Mara continues her very bad day in this episode, trying to sort out how much of her life is real and how much is frighteningly real hallucination. Oliver, the king of blurred reality, takes over the medical wing and Alexis’ attention for seemingly benign reasons, but this is Oliver. He’s a manipulative, spurned genius and nothing will ever be simple with him. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems with Charlie either, and he’s all over this episode, intervening with Oliver and Alexis, and interrupting Paul and Mara to drop a bombshell.
The episode begins with Charlie arriving at Mara’s apartment not long after she’s figured out that she’s dating a hallucination. Paul and Alexis are already there. Paul’s making tea, because he’s a good
boyfriend coworker, and as far as I can tell the Brits make tea in response to every life event. I support this habit.
Charlie has Mara tell her story in detail, but she leaves the derealization sex out. That kind of intense physical hallucination probably should be reported, but I understand her need for privacy. It protects Paul’s heart as well, so let’s keep his dreams alive for as long as possible.
Charlie and Paul try to reassure Mara that she’s safe and they’ll work it out. Mara jumps out of her seat to tell Paul that she’s done everything she was supposed to do, everything he told her to do, but she’s far from okay. Mara doesn’t even know if the rest of the team are really there. Everyone looks sad and guilty, but it’s Alexis, of all people, who responds. It’s the most warmth we’ve ever seen from her.
She asks who called who the first time Mara saw Derealization Chris. Mara replies that he called her. Alexis nods, because she knew that would be Mara’s answer, and explains that, “You can’t call a derealization. The phone call goes through to the real person.” Mara can be sure that they’re really there, since she called them. She promises that they’ll find a way to help Mara.
It sounds like Alexis has been through this process before. Did she and Oliver work this out?
Mara isn’t sure she can be fixed. Then her phone rings and she has Charlie answer it. Oliver has been taken to the hospital, unconscious, and requested Mara. They need to go find out what’s going on.
The doctors aren’t sure why Oliver isn’t waking up, but we know it’s because he’s in a Reverie. The broken tablet was brought to the hospital with him. He doesn’t have any ID, so Charlie has to ID him. Mara asks why they contacted her. The doctor says that Oliver requested her and opens his shirt. Oliver has written, “Deliver to Mara Kint,” on his chest in marker.
Charlie takes the bait and transfers Oliver to Onira’s medical wing. He has Hagan, the head of security, handcuff Oliver to his bed and place a security guard in the room. Leekly, the guard, just happens to be the guy Oliver paid off last week. Hagan tells him not to let anyone in the room but Charlie.
Alexis contacts a neurologist from Toronto about Mara’s issues. She’ll fly in tomorrow to consult on Mara’s case.
Charlie has found out that Alexis met with Oliver and gives her a lecture, then orders her to stay away from him because he’s bad news and planning something. Alexis reminds Charlie that Oliver is angry with them because they hurt him. Charlie says that’s what he’s scared of.
The Charlie/Oliver/Alexis thing is odd. They obviously forced him out, but Charlie also hates him an irrational amount. Shouldn’t Alexis be the unforgiving one? She know he’s unstable and dangerous, but she also knows he’s useful and could possibly be managed. Charlie is obsessed with keeping Oliver away from everything to do with the company, even when it might harm people or the company to do so.
There’s something more here than what we’ve been told. Charlie is a very practical person who puts the bottom line of the company before almost everything else. Given how quickly and easily Oliver solves some of their worst problems, it’s ridiculous for them to avoid finding a way to use him as a consultant. Normally Charlie would be the one arguing for the dangerous or unethical move, or he’d at least be standing back and quietly making it happen. Charlie’s got a bigger reason than his concern for Alexis for keeping Oliver away, and more happened between Oliver and Charlie then we know about.
Paul checks in on Mara, but she’s still doing poorly. He offers to find ways to treat the symptoms, like heavier doses of drugs, and meditation, while they work on the bigger problem. Mara doesn’t want to bother. She asks if this has happened to anyone else and he says no. She understands why they don’t have a treatment.
Paul says that the spontaneous transformation of a derealized figure, like she had when Chris turned into Ray, is rare. He asks if Ray did anything, and Mara tells him that Ray said he’s there for a reason, just like Brynn did.
Charlie comes in to let them know about the neurologist. Mara decides to go visit Oliver in his Reverie, since he asked for her and he might have some insight that would help her. Paul says that what happened with Oliver wasn’t the same thing- at all. Mara thinks it’s close enough.
Oliver’s Reverie is a beach. He offers Mara a trade. He wants Alexis to visit him in the program. If he tried to get close to her in real life, Charlie would literally pop his head off. So if Mara will try to get Alexis into his Reverie, he’ll share the information he has that could help stop Mara’s derealizations.
Oliver lays on his story of love and remorse pretty thick for Mara, but she’s desperate and still off her game, so she buys it. He says that to get rid of the derealizations, she needs to have her BCI surgically extracted, rather than just deactivated.
Mara brings Oliver’s messages to the team and asks if it’s true that she could have the BCI removed. Paul confirms that it’s called emergency extraction, and it’s a simple procedure, but they prefer to deactivate the BCI instead. Once an extraction has been performed, scar tissue forms at the site and the body won’t ever accept another BCI, so the person is locked out of the Reverie program forever. For that reason, they prefer to deactivate the BCI when people don’t want to use it any more. The body will reabsorb it in approximately 6 months.
Paul suggests they try deactivation and then keep exploring solutions, but Mara doesn’t want to experiment any further. They agree to schedule the extraction for later that day. Alexis apologizes for the distress that Reverie has caused her.
Oliver had to know that Mara would be locked out after an extraction. Can he be sure it will solve her issues, or is this to get rid of her before he sets the next part of his plan in motion? Meanwhile, Charlie was awfully quick to give in and allow Mara to leave the job and to leave the company without someone to save clients who get into trouble.
Alexis prepares to go meet Oliver in his Reverie. Charlie tries to stop her, but she makes the point that he’s not coming out until she goes in, so she might as well get it over with. Oliver can’t hurt her in Reverie, and she can try to figure out what he’s up to.
She underestimates him, of course.
Oliver turns on the charm and showers her with birthday presents. Alexis is drawn in and follows him. As they walk down the beach, buildings rise from the surf and sand, then the sand turns to cobblestones. He’s recreated a section of Paris that they loved on a trip there together. The transformation is one of the coolest effects that the show has done.
Paul won’t give up on Mara. He keeps researching, and finds that everyone she’s hallucinated has a connection to the hospital where Ray is a patient. If the hallucinations were random, they’d be truly random. The fact that they’re so targeted means that her brain is sending her a message and they need to decipher it. Especially since the hallucinations keep telling her that they exist for a reason.
Paul explains this to Mara, and tries to get her on board with digging deeper into her memories of the shooting. She breaks down and refuses. She’s buried those memories, and wants them to stay that way. Paul, who was pushed by Reverie to work through his own traumatic past, understands her feelings, but knows that she needs this.
Mara asks why he’s making this harder for her. He answers, “I don’t want you to go. You’ve saved this place. We’d have half a dozen dead clients if it weren’t for you. You are invaluable to us and I…I really enjoy working with you.”
Mara enjoys working with Paul, too. 😻😻😻 But she’s really a mess, so he gives her some space.
Hagan discovers that a BCI was stolen 2 weeks ago, so that’s how long Oliver’s had one to work with. Dylan notifies Charlie that the security camera in Alexis’ office has gone offline. Hagan and Charlie head off to investigate.
The camera was deactivated by Leekly, who’s still working for Oliver. He enters Alexis’ office and takes a small device from her pants pocket, then hides in the end of his flashlight. That whole sentence was just all kinds of creepy. And Oliver must have told Leekly where the device would be, because Leekly didn’t have to search. So Oliver sent a strange guy into Alexis’ office alone with her when she was unconscious and wouldn’t know if she was violated, then told the guy to stick his hands in her pants. Nice.
Notice Oliver had no fear of anyone violating his body while he was unconscious and alone in public, and neither did the writers.
Hagan and Charlie find Leekly in the room, but he says he was checking out the malfunctioning camera. They can’t find anything on him, so they let him go.
Alexis and Oliver hang out at their favorite little Parisian café, and Alexis declares Oliver’s gift a success. Oliver still has one more piece of his birthday gift waiting. A Reverie version of Alexis’ little brother Dylan runs up behind her. Alexis cries at the sight of Dylan, but then sends him away.
She asks Oliver why he would do that. Oliver says that he wanted show her that resurrecting Dylan is her motivation for everything she’s created. Now she can’t see how flawed Reverie is because it’s too personal to her. He tells her that there are currently two paths ahead. He wants her to get rid of Charlie and let him back into the company so they can fix Reverie together.
He doesn’t say what the second path is.
Alexis denies ever wanting to bring Dylan back. Oliver doesn’t even understand what Reverie really is. Alexis tells Oliver that’s he’s selfish and sick, and she shouldn’t have come. Oliver says, “Well, at least I didn’t kill my brother.” Alexis turns around and hits him. He roughly grabs her and gives her a fake apology, then lets her leave.
When Alexis wakes up, Charlie and Hagan are finishing investigating Leekly and her camera’s malfunction. As far as they can tell, nothing is missing. Alexis has obviously been crying, but she tells Charlie it was nothing. Charlie takes off to find Oliver, who’s awake now. Charlie grabs and threatens Oliver, which plays into Oliver’s hands. Oliver asks for a phone so that he can call his lawyer. He’s still illegally handcuffed to the bed.
It’s time for Mara’s extraction, but she has second thoughts. She asks Dylan for Reverie usage statistics, and realizes that there are people in the program right now who’ll need her help. She can’t bring herself to abandon them without giving Paul’s idea a try.
She goes to Paul’s office and recounts the events of the day her sister and niece died:
“Jaimie called me about 3:00 that afternoon. She and Ray had been married for 8 years. He was okay. He drank a little bit more than I liked, but I didn’t really think there was a problem. Some people, when they’re falling apart, they give off signals. Other people just keep a really tight lid on it, and you don’t know until it’s too late. That was Ray.
Flashback:(On the phone.) Charlie, my brother in law’s got my sister and my niece. He has at least one gun on him. (Charlie: What’s the address?) 1175 Arlington, Apt 3A. (Charlie: Are you gonna talk to him?) Yeah, yeah, but no flashers or guns when you get here. OK?
Paul: Why no sirens?
Mara: Some people get really worked up by them. I want them to calm down, to make them think that I’m on their side. To get in their heads.
Paul: So you can manipulate them.
Mara: That’s the idea.
Mara (to Ray in the past): Okay, so just back up a second, and tell me how all of this got started.
Ray: I found a text.
Mara: A text, good. What text?
Ray: On Jaimie’s phone.
Mara: A text on Jaimie’s phone. Okay, great. What did it say?
Ray: That she’s taking Brynn to you parents place, that she’s gonna leave me…
Jaimie: No Ray no, I was never leaving…
Mara: Wait. Wait, Wait, Wait. Stay with me, Ray, alright? Jaimie, let me talk to him. I’m sure it wasn’t permanent, you know. Maybe she was just trying to give you guys some space. I know my sister. She loves you.
Ray. Not any more.
Mara: Of course she does. Remember when you used to come over to the house to pick her up for dates and you were driving that car, what was it? It was the black one, with the wheels…
Ray: The camero.
Mara: The camero, exactly.
Mara (Present day): He was listening. I could’ve grabbed the gun away from him. We could’ve just walked away.
In the flashback, sirens can be heard. Ray asks if Mara called the police. Mara tells him that they police are leaving, and frantically texts them. Ray shoots Jaimie and Brynn while Mara yells for him to stop. Then he puts the gun to his own head and fires.
Mara bitterly says to Paul that Ray screwed up though, and shot through the front of his head, so he’s still alive. He’ll be in a coma for the rest of his life.
Oliver leaves Onira Tech with his attorney, escorted out by Charlie. All three throw threats out into the ring. Charlie and Oliver are ready to turn control of Onira into a blood sport.
Charlie walks by Paul’s office on his way back to his own and realizes he has more fixing to do.
Paul asks Mara if Ray said anything before he shot himself. She says no. Then she stood there and cried until the police arrived.
Charlie steps into Paul’s office and says that Paul and Mara are wasting their time. He can tell Mara the truth about what happened that day. He takes her to his office.
Charlie tells Mara he’s debated whether to share this with her. He tells her that when they were done texting during the crisis, she accidentally called him. His phone was back in his pocket and went to voice mail. His voice mail recorded everything that happened.
Charlie: I’m sorry you have to hear this, but it’s important.
Ray (In the past.): You called the police?
Mara: No, no, no.
Ray: I told you not to call the police.
Mara: Ray, ray. They’re gonna go away. Ray, they’re gonna go away.
[Gunshots] Mara: Ray! Ray!
Ray: I’m so sorry. It wasn’t supposed to happen.
Mara interrupts the recording. She doesn’t remember this at all. She doesn’t remember Ray speaking again before he shot himself.
Charlie says that even though she believes that’s the truth, the message proves otherwise. It’s common for trauma victims to suppress memories, after all. That’s why he saved the recording. He knew it was the only way she’d believe him.
But that’s not all that was said:
Mara: You killed them, Ray. They’re never coming back. You don’t want to spend the rest of you life in prison thinking that, do you. You don’t have to. You thought that she was going to leave you. You thought that you were going to be all alone. Well, you don’t have to be. You can be with her right now. If that’s what you really want. They’re going to be here any second. You’ll never have this chance again.
The police pound on the door. Mara repeats it’s okay until Ray puts the gun to his head and fires.
If she really has this kind of power, they should send Mara into all of the world’s big standoff situations. That was more like hypnotism than a hostage negotiator.
Charlie quickly tries to Charlie-splain away her feelings: Ray would have shot himself anyway. No one would have blamed you Mara. I’d have killed him myself and smoked a cigar after. He got what he deserved, The program may be digging up memories that you buried. So I decided that you have to know.
Mara is distraught and asks why Charlie didn’t tell her. Then she decides to leave. Charlie yells for her to talk to him as she walks out. Predictably, she ends up in a bar, drinking again. Then she makes her way home and goes derealization hunting while RY X’s song Deliverance plays.
Oliver and Leekly meet to exchange the device that Leekly stole for Leekly’s payoff. Oliver explains that the device is a very rare security key to the Reverie source code. But now that Oliver told Leekly, he has to kill him. After Oliver shoots Leekly, he takes back the pay off, and says he’s going to, “Burn the place down.” That would be the second path, the one that Alexis accidentally chose.
Mara wakes up alone, not having been visited by any ghosts. However, she looks at the photo of Jaimie’s family, and pulls back the paper covering Ray, with a thoughtful look on her face.
Charlie has slept on his office couch, which might explain why he’s always in a suit and tie, no matter the time of day or night. Alexis comes in and wakes him, telling him that she needs to go to her parents’ house overnight. She also says that she’s done with Oliver. She goes to her car and drives away. Oliver follows her.
Mara tells Paul that she’s uncovered something that was buried very deep in her mind and now the hallucinations are gone. She’s going to get help dealing with it, but first she wants him to assist her with something that’s probably illegal. Paul’s all in for a little illegal bonding exercise to keep Mara at Onira and bring the two of them closer together. Maybe he won’t even tell Charlie.
They go to…Ray’s hospital room. Paul built a custom environment for Mara to use with Ray, and they’ve got a BCI to inject into him. Paul’s not sure what Ray’s comatose mind will be like before the environment manifests.
Mara gets out her tablet and enters the Reverie. It’s all white with a faint lighted grid. After a moment, Ray appears behind Mara. He’s confused, and asks what she’s doing there. Mara turns around and says, “Hello Ray.” Her voice doesn’t sound very friendly, and her jaw is set.
It doesn’t look like she’s there to apologize.
I don’t believe that Mara would or did talk Ray into shooting himself, but if that’s the way the writers are going with this, then it would likely be so they can show us just how tough Mara can be when she gets angry enough. Mara is extraordinarily kind and patient. She always tries to be fair and to work things out nonviolently.
She’d seem stronger and tougher to many people if she manipulated her enemy into punishing himself. But there nothing wrong with having stood there in shock for a few moments while Ray shot himself, and/or getting out before he shot her too. That’s the realistic response, no matter how brave we all like to think we’d be in that situation.
This completely changes who we thought Mara was. It changes who she thought she was, too. It’s as if the show decided they had to make her more edgy in response to criticisms that she was too nice to be interesting. But I found her plenty interesting. I don’t need people or characters to be twisted and mentally ill to find them compelling. It’s lazy writing to always need to go in that sensationalist direction. More subtle characters require more subtle writing.
So Mara’s turn from a compassionate soul who turns the other cheek to a vengeful warrior is foreshadowing, if it’s really true. Now that she’s accepted that she has a dark side, she’ll use it against her enemies, and we’ve seen that she has some powerful tools at her disposal. In episode 10, she’ll have a powerful enemy to fight in Oliver.
Is Oliver partially responsible for Mara’s deteriorating mental state? He knows more about the creative potential of Reverie than everyone else in that building combined, including Alexis. He also spent time with Mara and had a similar goal to this episode’s goal, access to Alexis and the company, which he knew Charlie would never allow. But it got him close enough to Mara to transmit a code to increase her derealizations so that the team would be distracted by her issues and not notice what he was doing in this episode.
He reacted strangely when Alexis mentioned that Mara was the one who’d had the physical manifestation of a VR wound. Maybe that was the signal he was waiting for that she’d progressed to the point of being a proper distraction. He also had the instructions for the fix right at the tip of his fingers, and was ready to put his plan into action. He could also have turned Mara into a sleeper agent of some sort for more than just the necessary distraction.
Which brings me to my other theory. I think Charlie faked that phone message. The episode was filled with faked reality, most of it created by Oliver. Oliver knows that Charlie faked it and/or Charlie blackmailed him into it.
Ray said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
I believe Ray was having derealizations that caused him to see the texts that made him think Jaimie was leaving him, just like Mara was hallucinating texts and calls that she was back in a relationship with Chris. I think that’s one of the similarities Mara’s mind is trying to point out to her.
Nothing we’ve previously seen from Mara would fit with her reacting with that kind of vengeance and anger. We’ve seen Mara hurt and attacked before. At one point I was keeping count of how many times people were physically aggressive toward her, and she never lashed out. She always responds with compassion. She always turns her anger inward, as women often do, and are socialized to do.
In this episode alone, we saw Alexis, Charlie and Oliver respond to threats with physical aggression. But the most Mara did was verbally express brief angry frustration to Paul.
As Charlie said, the kind of reaction that phone call depicted was exactly the way Charlie would have reacted. We’ve seen him talk to Oliver in exactly the same way: Threatening, but trying to keep his hands clean. In episode 8 he deduced that Monica had set up Mara to “accidentally” find herself in the military interrogation program and was impressed with the way Monica manipulated others while keeping her own hands clean. It was clear that he and Monica are two of a kind.
Charlie is moving his chess pieces around the board in the same way now. He has a secret that he’s trying to protect that has something to do with Ray’s breakdown. Chris is likely connected. So is Reverie. I have a feeling that Onira and Alexis would be harmed if the whole truth were known, because he works hard to keep Alexis safe and functioning. I think he has genuine affection for her in addition to her being the company’s biggest asset. She’s his priority when it comes to protection, not Mara, like he pretends.
Charlie keeps Mara close in order to make sure she never figures out the truth. When she gets close to the truth, he manufactures a crisis, distraction, or a way to discredit her, like this phone call. I wouldn’t be surprised if he undermined her and subtly encouraged her alcoholism and addiction right after the murders, to keep her mentally fuzzy and keep others from taking her seriously.
He may also have pushed Oliver over the edge into severe mental illness and out of the company because of Oliver’s strong opposition to military investment in the company. Oliver is a villain now, but he may have been forced into the role by Charlie. We know Charlie has a longstanding habit of being selective with the truth, but making it sound like it’s the other person’s fault that he lied (he had no other choice but to lie to protect them). We know Charlie is the company fixer and willing to do unethical things when he has to. Did he go too far with the cover up of whatever Ray was involved in?
It’s significant that a BCI that’s left in place dissolves and is absorbed into the body within a few months. That means that Ray could have had one, but it would be hard tell now. Was Ray one of the early test subjects for Reverie 2.0? Was he involved with the military’s experiments using the program? Is Chris triggering derealizations because things he said to her at the time now make sense in the back of her mind, and she understands that he was referring to Reverie? Is that why he was so suspicious of his patient using it, and Mara going in after her? Was Ray under physical and/or psychological attack in Reverie? Charlie specifically warned Chris that Mara was healing, but still fragile. Was that to keep Chris from telling Mara the truth?
Charlie could also use that recording as blackmail material against Mara, should she figure out whatever it is he’s hiding. Actually, showing Mara and Paul trying to figure what really happened to Ray and why Charlie is covering it up, while keeping their investigation secret from the rest of the team, would be a good plot for season 2. Ray’s brain damage likely destroyed many of his memories, so he’d of limited help, but it would be cool for them to continue to work with him for clues. He’d be motivated to help so that he could understand what happened to him and atone for the murders.
How many of Mara and Chris’s scenes have been real? Was the scene where she went to his office and cried and then he said he’d wait for her real? He seemed kind of wooden to me in that scene. He’s been quieter and more supportive of her in the fake scenes than in real life. The office scene fits that rule.
Will we ever find out how Dylan died? Now Oliver has accused Alexis of killing him, which I assume means that he died in an accident that also involved her, but she blames herself. Given how prone Reverie is to searching for clients’ unresolved issues and pushing them to the front of their minds, I’m guessing that Alexis created Reverie to deal with the aftermath of Dylan’s death when she was having trouble coping. She’s talked about the importance of that sort of use for Reverie.
Alexis looked really pretty this episode. She was given the leading lady treatment with her hair, makeup and wardrobe. I hope she continues to get more storyline attention. I also hope she doesn’t lose Charlie, her surrogate dad. The way she said she was going to her parents house makes me wonder if they’re dead. Maybe the hints about Charlie’s dark side will turn out to be red herrings.
Images courtesy of NBC.