THE NEVERS | WE’VE BEEN WATCHING
A steampunk/feminist superhero mashup, The Nevers is everything the film adaptation of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not. Set in Victorian England, this first series follows The Touched, a group of mostly women who have gained uncanny abilities in the wake of a random lightshow/spaceship/energy thing appearing over London and releasing light spores, absorbed by those who are ‘receptive’. These include Laura Donnelly’s superb Amalia True, who gains fighting skills and the ability to see into the future, and Ann Skelly’s suddenly super-inventive Penance Adair.
Housed in an orphanage funded by wealthy benefactor Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams), the central sparky duo – one a cynic, the other an optimist – set about rounding up their kind, and offering them a place of safety from persecution for their otherness. Their ranks include a gargantuan young girl, a woman who speaks in every language, a woman who can turn objects to glass and so on. They are persecuted by the likes of Pip Torrens’ Lord Massen, who believes these new creations are a threat to the Empire – and it doesn’t help that they are mostly women.
Also thrown into the mix are James Norton’s gregarious Wildean Hugo Swan, Nick Frost’s gangster the Beggar King, Ben Chaplin’s dogged detective, murderous mental patient Maladie (played by a great Amy Manson) and many, many more. In fact, the world is often overwhelming in its inventiveness and plethora of characters, but thanks to Donnelly, a veteran of Outlander, remains compelling. Created by the subsequently troublesome Joss Whedon, since replaced as show runner after allegations about his treatment of women and Justice League’s Ray Fisher came to light, this bears a Buffy blueprint: snarky humour, feisty female leads and some often nasty violence. A battle between a huge henchman who can walk on water and an underwater Donnelly is particularly inventive.
A rug-pull of a final episode adds even more to the world building, in a series that shows great promise, albeit with occasional unnecessary nudity and snatches of brutality – HBO seeming determined to keep going with all that after Game Of Thrones. Full of vim and with a definite political stance, though familiar at times, The Nevers still feels refreshing, with richly drawn, intriguing characters you want to know more about. Here’s hoping there’s a longer second series to do the packed steampunk world justice.
Season 1 streaming on Now TV and Sky Atlantic now. Info: here
words KEIRON SELF