Nevers, The – Season 1 Part 1

Rating:

“Horror and fascination go arm in arm…”

Main Cast: Laura Donnelly, Ann Skelly

Creator: Joss Whedan

Who’s looking for a little steampunky, girl-powered, confusing sci-fi with some bonus hedonism? Nobody? Yeah, I would have said the same thing. But then I came across, quite by accident, The Nevers. I have changed my mind.

The Nevers, created by Buffy/Avengers helmer Joss Whedan (did you know he also write Toy Story? Learn something new every day) takes place in grimy, oppressive London. The year is 1899 and something is afoot.

It seems that some percentage of the population has gained…special abilities. Mostly women, these citizens have a wide array of abilities, ranging from increased strength to telekinesis. Those not graced with these dubious gifts have dubbed those who are as the Touched. Lovely.

We drop into the story three years after the incident that led to their creation (nope, not telling) and into the life of Amalia True (Laura Donnelly). Mrs. True runs an orphanage for the (mainly girls and women) who are Touched. They are a motley assortment but have the financial backing of a wealthy woman and the formidable protection of Mrs. True.

True knows how to fight when she needs to, and she needs to. A lot. People don’t like the Touched, they fear them because they are different and because they are women and powerful (a recurring theme throughout).

True is accompanied in her tasks by Ms. Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who has been granted the power of extreme tinkering. Anything mechanical, she’s the woman for the job. She’s also responsible for a great deal of the steampunkiness of the series.

These first six episodes of The Nevers comprise half of the first season. They serve to introduce us to this world and to the plight of these women. We get a handle on the London power structure and the main players but only a glimpse of the real game.

The mystery at the heart of The Nevers is how and why the Touched came to be. We don’t quite manage an answer to that in these episodes, as a production disruption precluded the airing of the full season. But it’s good fun nonetheless. The episodes focus on the gifts and perils of the Touched, and the mad world around them.

Laura Donnelly leads the way with her sardonic, world-weary portrayal of Amalia True. She is the character we come to know best and she has layers we’ve only begun to peel back.

Ann Skelly is a good foil as Penance. She’s upbeat, more than a little naïve, and helps lift true out of her cynical funk when she needs it. Good supporting performances come in from James Norton as Hugo Swann, aristocrat and main hedonist, and Zackary Momoh as Dr. Horatio Cousens, a rare male member of The Touched.

The Nevers has a lot of questions to answer in the second half of the season. How did this happen? Why? How can The Touched get the rest of the city to back off and let them be? Why is it mostly women? And why those women in particular?

And I’m just getting started. Six episodes of questions demand six episodes of answers. At this point I’m really enjoying The Nevers, and very much hope the next set of episodes lives up to the intriguing world the cast and crew have built. The Nevers is streaming on HBO Max.

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