Length: 6 x episodes (54-64 minutes)
There comes a point in The Nevers, perhaps at the end of the first episode, perhaps somewhere in the fourth, where you’ll find yourself throwing your hands in the air, and exasperatedly asking: “What’s all that about?”
It’s not that you, the viewer, won’t understand what’s going on per se. It’s more, the show doesn’t seem to know what to do with its six million plot threads, and the result is a fitfully entertaining mess that frustrates as much as it fascinates.
Boiling it down to its simplest terms, The Nevers is about a group of people, mainly women, who have gained superpowers as the result of a mysterious event that almost no one seems able to remember.
The action is set in Victorian England, where these involuntary metahumans are known as “The Touched” and treated with fear, suspicion and outright hostility.
The heroes come in the form of women Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who work for St. Romaulda’s Orphanage, a place that takes in more Touched and tries to keep them safe from the various factions of malignant bastards lobbing around London.
Add to this a group of powerful aristocratic men who fear the idea of superpowered ladies (naturally), a group of creepy-looking masked gronks who kidnap the Touched for nefarious reasons, and Maladie (Amy Manson) a Touched serial killer who comes off a bit like a ye olde Pommy Joker and you’ve got a full slate of shenanigans, right?
Except we haven’t even touched on Hugo Swan (James Norton) the pansexual aristocrat, Detective Frank Mundi (Ben Chaplin) the violent, obsessed copper, or The Beggar King (Nick Frost) the vicious, intimidating gangster.
Fam, this show is A LOT. Some of it is good, or at the very least fun, but there’s also quite a bit of baffling nonsense.
Honestly, there’s enough story here to fill three 26-episode-long seasons, and The Nevers seems to think it can satisfyingly get through it all in six hour-long chapters!
And while an additional six episodes are planned to be filmed soon (COVID allowing), it does almost certainly guarantee this yarn will end on a frustrating cliffhanger.
The now-departed original showrunner - and recently-outed (alleged) on-set tyrant - Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) doesn’t so much lose the plot here as stitch multiple plots together, creating some kind of lurching, confounding Franken-plot.
Is The Nevers Victorian era X-Men (in corsets)? A suffragette allegory? Revisionist history? Is the tone light and fluffy? Grim and dark? Glib and snarky? The answer is: yes. All of the above and the tonal whiplash is real.
It’s sad too, because when the show works, it really works. Laura Donnelly is wonderful as Amalia, offering cutting barbs and savage violence in equal measure, and the mystery of her murky past provides one of The Nevers’ more intriguing subplots.
The Nevers looks wonderful, is well acted and beautifully shot, but at this stage the story is just a mess.
Hopefully the second half of season one (sans Whedon) will get back on the rails, but at the moment this is an intriguing show whose execution falls frustratingly short of its great potential.
And, really, what’s all that about?
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