HBO’s hugely buzzed about fantasy epic, The Nevers, finally hits streaming today.
The series, which will stream locally on Binge, takes us to a version of Victorian London that finds itself in total tumult when people emerge as “touched” with special “turns” or powers.
Leading the action is the mysterious Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and her best friend (and fellow touched) Penance Adair (Ann Skelly).
Together the two women are trying to recruit and save fellow touched all while navigating a complex landscape of heroes and foes. With its fiery heroines and witty banter, The Nevers has all the hallmarks of a Joss Whedon show, but is HBO’s The Nevers technically a Joss Whedon show?
Yes, but no, but also definitely yes. The answer it seems is as complicated as the show’s early storylines.
The Nevers opens on a seemingly nondescript morning in 1896 London.
Amalia walks dead-eyed with laundry in a seedy area. Penance uses her wits to fix a broken water pump, and a woman we’ll later know as the villainous scourge “Maladie” (Amy Manson) is being carted off to an insane asylum.
A glittering vessel enters the skies and florescent drops fall from the heavens, touching these women and others. Then the ship seems to disappear from everyone’s view and memory, leaving its mark only on the people — predominantly women and minorities — who have been touched.
Three years later, Amalia and Penance are trying to save touched girls and women from condemnation, or worse, while all of London is on the hunt for the terrifying Maladie. There’s also some aristocrats scheming to overthrow the touched, use them as sex workers, or even in a nebulous war.
If this sounds extremely like the opening of a superhero story, you’d be correct.
It’s also very much in line with the work of Joss Whedon. Indeed, The Nevers was meant to be Whedon’s great return to television. The writer and director who had made a name for himself with classic shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly had long since pivoted to superhero movies.
HBO won a fierce bidding war for The Nevers in 2018 and gave Whedon’s concept a straight-to-series order.
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So yes, The Nevers is a Joss Whedon show in that it was created by Whedon. Its first episode was written and directed by Whedon, too. He also wrote and directed several other episodes.
You would think, “Case closed! The Nevers is a Joss Whedon show! It’s got a perky scientist lady and a quippy tough girl who fights like a UFC brawler. There’s an awkward white dude who lands a girl way above his pay grade and a veritable menagerie of side characters fulfilling various genre roles. THE NEVERS IS A WHEDON SHOW.”
And yet … The truth is a little more complicated than that.
Joss Whedon might have created The Nevers, but he’s far from the only creative force working on it behind-the-scenes. In fact, Whedon left the project as soon as The Nevers Episode 6 wrapped shooting in late 2020.
The production schedule paused there in part because of COVID-19 and in part because of a huge amount of VFX work that needed to be done. The Nevers Episode 6 is also set to conclude a massive arc for the story, making it a natural break point.
Philippa Goslett is now the official showrunner for the second half of Season 1, due to start shooting later this year.
Goslett came in a few months after the post-production process began and worked with the remaining creatives to finish the first six episodes ahead of their April 12 premiere.
While Whedon reportedly left the series due to the personal strain 2020 took on him — and boy, same — Whedon’s departure comes at a time when his past on-set behaviour with actors like Charisma Carpenter, and Justice League stars Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot has come under scrutiny.
While HBO has been quick to deny any allegations of wrongful behaviour on the set of The Nevers, they also want it made clear that the show isn’t solely Whedon’s baby, but the product of many creatives. So … The Nevers isn’t a Joss Whedon show (anymore)?
The long and short of it is this (I think):
Joss Whedon created The Nevers. He was deeply involved in the production of the first six episodes, but left after the sixth instalment wrapped shooting. Since then, The Nevers has been placed under the stewardship of Philippa Goslett.
The first six episodes of The Nevers — aka the Joss Whedon episodes — premiere on Binge on Monday, April 12; the last six episodes of The Nevers Season 1 are due to premiere later this year, without Joss Whedon’s influence on the story.
This story originally appeared on Decider and has been reproduced here with permission