Logline: A former detective specializing in human behavior is brought in when the launch of an advanced virtual reality program has dangerous and unintended consequences.
Cast: Sarah Shahi, Dennis Haysbert, Kathryn Morris, Jessica Lu, Sendhil Ramamurthy
Creators: Mickey Fisher (W / EP/ SR), Brooklyn Weaver (EP), Darryl Frank (EP), Justin Falvey (EP), Jaume Collet-Serra (D)
Studios: Universal TV, Amblin TV
Mickey Fisher’s Extant was a high profile pickup a few years ago, but the show struggled to build its world and characters credibly, and an audience remained elusive. As someone who was wildly excited about the Extant pilot then deeply disappointed by the show’s execution thereafter, I’m a bit more circumspect this time around.
The setup is clinically simple. Mara, a former hostage negotiator, is offered a rather strange job by her ex-colleague. Reverie, an immersive virtual reality program, has a bug — addicted clients don’t want to return to the real world, where their real bodies lay comatose. Would Mara be willing to enter Reverie and convince these men and women to return to the real world and their earthly bodies?
Unfortunately, I read Reverie right after Shelter and Rise, and the writing just doesn’t meet the mark. As is the case with most pilots about protagonists deciding whether or not to embark on a new mission, the story fails to surprise. There’s only decision that Mara can make for the show to go on, leading to an overwhelming absence of suspense.
As for character work, the pilot features stock sci-fi characters stuck in a premise that Black Mirror has explored evocatively in San Junipero. I’m not quite sure whether Reverie brings anything new to the table. As for dialogue, the pilot feels composed almost entirely of exposition. It’s always a risk with sci-fi, but Reverie makes the potentially fatal error of explaining far too much (Mara could give Ariadne a run for her money). Mara’s backstory almost gives away the future of the show. Given she can’t cope with her inability to save her sister and niece, of course she too is going to be seduced by Reverie. Less is more, NBC. Less is more.
I fear that like Extant, Reverie might reveal itself to be all surface and no substance.