In episode 7, we get our first real taste of what the military intends to use Reverie for and the capabilities of Dark Reverie adaptations to the program. Mara is sent into a hostile Reverie for the first time, and experiences physical consequences. The team work together to support Mara as she saves a boy from an unjust fate.
At the start of the episode, Paul and Mara are together in Reverie 2.0
on a date, where Mara is helping Paul learn to fly. After he comes in for a soft landing, Paul leaves through his door in the library. Before Mara can leave, a new door appears, and she, like Alice, can’t resist following the White Rabbit to see where she ends up.
Where she ends up looks like an empty underground parking garage, but she hears someone screaming in the distance. Mara follows the sound and finds a young man, Ehmet, locked in a room and handcuffed to a chair. Ehmet doesn’t know that he’s in a Reverie. He was kidnapped, blindfolded and driven somewhere in a van. He blacked out, then woke up where he is now.
Mara explains that he’s in a virtual reality simulation. Ehmet thinks she’s lying. He’s being questioned about an attack on an airbase by someone who claims to be US military and called him an enemy combatant. They won’t let him eat or leave until he tells them what they want to hear.
Mara tries to get Ehmet out, telling him he just has to say, “Exodus.” It doesn’t work. Not surprising. That seems like the first change you’d make to Reverie if you were using it for torture. Mara promises she’ll come back for Ehmet, then tries “Exodus” for herself, but the escape word doesn’t work for her either. Before she can figure out how to get out, the lights go haywire and the visual gets glitchy. It reworks itself into the library, where her usual mandala doorknob is waiting for her.
Paul is already in her office, waiting for her and worrying about her, because he’s a good
boyfriend coworker and is always concerned about anomalies. They call the rest of the team into her office to figure out what just happened. Mara is sure that the boy was a person, not an avatar. She describes the location as a warehouse, and is sure that the boy thought he was in reality. The team can’t let go of the idea that he’s just another Reverie user, but they do bring up the concept of East Berlin, when two Reveries get their signals crossed and a user ends up in the wrong dream. It’s very rare, but it happens occasionally. The first misdirected user went to East Berlin, obvs.
Charlie asks logistical questions about how Mara got into the Reverie and how the boy got there. He clearly has an idea in mind. Mara wants to know if they could find the mistaken Reverie and send her back again. With that in mind, they search for the identity of the other user. Ehmet is a very popular name, but Dylan finds him by adding words like “kidnapped” and “missing” to the search. Charlie cautions that they may be getting into something they shouldn’t. But Mara can’t abandon a child, especially one she promised to help.
Dylan shows the Missing poster for Ehmet Alwad, a 16 year old Syrian refugee who’s been missing for 1 week. He was detained at the LA airport by US Customs. The poster was created by Ehmet’s brother, Kareem.
Paul and Alexis discover that the IP address that Ehmet is using is registered to the government, so they call in super investor and DoD rep Monica Shaw. She admits that there is an interrogation program using Reverie, but she doesn’t have anything to do with it. Charlie and Alexis are furious that Reverie is being used for such a negative purpose, and that it could be misused in that type of situation. Monica tells them that the time between the development of a new technology and enemies developing countermeasures is short. The government needs to act quickly. Onira Tech has a contract, they need to live with it.
Mara gets a call from Chris that leaves her beaming, then goes to check on Paul’s progress. He can’t get into the military version of the program. Alexis rushes in and says she’s ready to do whatever it takes to get Ehmet out. She takes over Paul’s computer.
Mara and Paul shift to looking into why the military would be interrogating Ehmet. Ehmet told Mara they were asking about an attack on an airbase.
Mara: Nine months ago, there was an attack on an American base in Turkey, and the investigation uncovered a terrorist organization that was targeting Syrian refugees, and then trying to radicalize them.
Paul: And you believe they think Ehmet’s part of that?
Mara: Yeah, but he says he doesn’t know anything about it.
Paul: Are you sure he’s telling the truth?
Paul: A mate of mine lost his leg in the London tube bombing. I don’t like the military using our program, but I also don’t like people trying to kill me because I don’t believe in their God. Are you sure we’re helping someone who deserves it?
Mara: If he were lying, he’d have a coherent story. He could barely talk, Paul. He’s too scared to be lying.
Paul: Okay, but even if you can get him out, the trace on the IP address has been blocked. We don’t know where his actual body is. They still have him in custody.
Mara: So you’ll just have to find him.
Just as they’re about to debate how Paul will do the seemingly impossible, Alexis shows up having already done it. She has a tablet ready for Mara, with a mandala set up inside to use as the exit point, since “exodus” won’t work. This is a customized program, so Mara should expect surprises.
When Mara tries to enter, she’s kicked back out. That means the interrogator must be in with Ehmet right now. Yikes. Stay strong, Ehmet.
Mara visits Ehmet’s brother Kareem instead. He tells her that their father studied engineering at the University of Michigan and wanted them to study there as well, so he made sure they were fluent in English. Their father died during their escape from Syria.
Mara asks if Kareem knows why the military would think that Ehmet has ties to a terrorist group.
I can answer that one. He’s a young Syrian male.
Kareem doesn’t know why they picked Ehmet in particular. Ehmet is terrified of violence due to frequent sniper attacks in Damascus when they were growing up. They went from their home to a refugee camp, then took a boat to Greece. When the boat sank, they all nearly died. Then they had to pay people off for tickets to the US. They were running away from terrorist groups and would never join one after all of that.
ICE took Ehmet when he got off the plane. Now they won’t even admit that they have him.
Mara gets a call from Paul telling her that she can go back into Ehmet’s Reverie, but they don’t know how long it will be open. Back at the office, he reminds her that she has to use the mandala to get out, and Alexis reminds her about surprises. Alexis hasn’t been paying attention. There’s always surprises.
Mara asks if they added the things she asks for. They did. Mara enters the Reverie and picks up her duffel bag full of heavy tools. First, she uses a crow bar to pry open the door to Ehmet’s cell, then giant bolt cutters to remove his handcuffs. I love a woman who comes prepared.
Ehmet picks up the crow bar and threatens her with it. Mara stays calm as he tells her the interrogator told him that she was lying and this is all real. She gives in to one brief moment of frustration after he runs from the room, then follows him.
Come on, though, who would you believe, the kidnapper or the person who cut you loose?
Mara is a saint.
Monica brings Drew Sullivan, independent contractor to the Defense Department, who’s investigating a terrorist threat, to the Onira Tech offices. He meets with the team and tells them that he believes that Mara is obstructing his access to the Reverie program. The rest of the team haven’t seen Mara lately, and aren’t sure where she’s gotten off to. He threatens to bring them up on charges of aiding and abetting terrorists if they don’t cooperate. They still refuse. He glowers menacingly and throws his weight around a bit more, then leaves.
He also says that they confiscated Ehmet’s passport in a terrorist bunker. But Alexis used radio frequencies to place a GPS tracker on his phone, so they can follow his movements and find Ehmet’s body. Monica gives them the standard scoldings and warnings before she leaves. She seems a bit half-hearted about it, and basically tells them to prove that Ehmet’s innocent.
Meanwhile, Mara’s been in Ehmet’s Reverie for a long time, probably playing hide and seek. Ehmet is huddled in a corner, trying to figure out what’s real. Mara tells him that she’s seen Kareem, and she can get Ehmet too him, if he’ll trust her.
They run for the mandala, only to find armed guards in front of it.
Charlie brings in Kareem to figure out how they can prove his story is true. Kareem says he and Ehmet were in a refugee camp hundreds of miles from Turkey when the terrorist attack occurred, but they don’t have any paperwork to prove it. In the camp, they lived in a tent with no electricity. No one kept accurate records.
It was so bad that journalists would come to take photos of it. Charlie jumps on that, and sends Paul, Alexis and Dylan to search for photos of the camp that might include Kareem and Ehmet.
Mara comes up with a plan to separate the guards and take them out one at a time, but Ehmet is reaching a breaking point, and wonders if he should just give up, go back to his cell, and pretend to be a terrorist, like they want.
Mara asks if he is a terrorist. Ehmet says no, but they treat him like one, even though he’s never done anything illegal in his life. At the airport, ICE was waving guns at him, yelling, and asking questions but not listening to the answers.
They asked why his family arrived in Greece with no papers. It was because they lost everything, including their papers, when they were trying to get to Greece. The boat they escaped from the refugee camp in was small and unsafe. It sank quickly, leaving his entire family and all of their belongings in the water, trying to survive the high waves. Ehmet couldn’t see his dad, but he could hear him. His dad’s voice got fainter, then disappeared. He never saw him again.
Mara listens compassionately to Ehmet’s story, then reminds him that his dad wanted him to come here and keep going, and he still has family. Ehmet is ready to keep trying now. They gather supplies and approach the guards. Mara uses a flashlight to lure one guard to Ehmet’s cell and lock him in.
When they return to the mandala, the way is clear, so they run toward it. Suddenly, the other guard appears and shoots at them, hitting Mara in the side. A chasm opens and chompers line its side. Mara and Ehmet run into a side room, where Ehmet notices that Mara is bleeding and they are suddenly in an episode of Galaxy Quest. This is both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Ehmet.
Paul and Alexis have that dead look in their eyes that anyone who pulled an all nighter in college recognizes. They’ve been through thousands of photos, with no luck. Mara’s vitals aren’t great, and she might have to be moved to the hospital ward.
Charlie kicks into dad mode and keeps things moving. He pressures Kareem to come up with some other way to prove they were in the camp rather than bombing the base. Kareem remembers a journalist was filming in the camp for a while. Their mother wouldn’t let them be interviewed, but he and Ehmet stood in the background of shots as much as possible. Maybe she’d still have something. Charlie contacts her, and has Dylan start scanning her footage.
Inside the Reverie, Mara’s condition is worsening. We’re reminded that they don’t know what would happen if someone died inside a Reverie, and believed they died.
The guard is waiting right outside the door, but Mara’s sure he’s there for her, not Ehmet. She leaves the room, distracting the guard, them Ehmet runs out and pushes him into the chasm.
Mara: All we have to do now, is get across that.
Actual scene from Reverie:
They make it across the pit of fire, through the chompers, pretty sure Mordor came up at some point, and finally they arrive at the optimistically black mandala on the wall.
Mara gives Ehmet a pep talk about surviving whatever he’s going to have to deal with back in the real world until they can get to him, then sends him through. Next it’s her turn.
Paul is right there waiting for her, of course. 😍😍😍 They discover Mara has a giant bruise where she was shot. Paul tries not to show how much he’s freaking out, but he’s really freaking out.
Charlie calls Sullivan the interrogator in to show him the time stamped footage they found with Kareem and Ehmet in the background that proves Ehmet’s innocence. Sullivan refuses to accept it, but Monica steps in and tells him she’s already sent it to the higher-ups. Combined with Charlie’s threats to alert the press that the military is holding and torturing an innocent minor, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have decided to re-evaluate the program. She also tosses in that the copy of Ehmet’s passport that they found was forged. Sullivan will be forced to close up shop.
Monica brings Ehmet to Onira Tech to meet Mara and reunite with Kareem. There are tears all around.
Afterwards, Charlie and Monica have a drink. Monica shares that the interrogation program has been suspended, for now. Charlie smiles and says that the odds of two Reveries crossing are 1 in a million. The odds of it happening while Mara was in the program are slim to none. Monica says that Mara got lucky. Charlie says that maybe someone who has a PhD in computer science and knowledge of both programs just happened to intervene. Monica admits to nothing.
Mara and Chris are relaxing at her apartment. She tells him about her day, and that she feels like everything is going really well lately. They end up making out.
Why would Mara ever consider going back to Chris, with the judginess and the ‘stache, when she could have Paul??? I think they might be my current most adorable TV couple. Such a sweet break from dystopias and Horsemen of the Apocalypse. From fictional stuff, too.
I loved Mara and Paul’s debate about whether they should save Ehmet or not. They each respected each other’s point of view, and Paul respected Mara’s professional abilities and conclusions. Mara returned the favor by showing faith in Paul’s professional abilities.
I’m going to miss this show when it ends, especially since it will likely be cancelled. Mara is a complex character who’s surrounded by complex characters. She’s dynamic and the focus of the action while being a negotiator and peacemaker who never resorts to violence. As I’ve already said, I love how equal and respectful her burgeoning relationship with Paul is. Paul is also layered, with a difficult past, but trying to be a good person.
Alexis is being fleshed out as a character and the stories are becoming more varied. Charlie is still predictable and Monica is practically made of cardboard, but, realistically, we’re only a few episodes in. If the show were renewed I think the whole cast would eventually get the focus they deserve. For now, I’ve been happy with getting to know the product, Mara, Paul and Alexis.
Images courtesy of NBC.
Galaxy Quest video copyright Dreamworks.