The Nevers, Season One (2020)

 

In this alternate history, Steampunk version of Victorian England, an alien ship has passed over London, penetrating everything with a vaporous fog that has since transformed many of the female occupants of the city. Mysteriously, they start developing unusual abilities. They become known as 'Touched.' The ability ranges from being able to sense electrical currents, like Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), causing people to tell you the truth just by staring at them, growing to abnormal sizes, or even experiencing flashes of the immediate future, as Amalila True (Laura Donnelly) experiences.

 

Since people fear what they cannot understand, a wealthy benefactress has opened up a safe house where these women can live in peace. Amalia and Penance set out into wider London to fetch a girl who speaks a range of language dialects (none of them English; her family believes she has been possessed) -- only to discover sinister masked figures also intend to make off with the child. Forced to defend her and run, they become curious as to what these unknown foes may have wanted with her. In the meantime, a series of brutal murders is terrorizing London. Detective Frank Mundi (Ben Chaplin) is on the case, but believes them linked to the actions of a sadistic Touched psychopath named Maladie (Amy Manson). Things take a turn for the worst when Maladie turns up at the opera and turns it into a bloodbath. She has come for another Touched girl, a would-be actress named Mary (Eleanor Thomlinson), whose singing only the Touched can hear. Amalia fails to rescue her, forcing them to mount a rescue operation.

 

Others know how to turn a profit off the touched, including Hugo (James Norton), a wealthy nobleman who runs an elite sex club in upper London. He's best friends with the shy, bird-obsessed Augie (Tom Riley), who is one of the rare male Touched. He can see through the eyes of birds and control their movements. All of them get caught up in sinister events beyond their control, and then must solve a murder that may be more than it first appears. Can Penance and Adair figure out who is behind these curious events, before the worst happens?

 

If you are thinking this sounds like X-Men set in Victorian England, that's exactly what it's like -- and if like me, you enjoy spending a few hours with Mutents who have powers, you will probably enjoy this, because it's made even better through the addition of bustles, parasols containing secret weapons, and an assortment of clever witticisms. The cast is great, and the costumes are terrific. The set design immerses you in a world full of enchantment but also perils. Joss Whedon helmed the first season and it showed; it has many of the same ideas, themes, and tropes from his famous franchises. A tough-talking, butt-kicking heroine, an inventor sidekick, even a deranged villain (who speaks in unintelligible abstract sentences, just like his vampire Drusilla). I really loved spending time in the orphanage, and the series keeps up a rapid pace throughout ... until the final episode, where we get the back story of how all of this happened and who Amalia actually is. I didn't find that as interesting, but the series leads up to the expectation of a second season and I hope it gets one, just so I can see how the plot threads resolve themselves.

 

There's a lot to like here, but also a lot to dislike in terms of content. This isn't a clean series and has the usual unnecessary f-words, sexual scenes, and nudity that HBO believes must be involved in all their 'adult' entertainment. I also feel like some of the large cast is unnecessary; Hugo adds nothing to the story and contributes nothing in the climax, which renders him irrelevant. We also don't know some of the motivations behind the decisions the characters make, which makes it hard to root for them. Some episodes are better than others. The score is perky but not particularly memorable. Penance is the best character. I loved her. But I could have done without the anachronistic foul language.

 

Sexual Content:

A man wakes up in a bed with a woman and a man (we see her bare breasts, then his bare backside as he gets up); bare-breasted women appear many times in brothel scenes, along with full frontal nudity on men and women; we see another man's bare backside as he is cleaned by two women. A man 'tests' out prostitutes by having sex with them before hiring them for his brothel (we see graphic encounters; nudity); a man and a woman have sex in the opening scene of one late episode; a flash-forward to sex; Maladie behaves provocatively. Cleavage in period gowns, corsets, underthings.

 

Language:

Dozens of f-words, sh*t, bastard, buggar, bloody, c*nt, damn, a few abuses of Jesus' name.

 

Violence:

Infrequent but gory, as a scientist cuts into people's heads, dead bodies are found in the street covered in blood, things explode. A person about to be hanged jumps off the platform, hanging themselves (we hear their neck crack); people are electrocuted, shot, stabbed, and almost drowned. Some gore. A woman is shot multiple times with a primitive machine gun (blood spurts).

 

Other:

Opium use, drinking, blackmail.

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