This review contains spoilers for Reverie Episode 6: Pas De Deux.
The sixth episode of NBC’s Reverie, “Pas De Deux”, posits the question of what might happen if you achieve everything you ever wanted in life and then lose it all in an instant. What if you could never get it back? But what if, thanks to the wonders of technology, you could build a simulacrum of it all around you?
Holly was a dancer and mother-to-be when an accident paralysed her from the waist down; now she’s a paraplegic, cared for by her sister, Vivian, and a slave to the Reverie which allows her to dance for an empty theatre and raise the daughter she never got to meet. I can see the appeal of being an imaginary ballet dancer. You get all the beauty and elegance without the Crypt Keeper feet.
Holly’s therapist, Chris (Sam Jaeger), has a sex offender moustache and a previous relationship with Mara, who he works with to piece together Holly’s psychological landscape. What does she have in there that she’s willing to die for? And, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t she have in the real world that she’s willing to live for?
Holly’s willingness to live out the rest of her real life in the Reverie is the most compelling idea presented in “Pas De Deux”, so it’s a shame that the show characteristically bottles it in favour of a cloying ending. Look, I’m not saying that I’d have preferred Holly to die in that program, but it would have helped if the vein of real tragedy running through the episode didn’t feel so pinched by formula and contrivance. Even Mara can’t help but roll her eyes now and again.
But her eyes do well up with tears, too, especially where Holly’s daughter is concerned. Her phantom existence isn’t revealed immediately; it’s part of Mara’s investigation into Holly’s ex-boyfriend, Zeke (Kane Lieu), whom she left after the accident despite his willingness to remain beside her. He didn’t know she was pregnant, and nobody bothers to tell him, which is probably for the best, although it would have been nice for him to get some closure about why she wheeled away.
The parallels between Holly’s daughter and Mara’s niece are obvious, though. “Pas De Deux” reminds us that Reverie hasn’t abandoned that personal subplot, even if it has seemingly forgotten about those eerie side-effects of prolonged exposure to Reverie 2.0. The final scene reveals that her brother-in-law, who shot her sister and niece and then himself, is still alive, albeit comatose. I feel like that should have been mentioned before now. It wouldn’t surprise me if the emotional climax of this first season is Mara nipping into his bonce and learning how to forgive him. It’d be fitting with the show’s relentlessly upbeat tone.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if the magical technology could find a way to allow that, as each week it finds a way to allow something else implausible that hadn’t been mentioned before. In “Pas De Deux”, a locked door proves a troublesome obstacle in Holly’s Reverie, but according to Paul, the program must fold in on itself, “like an Escher painting”. Ergo, a door must lead somewhere, and wherever it leads to must have another door leading away from it. If you say so, Paul. Haven’t we encountered locked doors in this show before? That information might have been useful then.
And don’t even get me started on Alexis, whose bright idea when its revealed that Holly doesn’t want to leave is simply to pull the plug out of the machine. What, we can do that now? Paul is suitably appalled by the idea, and by the risk of neurological damage, but apparently that’s all speculative – it hasn’t even been tried. It might be fine. I sincerely hope not, at this point, as it would render the entire season moot, but I’m sure that Reverie wouldn’t be ballsy enough to try anyway.
Which is the problem, of course. For all its feints towards emotional depth and complexity, and its insistent warnings about refusing to confront one’s trauma, Reverie cannot help itself. It must contrive a happy ending to every scenario, even if it has to rewrite the rules as it goes. What finally brings Holly back to the real world is Viv, her sister, having an early form of multiple sclerosis. And while that isn’t exactly upbeat, when Holly wheels into her sister’s ballet class to help with the lessons, and sunlight dapples the studio while emotive piano music tinkles in the background, it’s easy to feel what the show wants you to – that everything will be okay.
For the sake of actual drama, I sincerely hope it won’t.
“Pas De Deux” was the sixth episode of Reverie‘s first season. Check out our full series coverage.