Reverie weaves another heartfelt tale in the midst of tragedy
“Altum Somnum” is quite different from previous episodes of Reverie. We get to see Monica Shaw’s (Kathryn Morris) influence on Onira Tech and the repercussions it has for the whole team. After a deadly bombing at a company with government affiliations, Mara (Sarah Shahi) is asked to go into a special Reverie created for the only survivor, who happened to see the perpetrator’s face. The main caveat of this is the fact that Denise (Ashleigh LaThrop), a security guard at Mercodyne, is in a coma, and not an Onira Tech client. The question of consent is weighed by Paul (Sendhil Ramamurthy), but with the threat of a second bomb looming, and a technical challenge for Alexis (Jessica Lu), Mara decides to take the case on.
The entire premise is quickly flipped upside down as the team uncovers that the real Denise Lang has been on leave from work for months, and the woman in their care is actually Ashley Trent, an accomplice to the bombing, responsible for letting the perpetrator into the building. Having been severely injured, Ashley is only expected to make it a few more hours, so Mara has to work quickly, hoping that her memory will recreate the man’s face.
While Alexis and Charlie (Dennis Haysbert) gather more intel about the terrorists, Mara struggles to gain the trust of both Ashley and her mother, in an attempt to find out where the second bomb is set to go off. So what did our roundtable think of the episode? Let’s find out!
Chris (@filmwritr4) – Journalist, screenwriter and filmmaker
Kim (@KDL0888) – TV show addict, hardcore fangirl
Tex (@czechTexan) – TV enthusiast, Sarah Shahi fan, fourth horseman of the apocalypse
Jules (@julesbrindisi) – Chef who loves to immerse herself in TV and clings onto strong female characters
Cat (@Cat_grl6) – Researcher by day, TV addict by night
1. There are obvious benefits to going into “Denise’s” mind (many lives being saved) but there are many objections. Consent is an important part of these arguments, but it also brings into question what Mara has been doing previously. She’s infiltrating other people’s minds without their permission; This is just taking it a step further. Where should the line be drawn?
Chris (@filmwritr4): This is a very interesting ethical issue that’s being raised by the use of Reverie itself. I wonder if there should be either a pre-written agreement that anyone who chooses to participate in the program should sign, but with the kind of un-asked for intervention that Mara took in this episode as strictly a last resort (say, if someone is trapped in a reverie, or if someone refuses to leave despite the risks to his/her life).
Kim (@KDL0888): Now that I think about it, none of the others gave consent either..Unless they sign something before being able to use Reverie. I believe consent should be given but this was a special case. It may not have worked out with someone else besides Denise. Personally, I would think if someone with even less “morals” than Denise had information and Mara went in, I doubt she would have gotten the info.
Tex (@czechTexan): I think that’s an interesting question. Consent has never been a factor in Mara’s role at Onira Tech; what makes this different? I believe a firm line should be drawn at necessity. As someone who is intensely private, myself, I have a lot of appreciation for certain boundaries. It just doesn’t feel right to flippantly use Reverie to invade minds without a dire reason to do so.
Jules (@julesbrindisi): Consent is important in any situation. This is a tough position to be in, because you can’t receive consent from someone already inside a Reverie, though you could ask someone close to that person. It really weighs down to: you do nothing and let the person possibly die, or do your best to save that person’s life despite the lack of consent. I’m not really sure where the line could really be drawn, though I would always try to receive consent from someone close to the Reverie user.
Cat (@Cat_grl6): I think in this case Onira Tech felt they were justified in entering “Denise’s” mind because there was a very real public threat. But it is an interesting question. It’s also scary how easy it is (on the show) to enter other people’s Reveries. So far Mara has only done it to help people, but if she can jump in that easily, it seems to mean that others could too.
2. What exactly could Monica’s endgame be with the Reverie 2.0 technology? She seems to be interested in it for intelligence purposes, but to what extent?
Chris: I really think that Monica could use Reverie 2.0 as a tool for government surveillance, especially given the situation that took place in this week’s episode. It could also be used as a crime-fighting/suspect identification method, but again, due process and ethical matters are to be considered.
Kim: Monica is the voice of the military so I’m guessing there is some type of “Interrogate without needing consent” angle they are reaching for. As a veteran, I can see where it could be used for mission training, to run scenarios in rescue missions, practice for infiltration, the training would be almost in “real-time”, for combat medical situations. But if Monica or the military’s goal is to use it for interrogation techniques, how far can they go if they use Dark Reverie without the parameters set in Reverie? They have the source code.
Tex: I’m suspicious of Monica, quite frankly. She could have genuine altruistic motives geared toward helping people, but she’s a government agent at the end of the day. I imagine her motives, however well intentioned they may or may not be, will be soured by that connection. This is a movie we’ve seen before numerous times in fiction and the real world.
Jules: Since she’s part of the military, I feel she might want to use it for simulation purposes in tactical situations. Or, unfortunately, maybe as a way of gaining information from terrorists since it’s a simulated reality. I would hope it’s not the latter, though Monica gives a very foreboding feeling off. At the very least, an alternative way to gain intelligence that’s not violent I hope.
Cat: The fact that the Department of Defense is involved with Onira Tech is very ominous to me. There are a lot of ways the government could use this technology for their own benefit. I hope they explore that in future episodes.
3. Alexis and Charlie both make good points about how they think Onira-Tech needs to be run. Alexis believes that her vision is the most important part, while Charlie believes that she also needs to get out there and see the people she’s affecting. Who do you side with? What is Alexis best at?
Chris: I side with Charlie, because over the first few episodes Alexis hasn’t always shown her understanding of the human impact of Reverie itself. She does understand the good – and bad – things that it could do for people. When she grows to further appreciate how Reverie touches the lives of those who use it – and in turn, everyone else they care about – Alexis should take both into consideration for how she views Onira Tech’s operating mission.
Kim: A lot of people don’t like going out in the real world because it is a scary place. Alexis seems to do better in a controlled environment, but we’ve only had a glimpse into some of her past as to the reason for that. Charlie getting her to see real people and the real consequences may even help her in programming Reverie.
Tex: I think both are in the right and a compromise needs to be found between the two opposing views. Alexis’s vision is what makes Onira Tech, but the way that vision affects people needs to be considered.
Jules: Both have valid points. Alexis is clearly possessive about her technology, as anyone would be about something they created if they feel intellectual property may have been compromised. I think Charlie is far less emotional than Alexis. He has more direct view and Alexis is still affected by Dylan’s death. I’m still very wary of Charlie’s intentions though as a whole, especially considering he wanted to talk to Monica Shaw before she explained she was part of the government.
Cat: Alexis is definitely not a people person! She needs to work on her social skills. I think Charlie sees that and wants to help her. But she’s definitely better at the tech side of things.
4. “My name is Mara Kint and I’m here to tell you the truth.” Mara’s introduction in the cabin is a pivotal moment for the story, and is quite the reflection of her character’s pursuit for truth. Was it the right thing to do, considering the implications of the ethics of the technology?
Chris: Over the past few weeks, I’ve really thought that Mara is gradually catching on to what Paul and Charlie may have ultimately had in mind for Reverie. She’s still trying to find out why she’s having the hallucinations, of course, but she also wants to know why Reverie was really created, and why she’s seeing visions of Brynn. It has its advantages, but it also has its dangers as evident in the scene where she tries to leave the Reverie and the tree is blocking the “exitus” icon. I imagined what it would have been like if Mara or anyone else had found themselves trapped in a Reverie, and there was no one else to help them out but whoever decided to get them out of it. That would be quite an episode, though.
Kim: In this case, absolutely. There was no saving Denise but by getting her to talk and giving her the truth, Mara was able once again to “reach” the person and have a positive result. Mara was also able to give Ashley’s mother closure.
Tex: I think so. It turned out well, anyway. It’s also, to me, telling of Mara’s personal feelings toward being left in the dark about so many vital aspects of Reverie.
Jules: It could have been possible that Mara signed some sort of agreement specifying what she may or may not tell about Reverie. However, Mara’s personality certainly shows that she’ll do what is right in her mind until proven otherwise. She ultimately wants to help everyone she encounters and that’s noble.
Cat: I think Mara had to go into the cabin. She didn’t really have a choice at that point.
5. Stories can have such an important and emotional impact on our lives, which we see with Ashley this episode. What’s a story (movies/tv/books/comics/etc.) that you feel connected to, whether that’s in your childhood or even now?
Chris: Hmmm…honestly, I’ve seen and read so many movies, books and TV series that it’s hard to pick just one. They’ve all had a strong emotional impact on me, but the one I’m thinking of right now is “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” (the original with Gene Wilder). I loved that movie growing up, and I still enjoy it whenever it comes on TV. I feel connected to it because of those memories, and because it’s a great story of how our best qualities – Charlie Bucket’s love and honesty, to be specific – will ultimately win in the end.
Kim: Person of Interest, the TV show that brought me back from a horrible time after leaving the army.
Tex: I’ve always felt a strong connection to The Lion King even from when it first came out when I was young. I also connect very much to the storytelling of Xena.
Jules: There are certainly plenty of stories through entertainment. One I am particularly connected to is Waverly’s journey from the show, Wynonna Earp. Waverly is such a kind soul and over the course of the show, you see her question and embrace her identity through her romantic relationships and those among she becomes closest to such as her sister.
Cat: My first “real” books growing up were Nancy Drew books, and I have loved reading mysteries ever since. I think they definitely had an impact on me. I went back and read a few of them recently and it really brought back memories. I admired how independent and smart she was.
6. We can infer that Alexis saw her brother die from her conversation with Charlie. As we learn more about Dylan, we see how deeply his death has affected her. With all this discussion of the ethics of consent in the Reverie technology, how do you feel about her decision to honor him in the form of an AI?
Chris: That’s a great question, and again it involves a wide range of ethical issues. It’s heartwarming that Alexis wanted to pay tribute to Dylan by having him “live on” as an AI system. Yet, I wonder if that’s what he would have wanted. Furthermore, would the potential of AI allow for Dylan to come back to life in a visibly human-like form? Would he even want that? Would Alexis go that far? That’s a lot to think about, and it’s all worth pondering.
Kim: People honor the dead in many different ways, Alexis is who she is so an AI of her brother makes perfect sense to me. For many, probably Alexis too, having even a part of that person is better than nothing.
Tex: I feel his connection to Reverie is odd on this context given that none of the participants of Reverie, or anyone in general, actually can consent to have Mara enter their mind.
Jules: I think it’s really wonderful she honoured her brother that way. Not everyone is able to be able to do that at all. People are stuck with memories, photos, home videos, etc. As we have seen before, Alexis prizes spending time with Dylan especially when she is able to play games with her. She rarely smiles and that is the one extremely noticeable time she does. I could see it suddenly not being healthy since she’s clinging so much on Dylan and possibly as a result, limiting interactions and making connections with others by going with something that is more comfortable. She’s smart and I see I a lot of myself in her in terms of being guarded, I think she won’t overly abuse Dylan.
Cat: I think having the AI system helps Alexis feel connected to her brother. It’s a little creepy, honestly, but it seems to work for her. In a way it might be keeping her from truly dealing with his loss.
7. Overall, what did everyone think of that crazy episode? It was so different from everything we’ve seen so far!
Chris: I loved this week’s episode, and I can definitely see that the stakes are getting higher for Mara and the rest of the characters. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Kim: I say this every week but this show is amazing. It takes me to places and ideas I hadn’t seen in a tv show yet. There are so many ways that Reverie can be used.
Tex: It was nuts and I hope we see more of people who aren’t Onira Tech clients.
Jules: I think this was a really great episode that I have re-watched and still need to re-watch because I’m totally missing stuff from being out of it this morning. I’m incredibly excited for what happens next. This episode is the pivotal episode that really pushes Mara from the previous Reverie interactions as well as I’m sure is more similar to hostage negotiations she handled previously with Charlie. Not only does it showcase more of Mara’s personality (also Alexis’s), but it absolutely expresses the wonderful range of acting for lead, Sarah Shahi and the lovely Jessica Lu, as well as the rest of the cast!
Cat: Overall, I loved the episode. It was a little bit confusing, especially when Mara was inside the Reverie as Edith. There was a lot going on with this episode!
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
This episode was a standout for many reasons, particularly for its visuals and special effects. From the sequence where the Reverie is being created, with missing parts and all, to when it falls apart at the end. Yet again, the guest actresses and actors hold up their quickly-developed roles very well, particularly Mrs. Trent (Anne-Marie Johnson), who has a tear-jerking conversation with Mara at the end of the episode. We’ve come to expect this quality of acting and visuals from the show, and this particular episode is no exception.
Additionally, one interesting thing that this episode brings up is the quite difficult questions about the morality and ethics of the Reverie technology, especially in the hands of the government. With Monica and Charlie’s slightly shady dealings (without Alexis’s knowledge no less), and Monica’s focus on what Reverie could do for intelligence, there are many questions to be asked about her motives. What are the morals behind using what is essentially mind-reading for gathering intelligence? What kind of transparency would be needed with the general public for such a tactic?
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Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to want to answer any of these tough questions, for better or worse. It’s great that they’ve decided to acknowledge that these issues exist, but it seems like they’re being sidelined (at least for now) for the more light-hearted drama that every new client brings. Such is the nature of a show trying to appeal to both casual and dedicated viewers. We’re left, for the time being, to answer these questions ourselves in the hopes that it will take more risks the further we get into the season.
Overall, though, Reverie maintains itself as a visually captivating, easygoing, heartwarming story about technology, with the potential for more. We’d love to see it take a lot more risks, particularly in the next few episodes, and maybe even stray into the darker side of things. It’s great to see uplifting stories with happy endings, but with the questions it wants to ask about VR and consent, that might not always be possible. For now, we’re happy to let it be a the light watch it’s toting itself as.