“The Key” was the best episode of Reverie’s uneven first season, finally delivering real consequences and paying off some long-running subplots.
Last night’s penultimate episode of Reverie, “The Key”, was perhaps the best episode yet – but is it too little too late, at this point?
NBC’s cloyingly optimistic sci-fi drama has been, mostly, pretty consistent, although that applies to what it does poorly just as much as what it does well. I’ve always liked the show’s cast, imagination, and seeming surplus of intriguing ideas; I’ve also always disliked how none of those things ever seem to amount to much.
In “The Key”, they finally do. Taking place almost entirely outside the Reverie program, the episode honed in on Mara’s lingering personal trauma, which has been glacially developed throughout this uneven first season. After last episode revealed that her new relationship with Chris was, in fact, a relationship with a glitch leftover from her prolonged exposure to the program, we find her terrified and confused, prepared to have the BCI chip that connects her to Reverie removed for good.
As always, the solution was buried in her memory. Why had Reverie chosen to build a simulacrum of Chris? Was it Mara’s lust for companionship and normalcy? Or was it the fact that he works at the hospital where Ray, Mara’s brother-in-law, is currently comatose following his suicide attempt? Charlie believes it’s the latter – and he believes he knows why. The best moment of “The Key” was the revelation that during the fateful day when Ray gunned down Mara’s sister and niece, he didn’t immediately turn on himself. Instead, Mara used her negotiating skills to convince him that his own suicide would be the best outcome. She persuaded him to do it; then she purged the memory. Charlie knows this because when she frantically attempted to text him during the confrontation, she accidentally called his voicemail. The whole thing was recorded.
This wasn’t a happy moment. But it was a genuinely unexpected revelation that, for once, didn’t have a silver lining. Mara took it hard. And the fallout from it won’t have been swept away in time for the finale. Indeed, by the end of “The Key”, Mara and Paul had snuck into Ray’s hospital room and hooked him up to a bare-bones Reverie dreamscape.
But that wasn’t all that happened in “The Key”. The other on-going subplot involving tortured genius Oliver Hill was developing in the margins. Having illegally accessed Reverie and tricked Mara into visiting him there, he was able to arrange a meeting with Alexis, who also took the bait. He built a dream vacation for her; a birthday celebration also attended by Dylan (Kai Scott), the brother whom she lost, and who is the basis for Onira-Tech’s AI (and in no small part the Reverie program itself.) It was about time that the frosty Alexis started to melt a little bit. If only it wasn’t to keep her distracted long enough for a bribed security guard to steal her access key to Reverie’s source code.
For the finale, then, we find ourselves in a truly interesting position, a position I wish we’d reached a little earlier in the season. But we’re here now. I can’t complain. “The Key” felt like Reverie finally started to realise its potential, and after having stuck with it for the last two months, I hope the conclusion is worth the wait.
“The Key” was the ninth episode of Reverie‘s first season. Check out our full series coverage.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.