NBC this Wednesday invited you into its Reverie, a sci-fi drama in which dreams can turn into nightmares. Is the escapist fare just the virtual reality check you need this summer?
Reverie stars Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest) as Mara Kint, a former FBI hostage negotiator who is enlisted by her former boss, Charlie Vantana (24‘s Dennis Haysbert), to work at the tech company for which he heads security. Onira-Tech invented a VR program, Reverie, through which clients can revisit a favorite memory or make up one of their own, pulling data from their social media imprints and such. Thing is, clients can enjoy their reverie too much and then forget/choose not to come out, sending their body into a coma and leaving loved ones back “home” to fret. The idea is for Mara to join such “trapped” people in their reverie via an untested “2.0” mode that accommodates a second person, and play “hostage negotiator.”
Mara gets a crash course in the Reverie UI from Chief Oneirologist Paul Hammond (Covert Affairs‘ Sendhil Ramamurthy), learning how to steer her body through the sometimes fantastical environs, avoid pain, and exit when need be either by way of a mandala icon or a verbal command. She then sets out to save the first client, a widower who uses his reverie to enjoy a perpetual series of idyllic dates with his late wife. When he first spies the unfamiliar and uninvited Mara inside his reverie, he angrily eludes her. When Mara finally catches up to the guy and begins to state her case, he heaves her off the balcony of a tall building — though she comes to back inside the Reverie facility just as she “lands.”
Also giving Mara a startle during her first assignment is the sensation that part of her own tragic past is surfacing in the reverie. Via flashback, we see that Mara years ago tried to intervene when her sister’s husband went a bit ballistic over a break-up, waving a gun at his wife Jamie and their daughter Brynn. Mara appeared to be successfully negotiating the situation when the squad cars she sent for pulled up with sirens blaring. That triggered the brother-in-law, who abruptly shot dead both Mara’s sister and niece. Now, when in this client’s reverie, Mara has glimpses of a young girl carrying Brynn’s stuffed bunny….
Having noticed a random butterfly flitting throughout the first client’s reverie, Mara investigates — with help from Reverie’s boyish A.I., named DYLAN — and eventually comes to learn that the wife who died in a car crash in fact was terminal at the time. Their savings depleted by treatments, the husband had been pulling crazy shifts at work and, to that end, was hopped up on an illegal stimulant at the time he was driving his wife to a clinic. As such, he holds himself responsible. Mara confronts him with this new information and successfully helps him come to terms with it — in part so that he can get back to his daughter.
Elsewhere in the premiere:
* Paul snared with Reverie creator Alexis (Awkward‘s Jessica Lu) his concerns about plugging Mara into “2.0” so quickly, for fear of her experiencing “derealizations.”
* Sensing that Mara experienced some trauma during her first assignment, Charlie has privately tasked Paul with keeping him posted on any future issues/hiccups.
* We are led to surmise that DYLAN is some sort of manifestation of Alexis’ dead brother.
* Charlie took a meeting with DoD bigwig Monica Shaw (Cold Case‘s Kathryn Morris), who obviously has (nefarious? unethical?) plans for the Reverie program.
* At episode’s end, having succeeded with her first rescue, Mara returned home and started tossing out her pills, booze and other vices… when she glimpsed in the hallway a vision of her niece Brynn, stuffed rabbit in hand!