Reverie: 1.07 The Black Mandala
The Black Mandala gave the audience a glimpse into what more insidious uses the Department of Defence might have with Reverie technology. After a trip into Paul's Reverie program, messing with the law of physics as he attempted to fly, things took a darker turn as Mara found herself thrown into an altogether different program. This was perhaps the darkest yet, where Syrian refugee Ehmet Alwad (Ben J. Pierce) was being interrogated for potential terrorist connections.
The question of mental harm was seemingly ignored by the Department of Defence, using Reverie technology to interrogate suspects without ever causing physical pain. But the moral questions of its use were soon a topic of hot debate, Alexis horrified that her program could be used in this manner when the entire Onira-Tech resisted the demands of their DOD allies and sent Mara back in to help him. The episode soon became a race against the clock to break Ehmet free of the program (though I'm not sure what good that would have done considered he was still physically a prisoner) while attempting to prove his innocence.
It was a decent episode but once again it feels like Reverie is playing things safe. Ehmet and is brother Kareem were clearly innocent and despite some hard work to prove that Ehmet was in a refugee camp at the time he supposedly aided in a terrorist attack in Turkey, his freedom felt easily earned. Would it have been braver to have Mara try and help Ehmet only to find he was actually a monster?
On the flip side, there's something quite courageous at exploring the plight of refugees in modern society, particularly in light of President Trumps deeply troubling border security policies. The experiences of the two brothers and their family, escaping war-torn Syria, living in refugee camps and surviving a sinking raft in the Mediterranean which saw them loose everything they had, was harrowingly close to the pain and suffering so many people continue to suffer today. I can only commend Reverie for not playing the refugees are bad card.
So where does it leave this episode? A little bit of a mixed bag - there were some big ideas at play but it all seemed covered in a glossy veneer, afraid perhaps to go down a somewhat darker, more dramatic route. Perhaps I am giving the show too much credit; after all, it is all about people living idyllic fantasies in a virtual dream world. Perhaps the inclusion of the Department of Defence and mentions of Dark Reveries are never really meant to come to much, at least not in Mara Kint's story.
And maybe that's why I struggled a little with this episode - it never went far enough in its exploration of racism, refugees and national security but was too serious to be fully entertaining. There doesn't feel like there is anything of real consequence happening - even Mara's visit to her comatose brother in law amounted to little - and that's what's stopping Reverie from becoming a great show.