An inexplicable event confers supernatural powers on a select group of people in Victorian London, who must battle prejudice and those who would exploit their abilities in The Nevers, a new original series coming to HBO next month.
HBO won a fierce bidding war and approved a straight-to-series order in 2018, with Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, etc.) as writer, director, executive producer, and showrunner. Whedon brought Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson—both of whom worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer—on board as additional writers/executive producers. He said the following about the series title during Comic-Con in 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.
Last November, Whedon announced he was quitting the project, citing exhaustion and the “physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic.” (Whedon has been embattled in recent months by accusations of workplace harassment—both from Ray Fisher, aka Cyborg, during Justice League reshoots, and from several Buffy cast members—but HBO has said there were no similar reports about Whedon during production of The Nevers.)
The COVID-19 pandemic did interrupt production, however, so the 10 episodes will be broken into two parts. Six episodes will air on HBO (and stream on HBO Max) beginning on April 11, while the remaining four will be completed and aired at a later date, hopefully this year. “There was kind of a natural narrative break at six, so the thought then was to air six episodes,” HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys told The Wrap last month. “So at least we had something to put out there for subscribers and fans.”
Per the official premise:
August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people—mostly women—abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger. It falls to mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and brilliant young inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) to protect and shelter these gifted “orphans.” To do so, they will have to face the brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind.
The pilot opens three years after whatever inexplicable event led to the emergence of the extraordinary abilities of the “Touched.” Amalia and Penance are working with a wealthy spinster named Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams), who runs the Orphanage, a haven for the Touched. They include Annie Carbey (Rochelle Neil), aka Bonfire, who can control fire; Dr. Horatio Cousens (Zackary Momoh), who has the gift of healing; Primrose Chattoway (Anna Devlin), who stands 10 feet tall; Myrtle Haplisch (Viola Prettejohn), who has lost the ability to speak any language other people can understand; Mary Brighton (Eleanor Tomlinson), a singer who must find her voice to inspire hope across the city; and Desirée Blodgett (Ella Smith), a prostitute with a young mute son. Amy Manson plays Maladie, an unstable and violent member of the Touched who embarks on a killing spree.
The cast also includes Ben Chaplin as Detective Frank Mundi, who is trying to solve a series of brutal murders; Pip Torrens as Lord Massen, who views the Touched as a threat to society; Nick Frost as Declan Orrun, aka the Beggar King, an amoral criminal overlord who helps out Amalia when it suits him; Denis O’Hare as unhinged surgeon Dr. Edmund Hague, who longs to discover the source of these unusual abilities; Tom Riley as Augie Bidlow, Lavinia’s geeky younger brother; Kiran Sonia Sawar as Harriet Kaur, a Scottish Sikh and aspiring lawyer; Elizabeth Berrington as the streetwise Lucy Best; and James Norton as Hugo Swan, described as a “pansexual aristocrat” who owns a private underground club and sees the Touched as a veritable gold mine for exploitation.
HBO dropped an initial teaser in February, featuring plenty of fisticuffs and derring-do. This latest trailer fleshes out the basic premise and gives us a better idea of the overall tenor of the series. It seems like a winning mix of action, humor, and suspense, so color us intrigued. The Nevers debuts on HBO and HBO Max on April 11, 2021.
Listing image by HBO