The Nevers

The Nevers Review

Dept. of Victorian Follies


HBO’s The Nevers exists in a weird cultural space. On the one hand, the series is an incredibly fun and deeply engaging superhero spiel that has the potential to do for Victorian fantasies what Firefly did for sci-fi Westerns. On the other, it lands on our screens at a time when the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, finds himself facing a slew of allegations concerning poor leadership, abuse of power, emotional blackmail, and casual cruelty. And even though Whedon left the series after principal photography in London (Philippa Goslett took over as showrunner after he left the project), the series is nevertheless left having to navigate this unfortunate tension, all in the hope that the audience is able to separate the artist from his art.

Now if you are able to do that, if seeing Whedon’s name in the credits doesn’t make this series unpalatable for you, then you’re in for quite the ride. Because The Nevers is really quite good.

Touched By an Angel

Here’s the gist of it. A mysterious event grants some people – mostly women – superpowers that are specific to their individual nature. The Victorian locals refer to them as “Touched,” and they are regarded with fear and suspicion by the masses, and as dangerous threats by those in power. Laura Donnelly (Outlander) leads a massive ensemble cast as Amalia True, a woman cursed with being able to see glimpses of the near future. She runs an orphanage of outcasts along with her partner and best friend Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a whip-smart inventor whose ability to “see” electricity makes her something of a strange cross between X-Men’s Beast and James Bond’s Q.

Together, both women prowl the streets of London rescuing fellow “Touched” individuals who need saving, with their version of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters a sanctuary to a large group of Nevers, all of whom are learning how to master their powers as well as hide away from a world that’s out to get them.

The Nevers

The X-Men trope, however, is but a starting point, and The Nevers very quickly moves past that to set-up a far more complex narrative that weaves in murder, mystery, and magic, with science fiction and fantasy, against the backdrop of secret societies, mad surgeons, and Victorian class struggles.

For Better or for Worse, The Nevers Is Whedonesque

All of Joss Whedon’s narrative tendencies are on full display here, with his ability to masterfully manage many characters and multiple story arcs really shining through. The pilot of the series is, hands down, one of the most accomplished opening episodes that I’ve seen in a very long time. And I watch a lot of television.

Yes, a lot happens. Yes, it’s incredibly busy. But none of it feels cluttered. All of the major players are introduced and their entanglements with each other are clearly defined. The premise is established in a way that is clear and comprehensible. And an overarching mystery is put forth in a manner that is both convincing and compelling. Everything in that first episode – the pacing and tone, the characters and world building – works to make you want to watch the next one. I’ve sat through far too many episodes of lesser shows trying to decide if it was worth my time. (That’s right Netflix, I’m looking at you!)

The Nevers

The relationship between Amalia and Penance, while unfortunately platonic, is nevertheless an absolute joy. And despite the darkness of some of the show’s themes, The Nevers still approaches it with a wry sense of humor. There’s plenty of action. Lots of witty banter. But most of all, the series tells a really good story that I want to hear more off. Which is all I’m really looking for whenever I turn on my TV.


With so much comic book fare being churned out on TV and in cinemas, you would think that we’d have more superhero stories that centered around women. The Nevers fills that vacuum and fills it well. Everything here is built with meticulous care. Its steampunk sensibilities give us a fun twist on the familiar. Its Victorian setting allows it to mine very different metaphors as a mirror to today.

I’ve only seen the first four episodes of the series (due to the pandemic, the first part of the first season consists of six episodes, with another six coming at a later date) and I am more than invested in these characters and their lives. I want to know more about their stories. I want to learn about how they got their powers. God knows I love the pace and rhythm of comic book storytelling to find this show immensely intriguing. So I’m more than happy to stick around for more.

The first episode of The Nevers is now streaming exclusively on HBO GO and HBO (Astro Ch 411 HD). The first season is in two parts with the first six episodes of Part One airing every Monday while Part Two’s six episodes will follow at a later date.

Stay tuned for our interviews with some of the cast coming later this week.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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