores Mara, as virtually everyone does on the first pass, so she comes back out to the real world to strategize. Paul suggests that she “red team” Nate, a tech company strategy for dealing with a stubborn obstacle by using a counter intuitive approach. In other words, do the opposite of what’s expected, like getting Nate to come to Mara, instead of trying to catch him.
Mara also learns from Paul that Alexis is preparing a presentation for the board tomorrow, and, as we all can guess, Alexis HATES that more than words can describe. Paul is helping Alexis with some design images.
Later, Paul stops in to consult with Alexis, but Charlie is just leaving her office and warns him off. As they walk away, Charlie asks about Mara’s state of mind. Paul says that Mara’s latest test results look fine, though a bit volatile. She should be fine, as long as she follows his instructions for avoiding more derealization events. Charlie asks if Paul knows who Mara saw, but Paul respected Mara’s privacy, as he always does with Reverie related visions, and didn’t ask.
Paul asks Charlie if there’s something in particular he should know or be worried about, but Charlie just gets that big, fake smile and says there isn’t. Nope, she didn’t see her whole family killed in front of her 2 short years ago, not at all. Charlie’s respecting Mara’s privacy, too, but Paul is dealing with issues that affect her brain and he’s prescribing medication for her. Someone’s got to be honest with him or Mara could end up in serious trouble. Paul looks like he’s thinking the same thing.
Mara finds the designers’ office, where the magic happens. She meets Casey Hathaway, who is a swing designer, floating between the design teams as needed. There are separate design teams for wind and water, and everyone works on greenery. Mara wants to bring something relatively large and specific into Nate’s Reverie with her to act as Nate bait. Yup, I went there.
The next time we see Mara, she’s riding in an armored truck in Nate’s Reverie. Pure genius.
Nate and his gang jump right out of their car to rob the Nate bait. Nate shoots the lock off the truck’s back doors. When he opens them, the truck is empty, other than Mara. She is a treasure, after all.
He at least lets Mara talk this time. She gives him the usual speech telling him that his life is falling apart because he’s stayed in his Reverie for too long. Nate says that his wife is better off without him, and that his Reverie is his real life now.
So he’s ditching his wife and baby to slowly die of dehydration/starve to death in his electronic playground? Or is part of his wife’s better life going to be paying the medical bills to keep him alive, but in his Reverie induced coma? Great guy.
To prove what a great guy he is, Nate sends the armored truck, with Mara locked inside, driving at top speed toward a brick wall. She Exodus’s out of Reverie just in time.
After her near death experience, Mara goes into investigative mode. She visits Annie Hallo to get more information about what could be causing Nate’s retreat from responsibility. Annie insists that everything has been great with their lives. Nate couldn’t wait to be a dad.
Then she mentions that 4 months ago they had a break in at their home while they were both there. A guy with a knife broke in through a window while she was in another room, but Nate found him in the house. They were both freaked out the night it happened. Annie was so scared that she didn’t sleep for weeks afterwards, but Nate quickly moved on and told her she should do the same.
Annie doesn’t believe that the break in caused Nate’s break down. He was always the person everyone depended on. She can’t believe he’d ever abandon her and the baby. Sounds like he might have been due to crack under the weight of the burdens he was shouldering, since he was pretending that nothing ever affected him negatively, and that he had endless reserves of strength and courage. That there is some toxic masculinity, kids.
Annie sees no irony in the guy who acted like everyone’s perfect father now needing to escape into a lost boy fantasy.
While Annie was telling Mara about the break in, Mara expressed how scary it would be to discover an intruder in your home. When Mara leaves Annie’s house, she calls Charlie to ask if he can use his connections to get her the case file for the Hallo break in. He agrees to, then nonchalantly asks where she is, and if she’s heading home.
She’s heading back to Onira to try again with Nate instead of going home, which is a good thing, because Charlie is snooping around her apartment without permission. He finds Brynn’s favorite stuffed animal and her photo sitting out, instead of hidden away like Paul instructed.
Mara has an intruder in her house, and now we know that Charlie has no problem with violating her privacy, as long as he can use a paternalistic excuse. How long until the implant starts looking out through her eyes? For security reasons, of course. Charlie also values his own privacy so much that he doesn’t allow Dylan in his office. The trust issues around him are mounting.
Mara asks the design team to send her into Nate’s Reverie with a can of gasoline and a lighter. The designers are thrilled, but Paul is slightly worried.
Mara uses the firestarter supplies to torch Nate’s classic getaway car. When he and his gang rush out of their latest heist, they stop dead because their car is in flames, giving Mara time to grab the loot from Nate and take off. He gives chase and follows her until she’s trapped in a deadend alley.
Mara tries again to convince Nate to leave Reverie, using the same reasoning that she has all along, adding a little more detail this time. Nate still doesn’t go for it, but he does listen. Then a scarred, tattooed man rides up on a motorcycle and confronts Nate. The man doesn’t say anything, but Nate is scared as soon as he hears the bike. The rough-looking man wraps a chain around Nate, then uses it to drag Nate behind the motorcycle as he rides away. Nate is screaming as he disappears.
Back in Onira Tech, Mara is haunted by what happened to Nate as she tells Paul about it. She’s certain that he didn’t design the man and motorcycle as elements of his Reverie. She thinks the program created them for Nate, and wonders why it would do that to him.
She should also be wondering about the timing of the biker’s appearance. This isn’t the first time that Reverie has figured out what was holding a client back and sent her a clue. It can obviously also tell when she’s stumped and isn’t going to put the pieces together quickly enough. Nate had been in Reverie for months with no bikers. The biker appeared to her, not Nate.
Paul: The program’s complicated. It reads clients somehow, on a chemical and neurological level. Sometimes it unearths things.
Mara: What things?
Paul: Let’s say you want to go to Paris in your Reverie. We build that, and the algorithm fills out your world. But the program takes it further. It watches your reactions. Because you don’t just want to go to Paris. You want Paris in May on a crisp night after a rain with the scent of tulips and nutella in the air.
Mara: So, you’re telling me what? That Nate Hallo wanted to be attacked?
Paul: Not wanted, needed, maybe. For reasons he may not be able to fully articulate. I can show you what I mean. but I’ll have to take you into one of my Reveries, if that’s alright.
Mara: Of course, if that’s alright with you.
Paul: I think I can trust you.
Next, we see them in the many-sided library from other episodes. Paul has multiple stories of Reveries with doors leading out of the library. The door he leads Mara through takes them to his childhood home. He built it as an experiment. He never goes back to this place in real life, so he wanted to see if he could recreate it solely from memory. He’s very happy with how it came out.
After he’d finished it, he kept returning, but didn’t know why. He’s suffered from anxiety, fear, night terrors, and panic attacks all of his life. Some days it’s been so bad that he couldn’t leave his bedroom, and it all started in his childhood home.
Mara says that he doesn’t seem overly anxious. He says that he’s gotten good at masking it, and now he’s been treating it with Reverie. On one of his visits, Reverie added a door in the bedroom hallway.
Paul’s father is behind the door. While the door is closed, we hear pounding and loud hitting/banging sounds coming from the new room. Paul explains that his father was a cruel, abusive, neglectful alcoholic. At night, he swung between being a violent drunk and passing out. Reverie helped Paul realize that all of his fear was fear of his father.
Paul stands facing the door, while the pounding on the door from the inside becomes very loud. He explains that he’d tried everything to deal with his childhood pain, but nothing worked until Reverie created this version of his father and a safe place where Paul could face him. Once he could do that, he was able to see his father realistically, through his adult eyes. Paul was able to understand that his father wasn’t a monster, he was a deeply unhappy man who had a family he didn’t want.
They leave the Reverie. Paul is still shaken up out in the real. Mara thanks him for showing her his Reverie, and asks about the many other doors in his library. He says that maybe he’ll show her those another time.
Paul Hammond, international man of mystery. I like it.
I wonder if he shared something so personal with her not just to help her with her client, but to help her with her derealizations, as well. He can sense that there’s something major she’s holding back, and he needs her to open up to him if he’s going to keep her safe.
Charlie pulls Mara aside to show her the file on the Hallo break in. The file has an artist’s sketch of a suspect who’s invaded 4 different homes in the last year. The LAPD really wants to catch him. After the break in, Nate was supposed to come in and look at books of mug shots, but he skipped three different appointments. Mara remembers that Nate told his wife to move on from the break in. Charlie is shocked, because that’s not how big, strong American men are supposed to handle victimization.
The guy who dragged Nate away also looked very different from the artist’s sketch. He was bigger and had scars and tattoos, especially two XXs on the side of his neck. Mara thinks Reverie created a version of the attacker from Nate’s mind.
Charlie takes the new description to the LAPD.
Mara waits to hear from Charlie in the cafeteria. Alexis stops in as she’s taking a break from preparing her presentation. She’s not in a good mood. Mara suggests that Alexis use a technique called LERI- Listening, Empathy, Rapport, Influence. Alexis starts to dismiss Mara’s idea, but Mara convinces her to listen.
The presentation is a strategy launch for a strategy that Alexis hasn’t even figured out how to articulate. What she gives to Mara are some dry statistical goals. Mara asks Alexis what she really wants for Reverie.
Alexis: I want everyone in the world to experience Reverie. Every single person.
Alexis: Because. Reverie is not an escape. It’s a bridge. It can connect people. You experience it alone, but it shows you, you’re not. If you use it right, you can gain self-confidence, you can heal, feel better about yourself.
Mara: Learn not to be afraid.
Alexis: Yes. Reverie is a gift. Everyone should have it.
Mara: Say that. You’ll do fine.
Alexis just got LERI’d.
Charlie calls Mara to let her know that the LAPD found the Hallo’s attacker, but they’ll only hold him if Nate IDs him. Mara needs to get Nate out so that the serial criminal can be kept off the streets.
Mara finds Nate bruised and scraped up, but okay. The night before, he was too beat up to leave Reverie. Mara explains to him that it’s safe for him to leave now, because the police have his attacker, and they need Nate to ID him so they can send him to prison.
Nate is still afraid. He was never afraid like this before the assault. He doesn’t know how to handle it. Mara realizes that his fear is coming from more than just the assault. Nate confesses that the attacker came back a few weeks after the robbery. He caught Nate alone in the alley behind the house and threatened to kill him if Nate talked to the police. Nate thought he was going to be murdered right then and there, and hasn’t been able to shake the intense fear, or the intense self-loathing for being afraid, since then.
Mara confesses her experiences with her sister’s family’s murder-suicide, and tells Nate how afraid she still is, and that she still can’t face it. Nate says that he’s most afraid of what his wife will think of him. How could she want to start a family with him, knowing what a coward he is?
Mara assures him that his wife won’t think that way. She just wants him back. They leave Reverie.
Nate identifies his attacker for the police. He looks like the man in the police sketch, with the scars and tattoos of the biker in the Reverie.
Charlie tells Mara that he wonders if he was wrong to hire her for this job. He knows she’s not being honest with him about her derealization episodes. Mara protests that she loves her job and she’s good at it, but after he questions her, she confesses to seeing Brynn.
She admits that she hasn’t been following Paul’s instructions for the derealization episodes. But she also tells him that this job is really helping her feel good about herself and her life, and she needs that. Charlie relents, and tells her to go home.
Nate goes home and tells Annie that he didn’t tell her that the robber came back because he was self-loathing and ashamed that he didn’t fight back when the robber attacked him again in the alley. He always thought he could protect his family, and this incident shows that he can’t. He was afraid she’d stop loving him. She says that she would have been afraid and given in, just like him. He says that’s different, because she’s a mere girl. Annie tells him he’s an idiot. They protect each other, and no one expects him to be Superman.
At home, Mara takes her pills and drives to the apartment where her sister and niece died. She goes inside to try to face it. The apartment is empty and unlocked.
She walks through the apartment, muttering to herself and shaking with fear. Then she sees Brynn. Brynn tells Mara that Mara is there for a reason, but doesn’t say what the reason is.
The walls of the apartment begin to stutter and crackle, bursting into flames, eventually dissolving and burning away. The apartment/the world Mara’s been in isn’t real. We’ll have to wait until at least the next episode to find out what just happened.
Just what does the Reverie implant do to people’s reasoning abilities? Why don’t any of the people who are stuck in there stop to think about their physical bodies and that this isn’t real or sustainable? At the very least, Reverie needs a massive warning sticker. Better yet, a required training session before use which includes proving you understand how it works and the risks involved.
Both of the men Mara’s tried to rescue have now tried to kill her for real. Maybe Mara needs to start making some rules about who’s worth bringing back and who isn’t. Or add a few points to that training session, like if you don’t want to listen to the Intervention Team, then you’re on your own to get yourself out. Or Onira will charge you a GIANT fee for Mara’s time and risk.
I’m not convinced Nate was worth the trouble.
I’m not sure I completely buy Paul’s exoneration of his father. Cruel, abusive parents who don’t want their kids tend to do and say some pretty monstrous things. Sure, Paul might understand now where his father was coming from, but the pain of being an abused and unwanted child isn’t going to disappear based on understanding that his father was unhappy and he wasn’t wanted. He would have already known those things instinctively, and Reverie would have been confirming them.
Paul didn’t say it, but what they also showed was him making his father powerless and unable to affect him any more. He dismissed his father with a word, and his father was helpless to speak or act, after struggling to get out of the room and get to Paul. The real impact probably came from defanging his father, thus being able to say to him all of the things that he’d ever wanted to say, and to make the man listen, if Paul wanted him to.
I love the chemistry developing between Mara and Paul. They work exceptionally well together. But then, both actors would have chemistry with a post, they’re so charismatic.
Ashley Zukerman, who plays Nate, looks so much like Aaron Tveit that it distracted me throughout the episode every time I watched it.
Images courtesy of NBC.