Reverie: 1.05 Altum Somnum
One of the things I am enjoying most about Reverie is it's ability to make each case of the week different to the last. This week's episode mixed things up further as we learned more about the Department of Defence's plans for the technology, while the team were hired to help solve a terrorist plot. Rather than enter the mind of someone who had willingly entered Reverie, this time Mara had to enter the mind if a coma victim from a terrorist attack to catch he killer.
There was a more mature level of storytelling at play and it made Altum Somnum the strongest entry yet. Forcing the bombing victim into the recreated lobby of the destroyed building, making her unknowingly relive the hours before the attack, raised plenty of moral questions. Monica casually handing out photographs of the dead, including that of a little girl showed just how far the Department of Defence Agent would go to manipulate Mara into helping. And the threat of another bomb added a sense of fear and tension, while the impending death of the victim Mara was entering the mind of, raised disturbing questions over what would happen if she was still inside at the moment of the user's demise.
With the macabre creepiness of the victim (Ashleigh LaThrop) walking around a lobby full of people that would soon be killed, the twist - that she was working with the villain Silas - added a whole other dimension to the story. It may have lessened some of the moral impact of using the victim this way, but LaThrop's Denise Lang was far from a villain. Neglected by divorced parents and fumbling her way through life, she was less a terrorist and more a victim, manipulated by Silas into acting out his wishes. When she claimed the bomb was supposed to go off hours after everyone had left, you believed her, thanks to laThrop's innocent performance.
And while Mara was challenged inside the Reverie, it was the technology's creator Alexis Barrett (Jessica Lu) that really struggled this episode. Having just learned that the cost of Department of Defence funding meant they had full access to the proprietary code, she then witnessed the suicide of Denise's friend and Silas convert Edith Leonard in front of her. Lu has been a somewhat understated, often cold presence in the series so far, but we grew to understand her a bit more this week and just how much she has suffered in the death of her brother Dylan (now recreated in the AI program within Onira-Tech) and then falling in love with the disturbed Oliver Hill. It says something that the death of Edith in front of her wasn't the most disturbing thing she has encountered.
Reverie also does a good job of making the audience care about the cases of the week and Denise Lang was no different. Through Mara's interactions with her mother Anne-Marie Johnson, we saw just how vulnerable she had become and in the lead up to her death had found solace in the childhood cabin she has managed to create within the program. Sarah Shahi continues to put her heart into her performance as Mara and her scenes with both LaThrop an Johnson were very emotive. The final scenes as Denise began to die were powerful, saving lives by giving up the location of the second bomb and delivering a final heartfelt message for her mother. It was also rather cool seeing the Reverie collapse around Mara as she rushed to escape as Denise's mind died.
I really liked the darker, more serious side of Reverie explored this week. There was an innovative take on the case of the week and there was a good twist or two to keep the audience guessing. It's still not amazing television but I am really invested now. We're half way through the season and each episode (the naff Jane Bond episode aside) seems to be getting stronger than the last. I'm hoping this upward trend continues to the finale.