The Nevers kicked off its first episode last week with a great ensemble cast and an eclectic mix of themes for its premise. Its second episode begins to open up the intricacies of character motivations, goals, and how they conflict. It’s an episode you’ll need a bit of patience for as it doesn’t revel in the exciting and punchy nature of episode 1.
Titled “Exposure,” the second episode opens with a woman who can make things float. She’s at a department store and accidentally makes a hat float, which causes a stir amongst the people. The “touched” have amazing abilities and tons of potential, but they’re also looked down upon as freaks. The episode opening serves as a reminder that the orphanage Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) run is a refuge. The action is clever in how it uses a random woman’s powers, but it’s also lacking in stakes since we have no ties to these new characters.
This leads to the orphanage though, which further develops the various characters and connections. The orphanage is raided by Detective Frankie (Ben Chaplin) who is smart and likely a good guy, but his allegiance isn’t to the touched by any means. Like most of the characters in this series, Frankie is after something for himself which leads the narrative to Mary Brighton (Eleanor Tomlinson). Lavinia Bidlow (Dollhouse alum Olivia Williams) may have the best line in the episode in this scene when she says, “It’s society. Doing nothing is how we panic.” This episode goes a long way in defining who Frankie, Lavinia, and True really are.
Since it focuses on exposition so heavily it doesn’t have the punch of the first episode. It’s certainly interesting to learn about Hugo’s (James Norton) family and connection to Lord Massen (Pip Torrens) — and that’s just one of many scenes with characters chatting each other up — but this episode doesn’t break into the kind of exciting action we saw in episode 1. There are a lot of scene changes with different groups, which on some level can be tiring since no single scene can progress the plot enough especially since this episode is mostly focused on characters talking.
Sprinkling in new characters and their powers is an element that continues to work. If there’s a problem, expect a touched character to pop up and supply a clever solution thanks to their power. You get that from Désireé Blodgett (Ella Smith) who plays a prostitute who can make people talk. On some level, it does work to resolve problems rather quickly and maybe even cheaply, but within the narrative it makes sense.
There are important reveals though which will pique your interest. What Hugo is up to is a compelling subplot, and makes him all the more evil, and we find out True may have connections we couldn’t have guessed at. The cliffhanger with Denis O’Hare’s maniacal Edmund Hague does a good job connecting back to the main mystery too. There’s a resolution to True’s endeavors at the end that feels a bit forced–maybe they ran out of time to develop it — but it certainly gets the job done.
As second episodes go, this series has a lot of potentials since it has so many great characters and actors who play them to work with. This episode has some action, but it’s surprisingly dull compared to the first episode. It takes a bit of patience to get through it, but it’s still a compelling enough show to keep watching.
The Nevers airs new episodes Sunday nights on HBO.
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