Monday, April 12, 2021

Did You Watch 'The Nevers'?

I have a lot to say about what could've been (and likely would've been) Joss Whedon's giant comeback to TV with a fancy-ass HBO show complete with fancy-ass budget. The Nevers premiered tonight amiss a flurry of drama regarding El Hefe, but honestly I don't even want to think or talk about any of that. By now, you know what's happened with Joss. At this moment, I'd like to keep a very open mind and think of this show airing in the alternate universe: What Michelle and I call "The Light Timeline™". You know, the one where Al Gore became president back in 2000 and the Pandemic never happened. No 9/11 either. QAnon and KellyAnne Conway are unheard of over there. And yes, Joss also hasn't been cancelled in The Light Timeline™. But as you know, dear reader, you join me here in the putrid Dark Timeline™ I'm not sure if you'll be able to bend your mind enough to just watch this show purely for what it is and keep Joss Whedon's downfall out of it. I can't say I really blame you, but I have made a vow to myself to try to do just that.

Annnyway, The Nevers. I loved it. And yes, the reason I loved it were all of those Joss Whedon touches I've grown to love over the decades (but now have a hard time separating from the inner mind of the man himself.) What I recognized was the whole "We are not the sum of our parts" ethos that has driven every single Whedon event. The character building. The female bad-assery. Loved it all. I also am a big-time sucker for the Victorian fashion and sets. This era seems like such an obvious theme for Joss to explore next. Le Sigh, what could've been. 

Let's quickly break it all down. [Spoilers from here on! You have been warned.]

The Pilot starts in London, August 1896 with a 5150 psychiatric commitment, a suicide attempt and then quickly scootches to 3 years later where we find our main characters in a chase scene very similar to a scene in Serenity. You know the one: A very long tracking shot shows Mal prepping to bring River on a bank robbery, Despite Simon's objections. When they arrive, River warns them that the Reavers are coming so they haul ass on the hovercraft vehicle known as "The Mule". This whole scene was very that, and I was SO here for it.

(Well, if you're going to pay homage to your own work, why not use the above masterpiece as inspiration.)

Said chase scene in The Nevers also features a clearer introduction of some important characters. First we have protagonist Amalia True - a very Buffy/Cordy combo in that she's a superstrong superfighter with a superpower of Prophetic Short-term Visions sprinkled on top. Amalia was the near-suicide shown at the top of the hour and is also a widow. Apparently, she likes the drink, as well.

Amalia is paired up with innocent, redhead Penance Adair who is definitely our Willow/Fred/Kaley, in this case, all sciencey and witchy. She can see electricity currents, which helps shape her inventions. Also shown is teenager Myrtle who is our River Tam, at least in this scene. She can only speak foreign tongues, particularly Chinese, although she can understand English. 

Long story short, these women belong to a community known as “the touched,” basically people with superpowers. You know the drill. Amalia and Penance ask young Myrtle to come live at the orphanage that they run, but chaos and chase ensue. Later in the episode there are fireballs, human experiments, the expected misogyny, an Opera, Bellatrix LeStrange even pops over for a cameo! There's also the silly plot-line of a pampered, spoiled Duke trying to open a sex club (???) I don't want to spoil too much more except for pointing out heiress Lavinia Bidlow. She's this universe's version of Dollhouse's Adelle Dewitt, and not only because she's played by the same actress, Olivia Williams. Plot-wise the Pilot was a little fast paced and confusing, but left me wanting more.

The Joss Whedon energy was definitely big here, and even harder to miss in the end-credits. He’s credited as Director, Writer, Producer, and Creator. Four big smacks, right in a row. And I'm really sad. Sad that his fall-from-grace is not going to allow the viewer to see his vision unfold on HBO, perhaps over many seasons. But also sad that he has put us in this position. That's all I've got.

I think I'll go watch the episode again. And then watch Serenity.