Review of Nevers – HBO’s new show has a problem with Joss Whedon

Nevers spoilers will not be found in this review.

In ten minutes Nevers, Laura Donnelly gets into a fight and “throws out a few undeserved men” ((as Olivia Williams said Digital Spy), followed by a “quick dialog that includes the words you need to look up in the Oxford English Dictionary”.

Nevers she puts her best foot forward early (right in the man’s face) by putting Amalia True in the foreground as the latest woman to get out and get out of danger. Sounds familiar? It’s fun, promising the start of HBO’s latest fantasy show, but then as the show progresses, what begins as a feverish feeling of deja vu soon becomes all-encompassing.

Just as Amalia is drawn from her surroundings by random traces of the future, so are we drawn again and again by numerous scenes that evoke other, often more memorable stories.

HBO

Essentially, Nevers it focuses on a group (mostly) of women who have recently been “touched” by a mysterious force that gives them all kinds of power at a time when someone who is perceived as different is afraid and even ugly.

Thanks to the patronage of Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams), Amalia invites various members of “Touched”, talented young people, if they wish, to seek refuge in their Victorian orphanage, while teaching them how to perfect their powers …

Well yes, Nevers is exactly what you get when X-Men i Miss Peregrine Home for Special Children are interconnected in the show he hosted [insert any Joss Whedon protagonist here].

And that’s the real problem with Nevers. The show itself is quite enjoyable and the (extremely large) cast is extremely likable, but this is primarily a Joss Whedon show with all the good and bad that this entails.

“Selected” women, an unusual helper, a mentally unstable villain … insert a little steampunk DNA from Firefly and the formula with which Joss was first perfected Buffy is back again, except this time, his “unique” brand “feminism” is starting to show its years.

Donnelly is extremely watchable, whether throwing tables or bonding with her actress Ann Skelly, who is equally charismatic in the role of Amalia’s best friend, Penance Adair. But once the show marks women in color, reducing them to smaller roles with minimal dialogue.

The way this show deals with queerness is also questionable. James Norton’s portrayal of a pansexual aristocrat is likely to be a favorite among fans, but apart from a few lavish gestures and some random eye pencil, Hugo Swan feels at best in an unusual feeling. As if writers would think that presenting him in bed with a man and a woman would be enough to acknowledge this part of his identity before sweeping him under the rug.

laura donnelly as amalia true, nevers

HBO

Of course, that could change in the future … although, in the four episodes we’ve seen so far, Nevers it still feels somewhat outdated in its approach to diversity throughout. Sure, the show is set in the Victorian era, but that’s no excuse.

And then you need to consider a few planning issues. Each episode stretches longer than necessary, but thanks to a lack of focus, the various members of the cast still feel unsatisfied. While this is likely to improve in future episodes, it is still frustrating to see the potential of so many great characters squandered early on.

All of this sounds pretty rough, so it’s worth noting here that Nevers it also has some positive results, especially in terms of imagination and scale. As mentioned earlier, the cast is also a pleasure to watch, so your enjoyment of these first few episodes will largely depend on how you feel about some of the more performed moments on the show, and of course, the participation of Joss Wedon.

Nevers is a team effort, and Joss left the show back in November last year, but given how much of his writing style is embedded in DNA scripts, it’s impossible to ignore his involvement, at least in these early stages.

As much as some viewers may want to separate art from the artist, it is difficult to do so when the alleged behavior of the creator himself is directly at odds with the central message of the show. Charges of “violence and unprofessional conduct” on Justice League the set continues to flow now, and recently these allegations have inspired reports of similarly toxic behavior by the cast Buffy. However, Joss has not yet commented on the allegations.

How should we defeat women like Amalia and Penance in the fight against toxic masculinity knowing they were written by someone like Whedon? If the allegations are true, then he is exactly the kind of person they themselves would hate.

laura donnelly as amalia true, ann skelly as penance adair, nevers

HBO

Having said that, if you can still go through the first two episodes with that in mind, know that David Semel is taking over the director’s chair for episodes three and four. But more importantly, showrunner Philippa Goslett completely replaced Whedon after his departure, meaning later episodes would drift further and further away from his template in favor of a more authentic female look.

You don’t need Amalia’s gift of foresight to see how transformative this could be, going beyond Wedon’s tired formula to create something bolder and more current, something less derived from many similar stories that came before.

Nevers premieres Sunday, April 11 on HBO in the United States, and will be available for streaming on HBO Now and HBO Max. Viewers from the UK can watch the show on Sky Atlantic and NOW from 17 May.


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