The Nevers: True
May 16, 2021 7:41 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

After Amalia's origin story is revealed, a long-awaited reunion crystallizes the Orphans' mission. [IMDb]

"While it’s a borrowed twist from a past Whedon show — even the body swap of it all is basically like Echo being imprinted with someone else’s memories — it also works wonders for much of what has ailed The Nevers to this point. It explains why Amalia seems to know even more about the future than her precognitive powers have shown her, and also why she’s such a gifted fighter. More importantly, it gives the series much bigger stakes and a more clear vision for what the story will be moving forward...The Galanthi give Stripe a second chance to get their story right. Now The Nevers has the same. Let’s hope both take full advantage of that chance."—Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone [Note: the above review has quite a few spoilers for the series Dollhouse]

Written by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie, directed by Zetna Fuentes
posted by bcwinters (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was not at all what I expected from the preview, but I'm not complaining. I think this was the strongest and most coherent episode.

It was a mistake to structure the half-season like this, leaving all of this information until the end. Possibly some of the narrative gaps resulted from the writers being unwilling to show conversations between characters which would have revealed or hinted at some of this information early, and unwilling to replace them with... anything at all. So... a lot of really choppy storytelling followed by "here's all the bits we crudely cut out before!" It's not great. And some of the gaps aren't really explained by any of this.

I was surprised that the running time of this episode was about the same as that of the previous ones. It felt a lot longer, in a good way.

I liked the realism of the future segment, which unfortunately highlights the slightly cartoonish superpowers of the Victorian timeline (which I like less).

It was great to see Claudia Black.
posted by confluency at 1:42 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I really enjoyed this episode. Amalia was already my favorite character and I've always had a soft spot for the hell-future episodes of Dollhouse, so YMMV. This was the first episode to fully hold my interest all the way through. And there were a couple of nice revelations this way (Here's Why Amalia Knows How to Kick Ass, Amalia Might Be Weird About Knitters, Amalia Feels Guilty about Maladie -- though really she didn't throw Maladie under the bus so much as take herself out of the crash path). It wasn't enough to make up for the tedious hinting at her mysterious backstory all season, but it did make for a fun episode.

The suggestion that one or more others also traveled back in time makes me wonder if we're getting an explanation for steam punk Victorian age (not that I needed it). If you're traveling from a future where humans have made Earth basically unlivable for humanity, you could do worse than trying to nudge the Industrial Age on a different path.
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:12 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I think this was the strongest and most coherent episode.

Agreed. Obviously this episode took a lot from both Dollhouse and Firefly but since neither of those shows made it very far into their development, we're already heading into uncharted territory for the concepts that are being repackaged.

Claudia Black (a genre queen, please someone give her something great to do) brought a ton of gravitas to her role and Laura Donnelly did a great job navigating the character from Zephyr to "Amalia." I was reminded of Tatiana Maslany's ability to shift character in Orphan Black.

The beginning setup reminded me a lot of something that would have been in one of the David Tennant seasons of Doctor Who—a quick, trope-y, in medias res setup that leads to a more emotional core. Solid stuff that will hopefully lead to an improved back half of the season.

I still have some major issues with this Horatio/Amalia storyline. I can buy that maybe Zephyr didn't know he was married, or didn't know/didn't care about the social mores when she arrived in London, but yeesh man have some ethics.
posted by bcwinters at 6:19 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


though really she didn't throw Maladie under the bus so much as take herself out of the crash path

I took it as that Amalia gave her over to that doctor, who then proceeded to experiment on her, and was likely the inspiration for Maladie's murderous rage. But then again, she would have been a lot more damaged/disfigured if that was the case. But then again again her superpower is getting superpowerful/rageful when she gets hurt. Hmph. I'm confused again. Whole lotta hole-patching this episode.
posted by ishmael at 7:24 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Horatio's wife-as-invisible-plot-device was very justly criticised in previous threads. She is so invisible that I spent most of the early episodes assuming that in the time skip she had taken their child and left because (something something mumble tragic powers-related backstory). But no, apparently he's still married; she's just a non-character who exists only for him to feel guilty about.

From the invisible characters department, I wonder what happened to the butcher's mother after Amalia was committed. She seemed to exist only as a contributing factor to Amalia's despair and resentment, which is kind of shitty. She was an old lady who didn't actually do anything wrong except be old and sick.
posted by confluency at 8:47 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


"This series is completely batshit."—Amanda Whiting for Vulture
posted by bcwinters at 10:09 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


The way I saw it was that the mad/bad scientist came to investigate both of them because Maladie was talking about the Galanthi's arrival. Amalia sized up the doctor quickly enough to know that she didn't want to be in his power, and deflected his attention as well as she could. I guess that gives her some responsibility for Maladie's torment -- since Amalia didn't try to help her -- but realistically, Amalia couldn't have done much to help her then. Per the montage, Amalia didn't begin to really step up and manage the other women in the asylum until Maladie was gone. That said, the help she offered was solid enough that I'd have expected some of those women to be ride-or-die Amalia fans. It makes this season's halfhearted mutiny plotline even more absurd in hindsight. (I'm not saying everyone has to love and respect Amalia's character, but if I were one of the women she worked with in the asylum, I would die for her. It was weird that that was not represented at all.)

Did I...completely invent that pre-Zephyr Amalia might've poisoned her husband? I thought there was an odd tension after the doctor pointed out that the extremely sick old lady must have hidden reserves of strength since she survived an illness that killed her young-ish, healthy-ish son.

And yes, Horatio is such a tissue-thin character that discovering Amalia had a brief, intense emotional connection with a future medic explained a lot more about their romance than anything we've seen between them onscreen.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:33 AM on May 17


"This series is completely batshit."—Amanda Whiting for Vulture

Amanda Whiting thought that Molly (baker widow) had an Irish accent, but it came across to me more Liverpudlian or Northern, like Ned Stark or Jon Snow, to emphasize the class distinction between her and the rich customer that she was pining over. Also helped to distinguish her from Stripe/Amalia True.
posted by ishmael at 11:18 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Did I...completely invent that pre-Zephyr Amalia might've poisoned her husband?
I thought that the purpose of the doctor's line was to suggest that Amalia was going to spend the rest of her life looking after the old lady.

Her husband wasn't very nice to her, but I'm not sure if he was awful enough to drive Original Flavour Amalia to murder.
posted by confluency at 12:04 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


It explains why Amalia...(is) such a gifted fighter.

I actually didn't have a problem with that part. Apparently there was a culture of women learning jujitsu in Victorian England.
posted by ishmael at 2:47 PM on May 17


I liked the episode overall but I think I'm going to rewatch it as I was trying hard to pay attention to all the details during Chapter 1 that I was missing all the cool, neat bits. But also to watch Claudia Black again (hello teen pre-coming out as bi self's crush).

I don't know if this is meant to be an Easter Egg but Zephyr's initials are ZAN. It made me think of Farscape's Zhaan.

In the montage when Amalia falls off the platform, we hear a line about not being the only one to come along. Who do we think is the other soul who hitched a ride and who are they occupying? Knitter? The Major? Boot? Maybe they're occupying Swann's brother? Or Massen's daughter? If I hadn't watched the episode, I would have thought Maladie but her madness came from Hague's experiments. Any guesses?
posted by wasabifooting at 3:52 PM on May 17


Ah, so it was space aliens *and* time travel after all!

I'm confused if the Big Reveal was triggered by a plot-induced reveal, or if it was just a flashback to catch the audience up. I would consider re-watching the series "chronologically" to see if it makes more sense.

I was a little surprised to learn that Amalia had been a woman before, too. I guess I expected them to make that move.

I thought that every sentence spoken to Maladie had been quoted by her in the future. Either shoe-horning writing, or a brilliant nemesis. I still don't get her, and this episode made me more confused than before. And, because I don't enjoy seeing the "psycho" character played so straight in each episode, i would have rather they chose a different nemesis.

I love love loved the space elephant reveal.

Honestly if I do re-watch, I'll probably skip a ton. This show has a lot of time spent trying to set an expectation so it can heavily subvert / revert it.
posted by rebent at 4:44 PM on May 17


"This series is completely batshit."—Amanda Whiting for Vulture

Thank you for this link. I've seldom been interested enough to give this series 100% of my attention, but I tried to stay focused during this ep and ended up confused anyway. After reading the recap I got what their was to get apparently.

The Molly stuff was emotionally manipulative claptrap and I completely got pulled in to it. A little sad it seems there's nothing of Molly left but a few trace memories?
posted by mark k at 5:35 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Who do we think is the other soul who hitched a ride and who are they occupying?

My guess was Dr. Hague. He comes off as modern compared to the other characters. I feel like the way he mocked Amalia's accent was a tell.
posted by ishmael at 6:26 PM on May 17


The show would have been better if they led with this episode and told the story straightforwardly. There was nothing gained by a big reveal that comes out of more or less nowhere other than to make the storytelling of the previous episodes clunky and awkward.
posted by kokaku at 8:18 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


@kokaku, that would be a fascinating experiment! :) I need to find someone who hasn't seen the show yet, and start them with episode 6 (can't decide if I'd let them watch 1-5, though).

As has been mentioned many times previously, there are some great elements in this show (some entirely by accident), but the overall whole is a sloppy mess - one really wants to pick up some of the pieces and make something else with them, which I'm hoping is how the new showrunner is approaching the new season.

Also, that was Claudia Black? OMG, I need to watch 6 again. I was so focussed on trying to translate the future idioms that I missed half the action.
posted by Mogur at 7:30 AM on May 18


The show would have been better if they led with this episode and told the story straightforwardly.

I'm wondering how much of the clunkiness is due to them having to retool the show after the Whedon scandal and departure. I agree, it definitely feels cobbled together.
posted by ishmael at 8:39 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I went back and turned on the CC to watch this episode, because I couldn't tell who was speaking in the future opening with everyone's mouth covered. I don't even know what Striped gurged up, although I guess it wasn't crucial.

My guess was Dr. Hague. He comes off as modern compared to the other characters. I feel like the way he mocked Amalia's accent was a tell.

Totally agree on Dr. Hague. I'm guessing that he's the Freelife prisoner, given how comfortable he is with experimenting on the Touched and poking around to get to the Galanthi. I hope it's not just him who came back though. I wonder if Dr. Hague persuaded Lavinia to go and get Amalia out of the asylum and set her up in the orphanage.

I'm interested and reserved on the Galanthi because I just don't expect budgets to allow a CGI character to have much of a role going forward.

And I'm still curious about Massen going forward. He strikes me as totally of the time and place, so I don't think he's got a future passenger in there. I can't figure out how he and the Beggar King work when they get mixed into the Galanthi/PDC/Freelife stuff. I did finish this episode much happier with the direction of the show.
posted by gladly at 8:48 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I agree that this episode should have been earlier. Even if it was the second or third, it still may have worked.

This show has a lot of time spent trying to set an expectation so it can heavily subvert / revert it.

Totally agree. I feel like this show suffers from the writers wanting a big mystery and shocking reveal, so the story and the structure are fighting each other, and story is suffering. I don't really care about any of the characters and some of that is because their backstory has been hidden. Amalia complains a lot about having no mission and we are given hints that she's out of place somehow, but if we had known her origin from earlier on, it would have given weight to what she was going through and reason to why this was so hard for her.

I'm not saying every little bit needs to be explained from the beginning, but I think they really missed the mark with keeping this reveal until 6 episodes in.
posted by Sabby at 9:31 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Do people in the military use the term "pitsid"? The knitter asked Stripe what her pitsid level was. I assume that means PTSD but wondered if pitsid is a real-world word.

I don't even know what Striped gurged up, although I guess it wasn't crucial.
She swallowed coolant pods ("glazers") so that her presence wouldn't be detected by her body heat.

I wonder if Dr. Hague persuaded Lavinia to go and get Amalia out of the asylum and set her up in the orphanage.
Seems like a good guess. Hague and Bidlow are obviously working together in Victorian period. In the "previously on" we were reminded that Ms Bidlow said of the galanthi "It means to destroy us all," so those two could be the precursors of the Free Lifers. (Although where all the god stuff spouted by the Free Lifers comes from is anyone's guess... and Massen & co act more clearly like Free Life types--conservative, protectionist--and they are definitely not in league with Bidlow and Hague).

Bidlow herself might have hitched a ride, no? There was that whole conversation in the opera scene in which she showed irritation at Massen's resistance to new words entering the British lexicon. She was very into "specificity," which again would contrast with the PDA's tradition of not using names. (That may be a stretch. But that whole conversation about language went on for a while and seemed like an odd topic to me at the time, so I think it has some significance.)

Amalia's experience would suggest that the hitchers needed a dead or dying body to move into, though. And the only other person we know of who died (or appeared to) at the time was Massen's daughter, correct?

One thing that really confuses me is why Ms Bidlow seems to be okay with experimenting on (torturing) some of the Touched, while others of them she wants to protect. What criteria are used to decide which ones go to the orphanage, and which to Dr Hague?
posted by torticat at 12:36 PM on May 18


Wait--whoever hitched back along with Zephyr, one of them must have taken up residence in Myrtle, right? She's "empathically enhanced" (understands galanthi language, etc.), and we've been given no indication that the galanthi had started in on sporing prior to the Victorian stuff we've seen so far. In fact Amalia specifically asked Horatio if anyone like that had been spotted in Victorian Britain at the time (people who were wiser, kinder, etc.), and he said "no."
posted by torticat at 1:23 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


The episode rewards rewatching. The first segment is entirely comprehensible on a second go-round. (Also with subtitles, and a lot of pausing!)

I think that for all of Amalia's crying that she was "just a Stripe" etc, a Stripe is actually a pretty good rank. Zephyr tells Knitter that her pitsid is two high for her to make Crescent--which is the highest in the unit, right?

Amalia's abandoning Sarah might have been foreshadowed by her shooting at the "fat glass" containing the galanthi. She was aiming to kill the Free Life dude, and Second Boot was collateral damage. But with all those folks standing around, Zephyr had to know that risk when she shot at a curved surface. I don't believe she even really acknowledged that she'd killed more than the Major, did she?

Which makes it interesting that at the end of the episode, Amalia tells Penance that trying to save Maladie's life had been the right move. Maladie, too, had until that point pretty much been collateral damage to Amalia. Seems like growing through and out of her PTSD and cynicism is part of Zephyr/Amalia's character trajectory.

Unrelated note: I wonder if a comment from Horatio confirms that the people who hitched back in time entered the bodies of dying people. Amalia is complaining about her small, "doughy frame" and Horatio responds, "It's a good frame. And no one was using it." Not that Horatio would have any reason to know how that stuff would work, but it could be a tip from the writers.
posted by torticat at 9:25 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


We watched the finale again. Really, they should have taken the far future chapters and started the series with them. The in medias res drop for the science fiction was a jolt that was hard to adjust to. I do like things that mash disparate genres so this still works for me but it was still a lot of "what the fuck" going on. It was great to see genre great Claudia Black as "Stripe".

I am really curious as to where the new showrunners take this.
posted by Ber at 8:16 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


"Originally The Nevers was expected to be a ten-episode season, however, the pandemic got in the way. According to Donnelly, the decision was made to extend The Nevers’ first season to 12 episodes, but to split the series into two halves, six episodes each. “The plan had always been to pretty much reveal what had been going on in the way that six has,” says Donnelly about tonight’s finale."—from Anthony D'Alessandro's interview with Laura Donnelly for Deadline, covering the show through this episode.

The interview is interesting and fairly frank, in case anyone wants to check it out.
posted by bcwinters at 3:41 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I feel like this show suffers from the writers wanting a big mystery and shocking reveal, so the story and the structure are fighting each other, and story is suffering.

I felt this way about the Maladie/Effie reveal as well. So much build-up but irrelevant actually, to . I'm very much on the record as thinking this character is terrible in thought and execution and all I really want now would be someone exposition, "Well, Maladie thought the people at the opera were angels because blah, and her plans was blee-blah all along, but that's over now. Moving on!"

Setting up and knocking down Big! Reveals! probably gets you a lot of internet attention but I refer stories that concentrate on building characters.

I did actually enjoy this 6th episode because I am all in for Claudia Black at ALL times, and because we actually spent a lot of time learning about Molly/Mrs. True/Amalia/Zephyr. I would trade all the Maladie stuff for an episode of Sadness O'Religion Face's backstory.

I thought the dialog was snappier in this episode - thank you, Jane Espenson, and more Claudia Black please.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 4:37 PM on May 19


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