The Nevers Premiere Episode: Cyber-Punk Action With Fun Characters
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Review: The Nevers Premiere Episode Tempers Victorian Era Cyber-Punk Action With Fascinating Characters

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BY April 6, 2021

Formulaic storytelling in action can become quite redundant. Especially when the formula becomes noticeable right away. The official teaser for The Nevers made it look like a Victorian-era X-Men, but with women. It didn’t really even try to shy away from it too much. But I’m delighted to report that The Nevers premiere episode goes much farther than its formula to become something special. Maybe not right away, but here’s hoping it’ll get there. Check out my spoiler-free review of The Nevers premiere episode. 

But first, a quick note. The Nevers is written, directed, and created by Joss Whedon. Over the years, there’s been a lot said about the filmmaker, both about his work and his professional behavior during that work. I myself have covered many of those reports myself on this site. During this discourse, I am not one to advocate separating the artist from their work, as that’s totally up to the individual consuming the art. In this instance, however, I’m considering The Nevers to be the collaborative piece of art that it is. The end result of which is the culmination of the visions of many involved. It’s a TV show, the sum of which is much more than any one part. And it would be unfair to judge the series on anything other than the merits of that whole.

The Nevers Premiere Episode Has A Lot To Like

Duo. Image via HBO Max.

There’s a lot to like about The Nevers. It’s a story set in the Victorian era in London. A mysterious event imbibes some women of the city with strange powers. Or rather, afflictions as they’re described as by the locals, definitely with a negative connotation. Society considers these ‘touched’ as sick women to condemn or ignore. Some are apathetic about them, others sympathetic, while a rare few see them as a threat. However, The Nevers premiere episode shows how there is a larger conspiracy at play, involving these women. Someone, or some group is actually kidnapping these women with powers, for nefarious, but thus far, unknown purposes. 

The series opens with an orphanage full of these special women, run by Amalia True (Laura Donnelly). Amalia’s powers are that of uncontrollable visions that foretell the future. Her counterpart is Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a young woman who can visualize electricity, making her a great inventor. The two recruit a new young girl considered to be ‘afflicted’. Definitely sounds very X-men-y so far. During their recruitment visit, they stumble upon a group of men trying to kidnap the girl with powers, kicking off The Nevers’ first big action scene. 

On The Surface, The Nevers Is Derivative And An Amalgamation Of Multiple Genres

The Nevers premiere episode Adair. Image via HBO Max.

The entire first episode of The Nevers is reminiscent of many others shows. The Victorian Era genre fiction feels like the more recent Carnival Row series. The Cyberpunk elements of technology and gritty action are very much like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise. Amalia and Penance’s dynamic and interaction feel very much like the lead characters in Firefly. Especially given how Amalia is a direct, take-no-crap badass with a dry and intense wit, like Mal Reynolds. 

There’s also the villainous subplot that feels like a Jack the Ripper story. Not to mention the more obvious X-Men connections. And then there’s all the subtle, but not so subtle references to the wealth disparity, social turmoil, the seeds of feminism, minority rights, and equality. You’d think so much in one show might be detrimental, but somehow it all works. There are enough doses of each of these things to not overwhelm the larger story. And yes, the slightest misstep might make the show fly off the rails, but so far, I’m on board. 

The Nevers Premiere Episode Focus On The Substance Despite Its Style

The Nevers premiere episode Angel. Image via HBO Max.

Another surprising element of The Nevers premiere episode is the depth of character development the show prioritizes. The story could easily have been very plot-driven, taking us from plot point to plot point. But many characters get importance and backstory, even ones you don’t expect to. The parallels between the first and last sequence of the premiere episode are enough to hook the audience in and anticipate the next episode. Characters get their own stylized moments that, despite the slowing down of the pacing, don’t take away from the urgency of the story. 

The Nevers Features Star Making Performances All-Around

The Nevers premiere episode Party. Image via HBO Max.

For an HBO show, it would have been very easy to populate The Nevers with recognizable faces if not stars. However, this series features a cast that aren’t household names, but could definitely be if the show takes off. Donnelly is a powerhouse that could easily carry the show, even without the capable supporting cast around her. Her somber screen presence is matched only by the physicality of the action scenes that she excels in. Complimenting Amalia’s swagger perfectly is the more softer Penance, which Skelly plays to perfection. 

James Norton’s Hugo Swann as a playboy Libertarian who will definitely have more prominence as the show continues is wonderful. Ben Chaplin as the street-hardened beat cop Frank Mundi is a man of morals, but one who is more than meets the eye. The villainous Maladie played by Amy Manson has the perfect tones of psycho and scary. Even Pip Torrens as Lord Massen, the more intellectual antagonist of the series is intimidating and gets his own tragic backstory in the episode. 

HBO’s New Victorian Era Superhero Show Definitely Has Something Going For It

Fire Image via HBO Max.

While I’m not entirely sold on The Nevers, it’s undeniable that the series has a lot of potential. The storylines, characters, and concepts put forth are fascinating, entertaining, and very well written and executed. It’s more than enough to want to continue the series on a week-to-week basis. 

The Nevers premiere episode airs on HBO Max on April 11. 

Featured image via HBO Max. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

Ann SkellyHBOhbo maxJoss WhedonLaura DonnellyThe Nevers

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