The Nevers

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The Nevers
The Nevers Title Card.png
Genre
Created byJoss Whedon
Starring
ComposerMark Isham
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Production
Executive producers
Production locationLondon
Running time54–64 minutes
Production companyMutant Enemy Productions
DistributorHBO
Release
Original networkHBO
Original releaseApril 11, 2021 (2021-04-11) –
present
External links
Website

The Nevers is an American science fiction drama television series created by Joss Whedon for HBO. The series is produced by HBO and Mutant Enemy Productions with executive producers including Whedon, Philippa Goslett, Doug Petrie, Jane Espenson, Ilene S. Landress and Bernadette Caulfield. The series premiered on April 11, 2021. The first season will consist of 12 episodes, split into two six-episode parts, with the second half debuting in 2022.

The series is set in Victorian London and follows a group of people, mostly women, known as the Touched, who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities. Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious and quick-fisted widow, and her best friend Penance Adair, a brilliant inventor. The series received a straight-to-series order from HBO in June 2018, after a bidding war with other networks and streaming services including Netflix. Laura Donnelly was the first actress to join the series in April 2019, with the rest of the cast joining in July 2019.

Premise[edit]

The Nevers is described as "an epic science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian[s] who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world."[1]

Cast[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Laura Donnelly as Zephyr Alexis Navine / Amalia True: One of The Touched, with the ability to see glimpses of the future. The most irresponsible, spontaneous, and psychologically broken hero of 19th-century London, and a danger to the British elite. She is dedicated to her cause and never turns down a drink.[2]
  • Ann Skelly as Penance Adair: Amalia's best friend, and a Touched with the power of 'seeing' electrical energy patterns and a skill for inventing. She is both religious and heretically progressive.[4][5]
  • Olivia Williams as Lavinia Bidlow: A rich spinster supporter of the Touched, and patron of the Orphanage where many of the main characters live.[4][5]
  • James Norton as Hugo Swann: An aristocratic pansexual young man, who owns a private club and specializes in extortion.[4][5]
  • Tom Riley as Augustus "Augie" Bidlow: A kind gentleman bird watcher, Lavinia's brother and secretly one of the Touched.[4][5]
  • Pip Torrens as Lord Gilbert Massen: A former military man and strong supporter of the British Empire, and very skeptical regarding people with extraordinary powers.[4][5]
  • Denis O'Hare as Dr. Edmund Hague: A brutal American surgeon who is experimenting on the Touched.[4][5]
  • Rochelle Neil as Annie Carbey, aka Bonfire Annie: A criminal with the ability to generate balls of flame.[4][5]
  • Amy Manson as Maladie / Sarah: An unstable member of The Touched living underground. Originally known as Sarah, Maladie is not only in charge of a band of renegades, but is on a killing spree.[4][5] Maladie also disguises herself as Effie Boyle, a deceased journalist. Manson is credited with the pseudonym Margaret Tuttle when Effie appears.[6]
  • Zackary Momoh as Doctor Horatio Cousens: A West Indian physician. Amalia was there when he discovered his own power to heal. He collaborates with her, and the Beggar King.[4][5]
  • Eleanor Tomlinson as Mary Brighton: A failed singer who has a big surprise ahead of her.[4][5]
  • Nick Frost as Declan Orrun, aka The Beggar King: Charismatic and brutal, Declan is in command of London's low-level criminals. Sometimes he works with Amalia and her cause – and sometimes he is just as happy to sell them out.[4][5]
  • Elizabeth Berrington as Lucy Best: A former thief from an extremely poor upbringing who can shatter whatever she touches.[7]
  • Viola Prettejohn as Myrtle Haplisch: An omniglot who can understand any spoken language although her own words come out in randomly shifting languages that she cannot control.[7]
  • Anna Devlin as Primrose Chattoway: A sixteen-year-old girl who is ten feet tall.[7]
  • Kiran Sonia Sawar as Harriet Kaur: A Scottish Sikh who lives at the orphanage; her breath turns things into glass. She dreams of being a lawyer.[7]
  • Ben Chaplin as Inspector Frank Mundi: A large and gruff policeman with a strong sense of morals. He has a reputation for violence and heavy drinking.[4][5]
  • Ella Smith as Desirée Blodgett: A prostitute who causes others around her to pour out secrets when they are feeling strong emotions.[7]
  • Vinnie Heaven as Nimble Jack: A young thief and member of the Touched who is notorious for breaking and entering and is capable of creating floating disks that can be used as shields or as stepping stones for accessing high places.[8]

Recurring[edit]

  • Martyn Ford as Nicholas Parbel “Odium”: A henchman of the Beggar King and a Touched whose body repels water; however, this prevents him from bathing.[7]
  • Mark Benton as The Colonel: a follower of Maladie and a Touched with a power of persuasion.
  • David Garrick as Winemar Kroos: a follower of Maladie and a Touched who generates bullets from his right arm.
  • Rupert Vansittart as Lord Broughton: a member of Massen's coordinating group.
  • Andrew Havill as Douglas Broome: a member of Massen's coordinating group.
  • Timothy Bentinck as General Pecking: a member of Massen's coordinating group.
  • Nicholas Farrell as Prince Albrecht: a member of Massen's coordinating group.
  • Tim Steed as Lord Allaven Tyne: a member of Massen's coordinating group.
  • Domenique Fragale as Elisabetta "Beth" Cassini: an Italian immigrant and Touched woman whose turn allows her to make objects levitate.
  • Zain Hussain as Aneel: a member of the Touched and a friend of Harriet.

Episodes[edit]

No.Title [9]Directed byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
Part 1
1"Pilot"Joss WhedonJoss WhedonApril 11, 2021 (2021-04-11)0.548[10]
In London 1899, the widow Amalia True runs St. Romaulda's Orphanage, a sanctuary for people with extraordinary powers known as the Touched. Amalia and Penance Adair rescue Myrtle Haplisch, a Touched girl who speaks in fragments of different languages, from a band of strange thugs. Meanwhile, Lord Massen and other government officials discuss the Touched and their impact on the empire. Augie Bidlow visits his friend, Hugo Swann, and requests his company at the opera. At the orphanage, Amalia receives an invitation to the opera from Lavinia Bidlow, their patron. On their way to the opera, Amalia and Penance are intercepted by the Beggar King, who is upset about Amalia's demand to meet him. At the opera, serial killer Maladie attacks and takes hostage Mary Brighton, a Touched whose singing soothes the Touched. Amalia pursues them but fails to rescue Mary. Afterwards, Inspector Frank Mundi investigates the attack. Elsewhere, Doctor Hague is seen medically tormenting a Touched. A flashback to 1896 reveals Maladie is the only one who remembers a massive flying object that caused the Touched to exist.
2"Exposure"Joss WhedonJane EspensonApril 18, 2021 (2021-04-18)0.561[11]
Beth Cassini accidentally reveals her power in public and flees to the orphanage for safety. Mundi leads a raid on the orphanage but fails to find any evidence of Maladie's location. Lavinia arrives to stop him, then invites several Touched to a social event at her estate. Massen warns Swann about his private club and its employment of several Touched. At the orphanage, Amalia admits Desirée Blodgett, a Touched woman who compels people to reveal their secrets, and uses her to get Mundi to reveal that Mary left him at the altar. At Lavinia's party, Augie reveals his turn to Penance. Amalia discovers Maladie's location and goes alone. On her way to the orphanage, Penance is captured by Maladie's men. Amalia fights Maladie and it is revealed that they were friends. Scotland Yard raids the factory and rescues Penance and Mary, but Maladie manages to escape while Amalia is heavily wounded. A West Indian physician, Horatio Cousens, heals Amalia while Mary reconnects with Mundi. Beth arrives at a false address and is immediately taken to Hague's lab, where Lavinia also arrives and is greeted by a glowing orb.
3"Ignition"David SemelKevin LauApril 25, 2021 (2021-04-25)0.448[12]
Amalia and Penance attempt to recruit Annie Carbey, but fail. At the orphanage, Mary is still hesitant about using her power when Penance reveals her plan to amplify Mary’s voice so all the Touched across London can hear. At a pub, Mundi meets with Swann, revealing they organized the raid on the orphanage. Elsewhere, Kroos, one of Maladie's men, is released from prison while Horatio is forced to heal Maladie’s wound. Penance and Myrtle discover another orphanage claiming to be theirs, so Amalia and Lucy investigate. They find evidence of Hague’s work, prompting Amalia to collect some to bring to Lavinia while Lucy returns with the captive housekeeper. The interrogation of the housekeeper motivates Mary to use her power. Leaving Lavinia’s estate, Amalia is attacked by Odium, but escapes. At the park, Mary sings her song, but Kroos kills her midway, and Mundi kills him. Returning to the orphanage, Amalia and the others find Annie waiting with several Touched who heard Mary’s song.
4"Undertaking"David SemelMadhuri ShekarMay 2, 2021 (2021-05-02)0.515[13]
Everyone but Amalia attends Mary’s funeral. Later, Penance confronts Amalia about being absent, but Amalia vents her frustration instead. Myrtle reveals to Primrose that she understood Mary’s song, so Primrose and Harriet work with multilingual Touched to translate. Mundi finds evidence that Swann was involved in Mary’s murder, so he violently confronts him in public, but finds nothing. While Penance interrogates Augie, Amalia visits Massen, who essentially confesses. Lucy suggests destroying one of Massen’s ammo warehouses. She, Amalia, and Annie break in. Amalia confronts Lucy, accusing her of being loyal to Massen, which led to Mary’s death. Lucy defends herself, insulting Amalia. The two fight, and Amalia ultimately only banishes Lucy from London. Back at the orphanage, Harriet shares the meaning of the song. It is a direct message to Amalia, and brings her to tears.
5"Hanged"Joss WhedonMelissa IqbalMay 9, 2021 (2021-05-09)0.570[14]
Maladie is sentenced to a public hanging, which outrages the Touched. Despite this, Amalia’s goal is finding the Galanthi, which is currently underground and under the care of Hague and Lavinia, who notice it begin cracking but are not too worried. Amalia is held back by a malfunction in Penance’s drill. The Council is divided on the execution, but does nothing to stop it. Effie continues to annoy Mundi while Massen discusses the Touched with the Beggar King. Penance decides she wants to save Maladie, but fails, partially because Maladie hangs herself. Penance and Mundi realize too late that Maladie arranged her own execution to lure as many spectators as possible, resulting in many civilian deaths when Maladie's followers spring her trap. In the streets of London the Beggar King carries out what he and Massen discussed earlier, having his minions sow chaos and disorder among the rest of the population. Penance returns to the orphanage to find Amalia was about as unsuccessful as she was. Mundi realizes the woman who hung herself was actually one of Maladie’s followers and that Effie was Maladie herself. Out in the rioting streets, Maladie sheds her disguise and revels amidst the chaos.
6"True"Zetna FuentesJane EspensonMay 16, 2021 (2021-05-16)0.552[15]
Sometime in the future, a unit of soldiers from the Planetary Defense Coalition (PDC) tasked with defending the Galanthi from another human faction called the FreeLife Army find themselves in a scientific base where the last Galanthi is hiding. The Galanthi are an alien race that at some point in the not too distant past arrived through a portal to provide humanity with technology capable of restoring a ravaged Earth. A fight in the base releases the Galanthi, and results in the death of many of the PDC soldiers. Losing hope for Earth's survival due to the last Galanthi's departure, one of the last remaining soldiers, Zephyr, commits suicide. As it is leaving, the Galanthi takes her soul as it leaves through a portal. In 1890s London, Amalia, known as Molly, works for a bakery and marries Thomas True, but drowns herself just as the Galanthi fly overhead. Awakening in an asylum, Zephyr finds herself in Molly's body and assumes her identity. As Amalia, she befriends Maladie (then known as Sarah) but betrays her to Hague in order to avoid compromising herself. Along with Horatio, she begins collecting information on the Touched, and is eventually approached by Lavinia to run the orphanage. In the present day, Amalia returns to the orphanage, as unsuccessful as Penance was. After revealing her true name to Penance, she decides to tell the orphanage.

Production[edit]

An official poster for the series

Development[edit]

On July 13, 2018, it was announced that HBO had given the production a straight-to-series order. Joss Whedon would serve as a writer, director, executive producer and showrunner for the series. The series landed at HBO after a bidding war with other networks and streaming services including Netflix.[1][16][17] Whedon explained the title at Comic-Con 2018:

They, themselves are not called that [The Nevers] in the show. It's a phrase that's meant to evoke a sort of reaction to their oddity, to what is considered unnatural. The idea that you should never be like this, you should never have existed. Something is not the way it should be, and you don't have the right to have whatever weird power or ability that you have. And that idea, that some people are not of the natural order, is fascinating to me. I don't agree with it. But to me, it's one of those things where you take something negative, and you wear it as a badge of honor, basically. Certain things could never happen - they're happening. And the people they're happening to are taking their place in the world.[18]

Cast and crew[edit]

In April 2019, Laura Donnelly was cast in the starring role of Amalia True.[2] Whedon spoke about her, "Laura Donnelly has charisma, wisdom and an anarchic precision that not only captures Amalia but defines her. She's fierce and she's funny – and I need both for the journey ahead."[2] In July 2019, twelve actors were added to the cast, including Ann Skelly as Penance Adair, Olivia Williams as Lavinia Bidlow, James Norton as Hugo Swann, Tom Riley as Augustus "Augie" Bidlow, Pip Torrens as Lord Massen, Denis O'Hare as Dr. Edmund Hague, Rochelle Neil as Annie Carbey, Amy Manson as Maladie, Zackary Momoh as Doctor Horatio Cousens, Eleanor Tomlinson as Mary Brighton, Nick Frost as Declan Orrun, and Ben Chaplin as Inspector Frank Mundi.[4][5] One month later, Elizabeth Berrington, Viola Prettejohn, Anna Devlin, Kiran Sonia Sawar, and Ella Smith were all cast in main roles Lucy Best, Myrtle Haplisch, Primrose Chattaway, Harriet Kaur, and Desirée Blodgett. Also in August, Martyn Ford was cast in there recurring role of Nicolas Perbal, also known as Odium.[7]

In the fifth episode, the character Effie Boyle is introduced. Effie is revealed to be one of Maladie's victims, with the Effie seen in the episode being Maladie herself in disguise. In order to create the illusion of Maladie posing as Effie, Amy Manson used makeup, wore a fat suit and then the look was altered in post-production using Computer-generated imagery. In an attempt to fool the audience, a fake name "Margaret Tuttle" was added to IMDb as the actress playing Effie.[19][20] Executive producers include Bernadette Caulfield, Jane Espenson, and Doug Petrie. Espenson and Petrie, who worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will serve as writers.[21] Laurie Penny is also part of the series' writing staff.[22] Gemma Jackson serves as production designer.[23] Academy Award winner Christine Blundell served as the hair and makeup designer. She said that inspiration came from modern-day punk in order to help with the visual world of the series.[24] In June 2021, HBO announced that Andrew Bernstein had joined the series as an executive producer and director.[25]

Filming[edit]

On July 4, 2019, Whedon announced that principal photography had started, with filming occurring in London.[21][26] In July 2019, it was reported that scenes had been filmed at Trinity Church Square,[27] and in the New Wimbledon Theatre area.[28] In August 2019, scenes were filmed at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent.[29] In late January 2020, shooting took place at Joyce Grove, an Oxfordshire country house estate in the Jacobean style. The building will double as The Orphanage.[30] Due to the lack of studio space in London, HBO worked with Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London and the British Film Commission, to find warehouse spaces and old industrial spaces in which they could base the production.[31]

The series completed production on the first five of its ten-episode order before production was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[32] Filming resumed in September and production was completed by the end of October.[33] In February 2021, Bloys confirmed that the first season would consist of 10 episodes that would be broken into two airing blocks, due to the production shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[34] The season's episode count was then extended to 12 episodes.[35]

Production on the final six episodes of the first season began in June 2021 in the UK.[36]

Writing[edit]

Speaking to the break in the release schedule between episodes six and seven due to production issues, HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys stated, "And there was kind of a natural narrative break at six. So that was the thought then was to air six episodes. So at least we had something to put out there for subscribers and fans." Bloys also said that Goslett and her team of writers are working through the second batch of scripts now and "we'll get a better sense of timing" when those will air as "the weeks go on."[34] In March 2021, it was clarified that the first season was extended from 10 to 12 episodes, with the second part of the first season also consisting of 6 episodes.[35] Vanessa Armstrong of Syfy.com wrote that star Laura Donnelly thought the script for the series' sixth episode was "so bonkers" that she "initially thought that they got sent the wrong script."[37]

Whedon's departure[edit]

On November 25, 2020, Whedon announced that he was stepping down from the series citing various reasons for his decision in "this year of unprecedented challenges." In a released statement he explained that the taxing nature of working on such a project during the global coronavirus pandemic had taken a toll on his energy levels, and confirmed rumors that he would be officially exiting the series.[38] On January 28, 2021, British screenwriter Philippa Goslett was announced as the new showrunner.[39] In response to the accusations of workplace harassment against Whedon on his prior projects, Bloys stated that "we had no complaints or no reports of inappropriate behavior" regarding his work on The Nevers.[34] Nevertheless, Whedon's involvement was not acknowledged in the marketing of the series, although he was still properly credited for his work.[40][41] Afterwards, series regular Denis O'Hare, who portrays Doctor Edmund Hague, noted that he was unaware of the misconduct allegations aimed at Whedon at the time and said that the whole cast was worried about the continued filming of the first season. O'Hare did praise Goslett, calling the new showrunner "the exact right choice" and "I think there's some writing staff that's remaining the same. Whenever they're changing a writer, let alone a showrunner, you don't know what's going to happen to your character."[42][43]

Broadcast[edit]

The Nevers premiered on April 11, 2021, on HBO and is set to consist of 12 episodes, split into two 6-episode parts.[44] The series' official trailer was released on March 23, 2021.[45] The second half of the first season will premiere in 2022.[36]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 50% based on reviews from 64 critics, with an average rating of 5.82/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Despite strong performances and stellar production design, The Nevers struggles to stitch its slew of intriguing components into a solid show."[46] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 56 out of 100 based on 26 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[47] Ed Cumming of The Independent gave the series three stars out of five, calling it "overstuffed junk shop of ideas" and disliked too many "themes of alienation and acceptance unfold amid horse-drawn chases, expensive special effects, high-society orgies, corset brawls, and wainscoting aplenty."[48] BBC Online's Scott Bryan called it "just a bit too weighted down."[49] Wenlei Ma of News.com.au said The Nevers is "a distillation of Whedon's best and worst filmmaking impulses. It needs someone with a more disciplined eye to cut half of its many dangling threads and subplots."[50]

In a positive review by Lorraine Ali from the Los Angeles Times, she wrote, "The Nevers is a joy to watch and a thrill to follow. Supernatural realism, complex storytelling, fantastical powers and topical realties meet in this smart, suspenseful and colorful production. A litany of nuanced characters keeps this otherworldly tale grounded. Suspenseful sleuthing and action-packed battles move the story along at a rapid clip. And all the lush scenery and ambitious wardrobe along the way".[51] Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave it a more mixed review, writing that the series is "in desperate need of focus, and as episodes progress, more and more characters are added and the connection to the richest thematic throughline becomes increasingly tenuous". However, Fienberg praised Whedon's directing, as well as the production design and costumes.[52]

Ben Travers of IndieWire criticized the series, saying "The Nevers' inconsistencies can make for a maddening viewing experience — sending you from the edge of your seat to sprawled out on the floor, trying to find your eyes after they rolled out of your head — and far too many parts make zero sense whatsoever," however Travers went on to say that he would continue watching it and that even though Joss Whedon left the show during production, he had left his mark on it.[53] A three-star review on The Guardian called the series "mess, within and without" and compared it to Enola Holmes and Penny Dreadful.[54] Darren Franich of Entertainment thought "True" made the series much more interesting, saying "the sixth episode of The Nevers is the troubled HBO drama's best hour yet", but also noted that this development in the plot may have come too late.[55]

Ratings[edit]

Viewership and ratings per episode of The Nevers
No. Title Air date Rating
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1 "Pilot" April 11, 2021 0.10 0.548[10] 0.07 0.365 0.17 0.913[56]
2 "Exposure" April 18, 2021 0.12 0.561[11] 0.08 0.528 0.20 1.089[57]
3 "Ignition" April 25, 2021 0.06 0.448[12] 0.11 0.535 0.17 0.983[58]
4 "Undertaking" May 2, 2021 0.07 0.515[13] 0.11 0.512 0.18 1.027[59]
5 "Hanged" May 9, 2021 0.09 0.570[14] 0.10 0.473 0.19 1.043[60]
6 "True" May 16, 2021 0.08 0.552[15] 0.11 0.558 0.19 1.110[15]

References[edit]

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