Mara spirals deeper into disillusion with a heist-themed Reverie
Reverie amps up the stakes this week with Onira-Tech in hot water with the law. A looming lawsuit from a distraught wife (Paton Ashbrook) prompts Mara (Sarah Shahi) to intervene. The main story of the episode focuses on Nate (Ashley Zukerman), Amanda’s husband who has become addicted to his Reverie in which he is a bank robber, which he uses to face his fears and gain back control after a home invasion. Behind the veil of a flashy Reverie filled with helicopters and raining money, lies a vital theme of a very human need for atonement through Nate’s story, while also weaving in the setup for a much larger plot point involving Mara and her Reverie 2.0 implant.
RELATED | Reverie Roundtable: We Need To Go Deeper
As her derealizations become more intense and lifelike, Mara’s disconnect with reality is starting to become more apparent, something we can almost guarantee will be a theme running through the remainder of the season. We see Mara actually converse with Brynn multiple times, showing just how real her hallucinations have become to her.
There’s a lot to discuss this week, between the strong moral dilemma of Reverie’s impact on users who have been through a trauma, to the impact it’s clearly having on Mara. We certainly have a lot of questions (and predictions!) and here to help answer them are our roundtable guests for this week!
Jules (@julesbrindisi) – Chef who loves to immerse herself in TV and clings onto strong female characters
Whitney (@WhitneyFurr1) – Proud mom of 1, Armchair Detective, TV addict
Igor (@Strannik_REB45) – writer, journalist, master of the obscure, and shipper of many fandoms
Tex (@czechTexan) – TV enthusiast, Sarah Shahi fan, fourth horseman of the apocalypse
Chris (@filmwritr4) – journalist, screenwriter and filmmaker
1. Let’s get this out of the way: We’re all worried about Mara, clearly. She continues to seek, or dare we say crave, her hallucinations of Brynn, against the advice of Paul and Charlie, who obviously know more than they’re telling her. With that crazy ending, we have to ask a quite loaded question… how bad could it be?
Jules (@julesbrindisi): Oy, I have no clue. Some man is reaching out to Mara about her experiences and that it has happened to him. What the heck is happening?
Whitney (@WhitneyFurr1): The Reverie could be changing the molecular chemistry of the brain. Mara has been assaulted twice and she’s losing touch with reality unfortunately.
Igor (@Strannik_REB45): I suppose that would depend on whether they are actually hallucinations or, as the teaser for the upcoming episode seems to imply, a Reverie within Reverie Inception type thing. Mind you, I still believe that this is some kind of Reverie-influenced hallucination, but one never knows. And if it is a hallucination – if the teaser is any guide, pretty dang bad.
Tex (@czechTexan): Obviously, Mara’s addictive personality and feelings of guilt have converged to help create this perfect storm. It’s clearly happened before and Charlie and Paul are appropriately worried, still, Mara still retains enough awareness to know that her derealizations aren’t real. That said, I think it’s logical to expect that that won’t be the case for much longer.
Chris (@filmwritr4): I seriously think that Charlie and Paul know more about the incident involving Brynn and her mom than Mara thinks. Since Charlie was calling Mara from her house at one point in the episode, I think he was trying to find out whatever he could about Mara and her association with that incident. As for Mara’s hallucinations, I still think that the medication she takes will do nothing to mitigate them. Yet, since she wants them to continue, I feel that she wants to get closure for her failure to prevent Brynn’s death.
2. This is the first time we’ve seen the law get involved with Onira-Tech. With the danger of the technology, do you think we’ll be seeing some police involvement in the future, perhaps with escalation from a simple lawsuit?
Jules: I think it’s possible that police could be involved in the future, though I’m not sure how. I could see someone trying to use the technology against someone’s will as well.
Whitney: Yes, I can see a lawsuit coming especially with the side effects of Reverie. Also, with people wanting to leave their lives and loved ones behind, I believe the program is convincing them to stay.
Igor: Given that this is a technology that routinely puts people in comas, even with Onira-Tech trying to keep a lid on it, there is only so long before someone will start poking around, whether it’s police, a federal agency or even an enterprising reporter following a tip. So, in short, that seems all but certain.
Tex: I wouldn’t be surprised to see further police involvement down the line. Maybe we might even see something like a class action lawsuit brought against Onira-Tech by the people who were previously trapped inside Reverie. Not that they’d have much of a leg to stand on, given that Reverie users choose to go inside the program despite any danger.
Chris: Police involvement could happen, if they understand both the potential and dangers of Reverie itself, and the severity of whatever perilous situation someone finds his/herself in. Of course, Reverie could also be used to elicit information about wanted criminals as it did with Nate in this episode.
3. We got to see a new side of Paul tonight, and learned a lot about him as a person and a character. The face-your-fears mantra that he explains seems very important to how Reverie treats its users and their minds. Mara seems to be behind it, too, embracing fear when she talks Nate down. How do you feel about these ideas and the way the program interfaces with its users’ minds in that respect?
Jules: I’ve always embraced the be fearless/face-your-fears mantra. In a way, Reverie can be used to face your fears instead of simply escaping your own reality. As we see in the episode, it helps Mara face hers and helped Paul face his, which helps in understanding them a bit better, and also how the Reverie can be used as a fear/anxiety therapy.
Whitney: I think it’s a dangerous situation since the program anticipates what each user needs to stay in the Reverie and how they react to certain things and people.
Igor: There is something to be said about a program that’s life-like enough to allow its users to face fears while at the same time having control over said environment. It would, in theory, let users keep trying and trying again, or stopping if necessary. The problem is that Reverie can trick its users into thinking that it’s real, so the users can’t, by design, have much control. Unless you are Paul, or other Onira-Tech employees who are more aware of Reverie’s unreality then its regular users, I’m not sure how much it can help. Though I suppose having someone like Mara guide users alone might make up for the lack of control problem, to a certain extent.
Tex: I found this theme personally important. I’ve always been a firm believer in the importance of facing one’s fears. It was interesting to start to see more of how the program learns and adapts to people on a deeper level. My question is: will Mara’s presence in other Reveries begin to significantly change the programming? And what does the program’s observation of Mara mean for her derealizations down the road?
Chris: Paul talked about how his Reverie was much less dangerous than having to confront it in real life. It could definitely help people like him and Nate to face their fears, and it could also do the same for Mara. Yet, in her case, the mixture of Reverie and her medication could complicate that task.
4. With Nate’s story, we’re starting to see a whole new side of Reverie users, beyond those who just want to escape heartbreak or trauma by losing themselves in a fantasy. It brings up great psychological questions about how we deal with trauma, particularly with the way technology is innovating every aspect of our lives. Every program is bound to have its issues, but what happens when those issues go beyond error messages and become real problems?
Jules: Since the Reverie is tasked with incorporating and learning a user’s personality, I think right now the issues may be how someone deals with those changes such as Mara having someone attack her versus the room freezing on her.
Whitney: What happens depends on what your issues are and how you react to them. I can see the program destroying a person mentally, especially with the hallucinations. These people can become out of touch with reality and get killed or kill someone else.
Igor: Which, I suppose, goes to the fact that Reverie pulls out people’s subconscious fears and traumas. We get why it does it – to create a more convincing illusion, but pulling out traumatic incidents seems like a bug rather then a feature. Certainly, Nate might have had second thoughts about using Reverie if he knew that a Mad Max version of his attacker was going to spring up and drag him around. While, as I said, there is something to be said for facing fears, springing fears on a person who’s unprepared could easily make things worse. I mean, imagine if Mara wasn’t there to explain to Nate what was going on? I guess what I’m trying to get it is that more Reverie users would see it as a bug. Especially if a user’s trauma is more severe then Nate’s.
Tex: That’s a tricky question… and one that needs answering given the nature of Reverie relative to its users. This isn’t some program where if a glitch happens you call IT down to fix it. Reverie has to work, period. A malfunction of the program could be deadly for a lot of people.
Chris: Nate’s situation is a major example of how Reverie could become a huge real life problem. Nate initially found that living inside the Reverie became a way to cope with his unresolved issues without actually confronting them. It took Mara to convince Nate of the deadly impact of his extended time inside the Reverie, but it would be more challenging if anyone decided that fantasy (as represented by whatever Reverie they choose to live in) was much better than the hard truths of reality.
5. Alexis said, “Reverie is not an escape. It’s a bridge. It can connect people.” To follow that, could Reverie be seen as a kind of virtual therapy? Alexis clearly believes in something to that effect. We’ve been focusing on the negatives and dangers of the technology, but could it really be something good? Where is that balance struck?
Jules: I definitely believe that balance can be achieved, though not by everyone probably. I think Mara could use the Reverie to help bring a bit of closure to her family’s tragic deaths.
Whitney: I can’t see how it’s very good or therapeutic. You’re stuck in this fantasy not necessarily facing your problems. You’re in a state of delusion basically. I do think when Mara comes in to bring a user out that’s when the healing starts.
Igor: What Alexis is describing is not what Reverie users actually use it for. And besides, if you want to connect people, it would have to be more like Deeptown, where the illusion is shared, rather than each person having their own environments.
Tex: Alexis speaks of Reverie as a rehabilitative program, and that potential is precisely what we saw in Paul’s story this week. I think the very things about Reverie that give it therapeutic value are also the same things that make it dangerous and addictive. It’s an interesting dichotomy and I believe a careful balance could be struck if people remain vigilantly aware of the dangers.
Chris: Reverie could be a form of virtual emotional therapy for anyone who’s suffered a loss, or for anyone who has experienced a painful moment in his/her life. The key, though, would be for users of Reverie to apply it in a responsible way. As a therapeutic aid, maybe psychiatrists could use it to supplement their traditional practice – but not as a substitute for that practice or any traditional psychiatric care.
6. Speaking of Alexis, it looked like Mara was able to get her to open up a little! We still know next to nothing about her, but it’s a step in the right direction. Was that even a smile we saw? With her extreme privacy, it’s hard to tell where her opinions stand on everything going on. Does she know how dangerous her own technology is?
Jules: Alexis is extremely smart and it appears she knows how to implement the technology to use for therapy. I suspect she used it to help remember the times she had with Dylan and used it to come to peace and a better understanding of that period in her life.
Whitney: Alexis actually smiled, wow! I don’t think she knows, but I don’t think she even wants to know. She’s doesn’t seem worried about the users or Mara for that fact. I think Charlie and Paul are more worried.
Igor: I think, as it’s often the case in these situations, she is too close to her creation and too enamored with its potential that she may miss the danger. But even if she was more aware of the dangers, her reaction would be something like “hey, just because nuclear bombs blow people up doesn’t mean we should stop researching nuclear power.”
Tex: My reading of Alexis is that she’s a person focused on doing good. She wants to help people and her program is the way to do that. However, she’s also somewhat myopic and so focused on the program as she intends it to be that she can be dismissive of the setbacks. It’s not that she’s unaware of the danger, it’s just that she seems to compartmentalize the knowledge because the danger could shut down her program.
Chris: I was impressed by how Mara was able to get Alexis to open up a little, but I think that Alexis acts the way she does because she might know how dangerous Reverie actually could be. She’s very protective of the program, of course, and she takes pride in it, but the way she approaches the program might have a lot to do with the closed-off front that she portrays herself with.
7. With Mara’s derealization escalating, and Onira-Tech’s secrecy, it looks like things are going to get hairy next week. Predictions?
Jules: I’m hoping to see why Charlie is being so wary and secretive to Mara. Also who is the guy who’s trying to help Mara saying that he’s experiencing what she is experiencing? He also apparently pissed of Charlie somehow as well.
Whitney: Mara is about to get a rude awakening. I don’t believe the program is too happy with the users leaving. Mara is in danger and she’s about to see how sinister this technology is. I hope she’s able to decipher what’s real and what’s fake. I can’t wait for the next episode!
Igor: As my people would say, devil only knows. But I imagine that we would find out that there’s more to Reverie – and the way it interfaces with the subconscious – than we the viewers were led to believe. I don’t hold out hope for epic mindscrews, but one never knows.
Tex: I think we might finally find out what Charlie and Paul know about the 2.0 issue, for starters. The episode is full of possibilities and I am so ready!
Chris: As for next week’s episode, I think Mara may end up slowly starting to figure out what Paul and Charlie may be hiding from her. Even through the first few episodes, I’ve suspected that they might have something to hide. At one point, I thought Charlie may have had some involvement during his police days with investigating the incident that Mara keeps reliving. Whatever happens, though, I think Mara might be in more danger than she imagined.
Incredible acting chops keep Reverie on its A-game even in the midst of a slow-brewing story
Sarah Shahi proves time and again that she is 100% capable of carrying a show. We love seeing the way she brings something different to the table every week, whether that’s a new revelation about Mara or a new depth of emotional connection to the person she’s trying to save. Shahi is no stranger to Reverie‘s formula, having done the episodic format of “third party rescues person in danger” previously on Person of Interest, in which she played, essentially, Mara’s polar opposite (albeit in the same types of situations). Truly a testament to her incredible acting range and ability, we hope further episodes will allow for an even deeper dive into Mara’s complex emotions.
Other standouts are Alexis (Jessica Lu) and Paul (Sendhil Ramamurthy). We get to learn a lot about Paul’s past, with a quite literal look into his mind and the way he thinks in an emotional scene taking place inside a recreation of his childhood home. Mara’s conversation with Alexis is also noteworthy, as the two are actually starting to connect. She gives away a good deal about the way her mind is structured; very much the typical tech genius spewing technobabble, but with questions about the heart behind her words. Her exchange with Mara about connecting emotions to her speech is a standout moment from the episode.
Despite the great moments and developments from “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, in the coming episodes, we’d love to see Reverie take more risks. While the show still has time to dwell on arbitrary cases, the safe formula of the ‘patient of the week’ dialogue weaved in with a dash of background plot development is getting old quick. From the preview, as well as the cliffhanger we’re left on from this episode, it looks like the show might be starting to make its departure from this method, which would certainly be a welcome change.
With the promise of going more in depth into how Reverie 2.0 works, and its consequences, we’re looking forward to seeing how Reverie pieces together the small moments from previous episodes into a more cohesive issue for Mara, as well as Onira-Tech. There’s a lot of potential with the setup of these initial three episodes, and we are very excited to see where the writers will take us this season!