Military use of Reverie tech takes center stage in "The Black Mandala"

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Jul 18, 2018, 11:00 PM EDT

We’ve heard a lot about the possibility of what the government could do with Reverie technology — some good, but most of it bad. This week, we saw it in action in the episode “The Black Mandala.”

It began with a really sweet scene between Mara and Paul, in which he shows her that he’s begun defying the rules of gravity in Reverie. I still think he has a thing for her, and the show is setting these two up (though events later in the episode between Mara and her ex, Chris, make it clear that Mara has another love interest.)

Paul exits the shared Reverie and waits for Mara to follow, but instead of leaving, she’s shunted into another Reverie — a frightening one in which a boy, Ehmet, is being held by the US military for interrogation and doesn’t know where he is. Mara tries to convince him that he is in a virtual reality simulation, but he doesn’t believe her. And to make matters even more confusing, her exit word, Exodus, doesn’t work.

When Mara finally does get out of the Reverie, it’s without Ehmet, but she’s promised him that she will come back for him. She tells the team what she's learned, and Charlie calls in Monica, who admits that the Defense Department is working on a pilot program to use Reverie for interrogations, but she isn’t involved in it. As you can imagine, Alexis is livid at this turn of events and does everything she can to help Mara get back into the Reverie to help Ehmet.


In the meantime, Mara learns a little more about Ehmet. His family are Syrian refugees, and his brother lives in Canada. They lived in a refugee camp for some time — that’s where they were when the attack on a US Air Force base in Turkey happened, which Ehmet is being questioned for. Once Mara does go back in, it’s up to the team on the outside to prove that Ehmet wasn’t responsible for the terrorist attack.

The government interrogator (who threatens to arrest Charlie, Paul, and Alexis if they don’t give him information on where Mara is) can’t get back into the program once Mara locates and gets into the VR simulation. Reverie 2.0 only supports two people at a time. But it can generate VR guards to keep Ehmet and Mara away from the black mandala, which is what they must touch in order to exit the program.

Everything gets pretty neatly wrapped up by the end of the episode: Mara finally convinces Ehmet to trust her, and they escape the Reverie. On the outside, thanks to footage from a British documentary filmmaker, the team is able to prove that Ehmet was nowhere near the US base (or terrorist cell) around the time the bombing occurred. Ehmet and his brother are reunited. It’s a happy ending, but there are some incredibly interesting takeaways from the storyline.


The Reverie produced real-life physical trauma

First, Mara is shot in the Reverie when helping Ehmet escape. She keeps telling herself it isn’t real and it doesn’t hurt, but it’s clear when she’s in the VR world that she’s in quite a bit of pain. Once she finally emerges, she has a large bruise where she was shot. Apparently, the way this new Reverie is wired, it can create physical responses to stimuli and actions within the program. That’s pretty frightening, especially when you consider they probably would resort to torture inside the Reverie during interrogations.

We’re just seeing the beginning of military involvement in Reverie

Monica reveals that the DoD has shut down the interrogation program, but makes it clear that this is temporary. Now that the military has their hands on Reverie technology, they’re going to find a way to use it effectively. Charlie also realizes that Monica is the one who routed Mara into Ehmet’s forced Reverie. The relationship between Monica and the Onira Tech team has been a combative one up until now. But perhaps they might ally more going forward, as it’s clear that Monica didn’t like the way the tech was being used and wanted to tip them off.

Mara and Chris are back together

This is a really nice development (though I am rooting for Mara and Paul). It shows that Mara is beginning to put herself back together. I loved seeing her talk about her Reverie work — it’s clear that she finds a lot of meaning in it, and that helping others is also helping Mara come to terms with the trauma in her past.

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