On the first day of WonderCon 2018 in Anaheim, NBC treated fans to a full screening of the pilot episode for Reverie, their new sci-fi show coming out this summer. Created by Mickey Fisher, who most recently gave us the Halle Berry-in-space series Extant serves up another idea that takes us into a different type of univers, our minds.
Reverie stars Sarah Shahi as Mara Kint, a former hostage negotiator turned professor, who is approached by her former police chief Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert) to come help him at the company he now works for. At the facility, he shows her Reverie, a virtual-reality program that allows people to be awake in their dreams based on their own personal lives. They take from the subject's social media profiles, their friends, relatives, etc. and build a world inside their head. What if you had lost a loved one? Or wanted to relive a favorite vacation? This can take one back and give them the opportunity to emotionally connect again with someone or something they are missing from life. The problem is that some patients are growing so attached to staying in their heads that their physical bodies are going comatose and their health begins to deteriorate.
Mara has been brought in to pull these people back out of their heads and wake them up before their bodies shut down forever. After one of the developers, Paul Hammond (Sendhil Ramamurthy) explains the program to Mara he puts her in Reverie so that she can understand what she's getting into. After she is shown the amazing lifelike reality of being in a world molded around her memories she is convinced to help Charlie. But it's not all that easy as Mara regularly suffers from a terrible incident involving her family in the past that has caused her to rely on alcohol and pills just to get through her daily life. And this same trauma will come to haunt her in the dream world.
Shahi is absolutely fantastic as the lead and it continues to baffle me that this woman hasn't been the lead on more shows. She demonstrates the intelligence and determination of someone that could quickly acclimate to being inside the Reverie. We aren't given a ton to go on from the supporting cast at first, but Haysbert is his usual smooth and calm presence and he never allows you to think he is not in complete control of a situation. Ramamurthy has the polished demeanor of someone intelligent enough to work in Research and Development of the program, but there are definitely skeletons in his closet. Finally, there's Alexis Barrett (Jessica Lu) who is the big brain behind coming up with Reverie. She spends much of the episode being either stern or in a state of melancholy which begs the question why would she even come up with a program to help others but, we do hint at more development in the future.
Traveling through the imaginations of our minds is a concept that has been visited many times before with the likes of Fringe and Inception, but what Reverie tries to do is make the stakes personal and more relatable. They aren't trying to save the universe. At least not yet. Since anything goes, physics-be-damned, the things Mara is able to do with her mind can be quite imaginative, even if it expose her to the hostilities of the subject who doesn't want to wake up. The potential for future episodes to explore extensive creative scenarios with possibly the most bizarre and unique worlds they can come up with is limitless. What if they get inside the head of a novelist, a painter, or the unfortunate possibility of a serial killer? I don't know if this is the kind of show Fisher is intending but if we just base the inside of everyone's minds on the world we know I think they are selling themselves short.
While the pilot episode was enjoyable I do have my concerns about this show getting stuck in a rut of procedural muck. It's easy to see how every week it could just be about Mara rescuing another poor sap from their own cranial prison they have created. Thankfully, I do already have some hope as there is a scene at the end where they set up some possible indication of big brother sticking their nose in things. As long as Reverie continues to grow and develop like the program itself they should have plenty to offer as this series debuts this summer on NBC.