Let's call this Touched by a VR Angel.
A former police negotiator chooses to bring people back to reality on Reverie Season 1 Episode 1.
And maybe, just maybe, she can heal herself as well.
This new drama offers the none-too-subtle message of "Get off your phones and take in the world around you."
Wait a sec. I got a text.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Reality: let's embrace it.
I suppose, if you're going to have somebody yank you out of paradise, granted for your own good, why not have it be Sarah Shahi?
It's good to have Shahi back in a starring role on TV. It's been far too long since Person of Interest left the air. (I know. Only two years. It just seems longer.)
She returns on another series that's dealing with cutting-edge technology. Shaw's tactics aren't going to work here, however. You can't just knock out a reluctant Reverie client and drag him out.
Instead, you need someone who can coax clients out. That's why Mara Kint was recruited.
I'm liking Mara. She brings a lot to the table. But she's got issues as well.
She was a talent police negotiator, except when she needed most. Her failure to rescue her sister and niece from the kind of situation she handled regularly quite naturally sent her into a tailspin.
So, Mara was hitting the booze and pills to help her forget, at least for a while, as she taught interpersonal communications to college students.
I agreed with Charlie that I couldn't believe students, or more likely their parents, pay tuition for that. But Mara made a good point -- most college-aged students have no idea how to communicate with each other in person, so they need her course.
Still, Mara's unique skill set was wasted trying to get students to put down their phones for a couple of hours a week. Charlie's plans for her at Onira-tech were so much more challenging.
As her former boss, Charlie certainly knew what buttons to push to get Mara to come onboard. Family was important to her, and her task would be bringing families back together.
The episode didn't really address why Mara was such a natural at Reverie, with the ability to feel comfortable in such a foreign setting. I'm guessing it requires a talent for picking up visual cues and emotions, which is her thing, for sure.
In interviews, Shahi has referred to what Mara is doing as "going down the rabbit hole." The virtual-reality scenes surely have that kind of mindbending, Technicolor dream feel to them.
It was refreshing to see Mara utilizing her old-school cop skills as well, interviewing witnesses and searching for clues at Tony's apartment.
Mara got Tony to leave Reverie by empathizing with his situation and getting him to focus on what he still had to lose rather than being mired in what he had already lost. He still had a daughter who needed him, and he had to let go of his guilt over how he lost his wife.
Mara's guilt seems to be spilling over, not just into Reverie but in real life as well. It will be intriguing to see where that storyline goes.
While we got to learn quite a bit about Mara this episode, we didn't find out much about the rest of the Reverie team.
What's Charlie's deal? He used to be chief of police before he became Onira-tech's chief of security. He seemed worried about the clients who wouldn't leave Reverie. But was that out of concern for them, or because dead clients might get Reverie's investors to pull the plug?
I'm used to seeing Dennis Haysbert in good-guy roles on 24 and The Unit, so I'm giving his character the benefit of the doubt here.
Apparently, the Department of Defense has an interest in Reverie. I can't imagine that's for the benefit of all humanity.
That said, it's good to see Kathryn Morris on TV again. Monica Shaw is quite a different look for Morris than Lily Rush on Cold Case (will that ever come out on DVD?).
Lexi seemed to be an unemotional millennial concerned more with her code than the people stuck in it. Then we found out the Dylan the AI is based on her late younger brother.
Paul, the dream-world architect, was the most likable of the Onira-tech team. But he also seemed like he would be willing to push the parameters of what Reverie can do.
Mickey Fisher, Reverie's creator, addressed similar concerns about the pros and cons of technology on Extant, the flawed but enjoyable sci-fi thriller on CBS.
Let's hope NBC gives him the opportunity to explore his ideas on Reverie more fully. It's OK to challenge viewers to think while they watch.
How did you enjoy Reverie? How about its messages on technology? What character did you find most intriguing?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.