The Nevers has been a series about characters thrown into the deep end of superpowers and unexplained intentions. It has barrelled towards finding us answers and in this week’s season one part one finale we get some. Oh, do we. In an episode that runs just over an hour, don’t be surprised if you’re unsure about what you’re watching since this episode drops you into completely unknown territory with completely unfamiliar characters!
You can catch up on The Nevers by reading our interview with the cast and season one reviews:
Titled “True,” one can surmise this is all about Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), and the episode summary all but confirms it: “After Amalia’s origin story is revealed, a long-awaited reunion crystallizes the Orphans’ mission.” Written by Jane Espenson and directed by Zetna Fuentes, from the looks of the first 25 minutes of the episode these creators have made a show that’s more Terminator than The Nevers. Fear not, though, as the first half of the episode is a means to show just how far True has come to finding the truth and saving the world.
Dropping viewers into a brand new world without a hint at what is going on isn’t new to sci-fi or fantasy storytelling, which aids in avoiding frustration while you watch this first half. If anything, it feels like a puzzle worth solving. Espenson drops enough hints via language used or visuals to give the viewer a sense that something is going on here.
Pairing that with what True has said in previous episodes about where she’s from or who she’s with and you begin to piece together who is who and what may be going on. It’s a fun element to the episode and there are some bigger tropes at work that add to that with some vibes of Alien and the dark future of Terminator lingering around the characters. This all works thanks to the main protagonist that goes by Stripe (Claudia Black).
Black does a great job capturing an older woman’s perspective on a war she so desperately wants to win. There are years of knowledge, scars, and understanding going on and you can see it on her face and how she acts. The character is introduced as a badass who can take out more of the enemy than most think is possible.
The subtly of who she really is begins to become clear with subtle nods. Eventually — spoiler alert — it becomes clear she is the Victorian superhero protagonist Amalia True. It may not become clear to some, but once her soul leaves her body and is sent back in time it’s fairly obvious. These scenes help inform us of True’s longstanding history as a soldier and a fighter.
Cut to a more familiar Victorian England. We enter this part of the story to discover a more tame Amalia True living a very hard and unfair life. It’s crushing to watch True be pushed around, settle for men who are less her equal and generally be tortured by everyday life. Without a doubt, Donnelly should be nominated for an Emmy for her work in this episode. She plays a much different character here and it’s incredibly sad.
Eventually, though, the story catches up to where she first gains her powers after attempting to take her own life. Once again, Donnelly transforms into a different character, and this time she’s mimicking the voice and acting mannerisms of Claudia Black from the first half. Over the next 15 to 20 minutes we witness Donnelly shift from Stripe’s character to the version of Amalia True we know from the last five episodes. It’s an incredible transformation, from voice to body language, to comical bits of self-reflection.
That’s where this episode truly shines. There are hints at where things may go from here after True confronts the alien in the ceiling, but it remains relatively vague as to what she must do next. The big reveal of this episode didn’t come as a huge shock — one might guess True’s ability to see the future is connected to time travel after all — but it is bold storytelling nonetheless to drop viewers into a new world for so long without any hand-holding. It’s also exciting to see more of Edmund (Denis O’Hare) who has been limited so far this season. It’s exciting to see what O’Hare teased in our exclusive interview come to life in this episode as well.
The episode does have some clunky bits, like a Roomba-style smart bot in the opening half that could have used more comedic timing and special effects to pull off. It doesn’t really work as well as Star Wars droids that are cute and helpful. Other elements in the opening feel a bit lower budget, like reused sets and a lack of bigger world-building aside from a very cool opening shot over a destroyed future landscape.
The episode ends on a very vague note too, which leaves you wanting as far as where we go from here. Knowing full well True has revealed her whole self to Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) and will tell the rest of the group, seemingly with no worry at all, there’s a lack of tension to her secret. That said, the larger mystery of these aliens and how the future gets so bad is intriguing.
The Nevers season one part one finale is bold storytelling. “True” lives to its name delivering on the character’s backstory and supplying the show as a whole with a much-needed larger context. It’s what you expect from higher-tier production companies like HBO as it’s taking a risk, which is rare these days. Pair that with Laura Donnelly’s transformation into a character-focused show and you have a recipe for a much-talked-about show with a well-earned fanbase. The stakes are raised and I’ll be greatly anticipating where the show goes from here.
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