reverie review

When I first heard about NBC’s Reverie, it was described to me as a sci-fi show, but the new thriller from Extant creator Mickey Fisher leans more towards a procedural drama than I expected. Not that there’s anything wrong with a procedural drama (it’s one of the things NBC is exceedingly good at) but it took some adjusting of expectations to get into the swing of the first episode.

Reverie’s title comes from the name of a dream program made by a company named Onira Tech. The Reverie program gives users the ability to go into a dream of their own making. Think Total Recall, but instead of going to Mars you can go to your favorite memory, visit a time you were most happy, even bring someone back from the dead and spend time with them in whatever setting or time you choose.

The Reverie program also imports information from as many sources as possible, social media, journals, photos, the client themselves, to create the fullest recreation possible. In short, Reverie promises and delivers a dream so real that you are fully immersed. Reverie is, quite literally, a dream come true.

Of course, there’s one big problem with giving someone a dream of a lifetime – they may not want to come back. It’s not that they can’t come back, Reverie has an exit and you can leave easily enough, they just don’t want to.

So what do you do when you have someone trapped in your dream program and you can’t make them come back?

This is where Reverie his its first logistical snag. Reverie is built by a tech company and it’s hard to believe that Onira wouldn’t have put in some sort of mechanism to pull a client out of the program just as a matter of course. However, this is exactly what the creators of Reverie have done and their inability to pull a dreamer back into reality is the foundation upon which the rest of the show is built.

Currently faced with multiple dreamers stuck in Reverie and an entire company relying on the success of Reverie for additional funding, there’s an urgent need for someone to get those people out of Reverie basically yesterday.

Cue the infinitely watchable Dennis Haysbert as former police chief turned stakeholder in Reverie and Onira Tech (no conflict of interest there) Charlie Ventana seeking out Mara Kint (Sarah Shahi), a former hostage negotiator who’s become a professor on human behavior due to, as the show description goes, “an unimaginable personal tragedy”.  

That same synopsis goes on to say, “But when she’s brought in to save ordinary people who have lost themselves in a highly advanced virtual-reality program in which you can literally live your dreams, she finds that in saving others, she may actually have discovered a way to save herself.”.

Another tire screech for me came once I learned what that tragedy was. There’s no doubt that Mara is very smart, empathetic, and great at what she does, but you have to wonder whether someone who’s dealing with the things she’s dealing with should be allowed in anyone else’s head.  Of course, all of the above makes for good drama and Shahi is more than up to the task on all counts. In fact, Reverie is a great vehicle for Shahi and allows her to show both her acting and action chops.

The show also boasts a diverse cast, including Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and the Beast, Heroes) as Mara’s liaison and mentor for all things Reverie, Jessica Lu as Reverie’s creator, who definitely has a few secrets that need uncovering, and Cold Case’s Kathryn Morris as the enigmatic Monica Shaw.

Overall, the story is interesting, the acting is great, and the premise remains intriguing. But the science itself could stand to be a little more grounded in reality to really hit the hard sci-fi button. The ideas are certainly there, along with the creepy science tech (the actual Reverie connection module squicked me out), but good science fiction needs truth to anchor it.

If Reverie can find its feet, it can easily become a favorite for people who enjoy NBC’s procedural dramas and also like Timeless or Midnight, Texas. It just needs to figure out what its perfect dream is and plug in.

Reverie premieres tonight on NBC.

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