I wasn’t planning on watching Reverie. NBC’s crime drama about scifi dream magic is dumb summer fodder that’ll be gone before you know it. But I’m going to go there and say everyone needs to check it out. Why? Because you may never find a better example of a network taking good scifi genre television and distilling it down for technology-hating baby boomers. Basically, Reverie is a terrible Westworld knockoff built from CSI reruns.
Reverie, which debuts May 30, centers around a new technology where people can create perfect worlds within their dreams—and by perfect, we don’t mean cool stuff like becoming a space mermaid or eating dragon eggs as you spew ghost pirates out of your ears (you can’t even fly at first). We mean chilling on a CGI hotel rooftop while a bunch of hot air balloons float nearby for no reason, which is the dreamscape we first glimpse at the beginning of the episode. Come on, dream bigger! I wanna see you go Tarsem on this shit.
But no, apparently this is the ultimate fantasy—so meticulously imagined and crafted that the dude who’s dreaming it refuses to wake up. He’s now in a coma, along with six other people who are using the same program. This is a problem, because how can the founding company Onira Tech keep its shareholders happy if crap like this keeps happening? What about the profits? Luckily, security chief Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert) has an unconventional solution: “We’re gonna go Tarsem on this shit.” That’s right, former hostage negotiator Mira Kint (Sarah Shahi) is pulling a Jennifer Lopez from The Cell and heading into the patients’ dreams to save these hostages from their own minds.
Following a long rant about how “those darn kids are always on their cell phones,” Mira is recruited into Onira and informed about everything they’re working on. Their main project is Reverie, which lets people create their own dream worlds and even digitally bring people back to life using their “social media footprints.” How do you enter the dream world? Why, some 23-year-old intern in a lab coat needles a tissue-coated nano sperm called a BCI (brain-computer interface) into your wrist, which then snakes its way up your arm and implants itself into your spinal column.
Here’s where I get to talk about my favorite part of the episode: The technology makes no goddamn sense. I could go on and on about everything wrong in this episode—but for now, I’m going to make a small list:
1. Reverie is already on the market and (seemingly) a popular product, yet Mira had never heard of it when Charlie told her about it. How is that possible?
2. Every non-Reverie piece of technology in their world is exactly the same as ours (except for business cards, apparently). How would our society have this one piece of hyper-futuristic tech that affected nothing else? Again, how is that possible?
3. What the hell is this BCI sperm tissue crap and how did they get the FDA to sign off on it? Plus, what else are they using it for, because there’s no way technology like that would be limited to VR dream travels, right?
4. There’s no way someone’s “social media footprint” would have enough complex information to accurately create their personality, their world, or a person they desire. This is just stupid. If anything, we’d have a bunch of dreams filled with gorgeous Instagram lunches and strangers whining about the ThunderCats reboot.
5. Seriously: Why does Onira not have a failsafe method for getting customers out of their Reveries? It’s left to the user to pull themselves out. That’s not only unsafe, that’s begging for a lawsuit. What if they had a stroke?
Oh, and by the way, did we mention Onira’s headquarters has an AI with the personality of a dead child that helps solve crimes?!
The other thing you’ll notice is that Reverie borrows from a lot of stuff. Like, a lot. It goes beyond Westworld into a ton of other, far better works. For example, the Reverie technology is a ripoff of Black Mirror’s episodes “San Junipero” and “Be Right Back.” And the storyline about the coma guy trying to relive a dream day that he and his wife never had was basically the plot of an episode of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, featuring Patton Oswalt... who, by the way, is exactly who the guy in this episode looks like. Plus, all the crime stuff is standard network fare, pulling from things like Lie to Me, CSI, or any of those Chicago crime shows. You’d be hard-pressed to find an original idea in this thing.
There are some nuggets of something interesting here. There’s a theme about human connection and trauma healing through technology—though it’s marred somewhat by the fact that, yes, Black Mirror already did it. Plus, Shahi is a genuinely good actress. But Reverie isn’t the show she deserves—or any of us. It’s a milquetoast flat water version of good scifi television, lacking in imagination, vision, or a competent CGI budget.
But if you’re looking to see what happens when something like Westworld is filtered through the lens of a 50-something Facebook user who keeps blaming millennials for the fact that you can order Starbucks on an app now, Reverie may be your jam. Now get off my FarmVille lawn, I’m hunting Pokémons.