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Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Nevers first impression: Joss Whedon’s Victorian London-set fantasy series is sporadically entertaining

Joss Whedon’s The Nevers is not the next big HBO fantasy series you needed after Game of Thrones.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
April 15, 2021 3:26:40 pm
The Nevers hbo, The NeversThe Nevers is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium. (Photo: HBO)

The premiere episode of Joss Whedon’s The Nevers is here. A genre-mashing series, The Nevers is set in Victorian London and tells the tale of Touched people. They are primarily women who have special, often magical and sometimes disturbing, abilities. They are fighting to protect themselves from other forces, which includes cops and purists who believe the Touched’s powers are ungodly.

It is clear why The Nevers is set in the Victorian era. Britain, like nearly every country, back then was a deeply unequal society. Despite the reigning monarch Queen Victoria, women were considered second-class citizens with a fixed role in the social system and no right to vote and choose their leaders. It was also the era when the first efforts to form a unified front to work for women’s suffrage took place.

Also, Victorian era makes for excellent setting in literature, TV shows and movies, provided, of course, that it is realised well.

So how does The Nevers hold up? Just fine.

First, the good stuff. The cast, especially Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly, is marvellous. And their work is the biggest reason one is able to sit through the episode.

Second, the production design is near-perfect. The realisation of the period, which is rarely done right, is immaculate, right down to the small details. These two things make The Nevers entertaining in parts.

And that’s where the good stuff ends. If you think the metaphor of ‘touched’ women who are deemed outcastes, if not outrightly hunted to death, is too in-your-face for how women daring to be different are treated, you would be right. But that is not the real undoing of The Nevers. That would be the clumsy way the writing handles the conflict between rich, privileged white men and women and people of colour. There is no subtlety here, just a blend of many ideas already done to death in pop culture, including some of Joss Whedon’s work, particularly the brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

As it stands, The Nevers is not the next big HBO fantasy series you needed after Game of Thrones.

The Nevers is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.

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