NBC’s new series Reverie takes a look at the potential dangers that accompany virtual reality. The show follows former hostage negotiator and human behavior expert Mara Kint (Sarah Shahi), who left her career following a personal tragedy. However, when she receives a call from her former boss Charlie Ventana (Dennis Haysbert), she has trouble turning the offer down.
Charlie is the head of security for Onira-Tech, the company that has created the titular Reverie, “a virtual program where the impossible becomes possible.” This virtual world allows people to escape inside their memories — or create new ones — but the fabricated reality is so immersive that people are losing themselves in the virtual world. As a result, their bodies in the real world fall into comas. And it starts happening more and more. Mara’s job is to go inside other people’s Reveries and convince them to come out.
Reverie feels like a procedural drama combined with another recent pop culture property that’s about a world of virtual reality that is almost too good to be true: Ready Player One. In the Steven Spielberg directed film (and the Ernest Cline novel it is based on), an entire generation, known as the “missing millions” is lost, having retreated inside the virtual world of the OASIS. Inside the OASIS you can be anyone and do anything, with many people choosing to live inside their favorite popular culture worlds and leaving the outside world behind. (It’s no coincidence Spielberg’s production company Amblin produces Reverie.)
While Ready Player One and Reverie share a lot of similarities in their stories, they have one major difference: Reverie features a diverse, female-led cast that makes the story — and virtual world — much more inclusive and reflective of the world today.
Who Run the World
In Ready Player One, the majority of the major roles are played by white male characters. There’s the main character Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), the inventor of the OASIS James Halliday (Mark Rylance), and the evil executive Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who wants to use the VR world for his own profit. In Reverie the roles are the same, but they are played by female characters.
Mara is the window into the world of Reverie just as Wade is the window into the OASIS. Wade is an expert on pop culture and the history of James Halliday which makes him suited to join the hunt for Halliday’s Easter Egg. Mara is similarly contacted by Charlie due to her expertise. As a former FBI agent and current college professor, Mara knows how to analyze behaviors and look for solutions. Her gift is her empathy which she uses to connect with people and rescue them from their own minds.
Alexis Barrett (Jessica Lu) is the founder of Onira-Tech and the inventor of the Reverie program. She’s a genius and like the creator of the OASIS James Halliday, she may have another, more personal reason for inventing this virtual reality world. She is also very protective of her creation and hesitant to let someone else know its secrets.
Monica Shaw (Kathryn Morris) is the wildcard of Reverie. She’s a mysterious venture capitalist with an interest in Onira-Tech. So far, it seems she is the most like Sorrento, Ready Player One‘s bad guy. She’s a businesswoman with her own agenda who cannot be trusted. Monica also has ties to the Department of Defense so her plans for Reverie are about how she can exploit the program for her own purposes.
Having a cast with three women (and two of those being women of color), goes a long way to diversify the world of Reverie. In a show where anything is possible, it is nice to see different kinds of characters represented.
Both Reverie and Ready Player One revolve around a central mystery that only the main character can solve. For Wade, it’s the quest to find the keys that will lead him to the Halliday’s Easter Egg and get control of the OASIS. For Mara, it’s the secret that Reverie might hold and how it connects to her past. Both characters are drawn into their fictional worlds with a mission and come out learning more about themselves in the process. They are connected by not just their specific knowledge, but by their humanity and their desire to connect with people outside of the digital world.
However, Mara’s history and ties to her family make her a much more compelling character than Wade. She isn’t trying to take control of the VR world or win a game, she is trying to save the lives that have been lost inside. At the same time, she is atoning for the lives she could not save that still haunt her.
Fans of Ready Player One will like Reverie for its discussion about the uses and abuses of technology and Inception like visuals. Female fans especially will be excited to finally see themselves represented in a sci-fi world that looks as diverse as our real one. Check out Reverie when it hits NBC this week.
Reverie premieres on Wednesday, May 30th at 10 PM on NBC.