Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
Reverie is described as a high-concept, immersive-reality drama. Mara Kint (Sarah Shahi), former detective and negotiator turned behavioral education teacher, is recruited by an old friend Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert) to help retrieve people who have become lost.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Mara, who resigned from her job at the agency and now teaches communications classes to teens. Charlie recruits Mara because she has a special set of skills in hostage negotiation. But this isn’t a simple case of a person holding another person hostage. The person in need of saving is a hostage to his own mind. He is stuck in the Reverie, a new full-immersion virtual-reality program operated by Charlie and his team. The show features the usual case of the week with tie-ins to how the lead and supporting characters have also interacted with Reverie and its lingering effects. Alexis Barrett (Jessica Lu) is the Macarthur Award-winning genius behind the program, Paul Hammond (Sendhil Ramamurthy) oversees medical, and Ventana handles overall operations.
The Reverie experience faces a wide variety of challenges, the biggest one being the human element. Human beings and their minds are unpredictable and using a program to tap into those memories in order to create a VR experience is risky and potentially damaging. Charlie and his group are learning this the hard way. The Reverie system is set up in a way that only one person can be in any Reverie, but with Reverie 2.0, Mara is able to be transported into the experience of the guests who are lost.
This new version comes at a cost, it is untested in humans and should only be used with someone who hasn’t experienced a significant trauma. Mara isn’t this person; she lost her sister and niece when her brother killed them in a murder suicide that she witnessed. It was her final hostage negotiation and it is her biggest regret. Each time she enters Reverie she is pulled back into that trauma and has begun seeing her niece inside other people’s Reverie experiences, ultimately affecting her in real life. Like with any advanced technology the military has its hands in it as seen by a quick closing scene with Dennis Haysbert and Kathryn Morris, but to what extent we do not know.
Reverie as a show has an identity problem. It wants to be network television’s answer to Westworld, but it feels like someone threw a bunch of darts at the wall and took bits and pieces from all of their favorite shows and movies then smashed it together. It captures elements of The Cell, Quantum Leap, Cold Case, Westworld, and Inception to name a few. It feels like the creators wanted this high-concept programming and someone came through with a red pen and said, “aim lower” and that is disappointing. As one of the few dramas on network TV with a minority lead cast it would have been great to see better execution of this material. Another odd choice for the show is that while they cast minorities, the character names are all race neutral. I understand the idea is to make race a non-issue, but if you are going to tout having a minority lead cast, let them be minorities; let Mara, Paul, and Alexis have Asian names. That would have totally been okay and no one would have questioned it.
Project Fandom has access to screeners for the entire season and I watched the first 4 episodes. My hopes the show would get better with time were not met. The most compelling element of the show is the character backstories and if the latter part of the season focuses more on that and less on the case of the week, it could be worth watching.
The Good: Veteran actors like Haysbert and Morris. I know they are going to bring seasoned acting chops to the show even with weak material.
The Bad: The show lacks identity. It isn’t enough to say this person is in the Reverie and we have to come up with creative ways to get them out. Why should I care about the people we see week to week?
Watch this if you like: Cold Case, any of the Law and Order shows, you like the idea of Inception but you don’t want to do all the heavy lifting Inception wanted its audience to do.
Don’t watch if: You have access to any streaming service where you can watch Cold Case, any of the Law and Order shows, and Inception.
Reveries S1E1 Review Score
Reverie | S1E1 “Apertus” | Wednesdays, 10:00 pm on NBC