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The Nevers showcases all of Joss Whedon’s obsessions

Synch

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Amy Manson? Now you've peaked my interest. I'm a big fan of hers.
Yep. Ann Skelly maybe is the most... Adorable (more Kaylee than Willow or Fred, and more Jemma too) but Amy Mason nailed it pure acting-wise.

On the other hand: first time I see nudity in a Whedon show. It feels weird to me but... Yeah, it's HBO too so....
 

Synch

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‘The Nevers’ S1E1 ‘Touched’ review: A familiar feel with standout characters

It has the makings of a series fans of The Magicians may love, but the spunk of previous shows Joss Whedon created like Firefly. In fact, it’s very much of the same vein as Firefly right down to the kick-ass women and often used jokes when danger is most present. For all of these reasons, The Nevers feels entirely new, but also very familiar, which for many will resonate since it’s not a huge leap to dive in and enjoy it.

Familiar themes of prejudice and even sexism towards the women are depicted before the episode dives into a lively fight scene that leads to a chase sequence. It’s here where the identity of the show becomes clear as it mixes in action, adventure, superpowers, and plenty of mystery as we the viewer navigate a world that’s unclear to nearly everyone. That includes True and she can see the future! It’s not quite the usual puzzle-box show, it’s not clear what the motivations are of nearly all of these characters, but it’s definitely a show you’ll want to discuss with friends every Monday morning.

That said, the acting is superb and each character feels wholly unique and positioned to be as exciting as the next. Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly steal the show in this opening episode and they are very easy to root for thanks to their powers, abilities, and great acting from both.

The fact is, there isn’t another fantasy series like The Nevers currently being released that is made for adults. Especially one that isn’t a direct adaptation of a comics series and for that reason I suspect most comic book fans will enjoy this and very much will enjoy its general vibe. With The Nevers, come for the superpowers and premise, but stay for the great characters and acting.
 
TriBel
TriBel
Sounds promising.

Spanky

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from THR

The first four episodes sent to critics are the exact sort of rough, unfocused opening that fans of Buffy and Dollhouse know to expect. Those shows benefited from goodwill toward Whedon, allowing audiences to concentrate on quippy dialogue, clever themes or the occasional bit of visual flair instead of the clumsy storytelling or misguided subplots. Based on the taxing duration of several of these new episodes, he hasn't lost his creative carte blanche. What's gone is that unlimited reservoir of viewer goodwill, which The Nevers probably could use.

The touched are mostly women, mostly women of a lower station, frequently women of color; the subtext, illustrated mostly in the pilot and then pushed further and further into the background because there's too much blooming text, is that this constitutes another threat to a power structure of wealthy white men already sensing their grip on the world slipping. As one of these fading titans notes, it's an "age of power," in which electricity and X-rays are analogous to any disempowered group — women, immigrants, people with off-menu sexual interests — gaining agency.

Even at this relatively early point, though, The Nevers is a show in desperate need of focus, and as episodes progress, more and more characters are added and the connection to the richest thematic throughline becomes increasingly tenuous. In familiar Whedon fashion, deaths are leveraged for hollow emotion and every time there's an opportunity to find new layers in the characters we know, the show gets distracted by something shiny, new and usually less interesting.

A generous take on The Nevers is that it's a fin de siècle X-Men, or maybe a Victorian Watchmen. A less generous take is that it's a more expensive version of Fox's The Gifted, one made without any clear understanding of hour-long cable narrative rhythm, structure or momentum. After four episodes, there's little indication of where this six-episode half-season is heading other than, "Somebody wants to wipe out all of the touched and... that's about it."
 
TriBel
TriBel
Okay...sounds less promising.

Spanky

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from ebert

Joss Whedon doesn’t totally plagiarize himself with the new HBO series “The Nevers,” but he comes pretty close.

Women (mostly young, pretty) alternately tortured and empowered by supernatural abilities (given mysteriously, resented by men) come together to save the world (even though it’s a patriarchal cesspool). “The Nevers” is steampunk “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” with the Turned here as the Slayers and the Scooby Gang, and you don’t get closer to late-seasons Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, with her self-hating sexual choices and desire to abandon all responsibility, than the brawl-happy, pint-chugging Mrs. Amalia True (Laura Donnelly).

The fact that “The Nevers” immediately introduces so many players and so many subplots is what makes it practically impossible to have a clear sense of where the series is going from its first four episodes (the pilot, “Exposure,” “Ignition,” and “Undertaking”). The cast is too sprawling; there are too many overlapping interests between the Turned, the humans who fear and fetishize them, and the various arms of the British government that want to control them; and there are too many villains. At one point Mrs. True complains, “Cops, the Church, the Purists, and our masked freaks. There’s no shortage of people who hate us,” which made me do a double take. There are anti-Turned religious people in the mix, too? That’s too many baddies to overwhelm viewers with at once! It’s too many faces and motivations to keep track of when the character themselves are barely introduced past being various “Buffy” types, and when so many details about the Turned themselves feel overly malleable.

Are the women basically like the X-Men? Sort of. Some of their powers are more straightforward, like 10-foot-tall teenager Primrose (Anna Devlin); remember when Buffy’s sister Dawn became a giant in the comic book series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight? Others are more confusing, like Mrs. True, who seems to have super-strength and super-speed (ahem, BUFFY) and can definitely glimpse into the future, but she has ambiguities, too; villain Maladie (Amy Manson) accuses Mrs. True of being able to shed her skin. Still others are purely useful, like Mrs. True’s primary companion, genius inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who can see the currents of electricity (and serves as the Willow Rosenberg stand-in, down to her red hair), and prostitute Désireé (Ella Smith), who can make people tell the truth. There’s a nebulousness to all this that serves the story, but that also means these women, based on our brief interactions with them, aren’t developed as more than their abilities. Need a woman who can throw fire? We got that! Need a woman who can sing entrancingly? We got that! Need a guy who can fire a machine gun arm? We got that too! But their likes, dislikes, passions, interests? Couldn’t tell you.

In the first four episodes alone, we get: a forbidden romance for Mrs. True, a connection between her and Maladie, a disagreement between her and Penance about how the Turned should treat humans (clearly another “X-Men”-like story point that will come up throughout the season), and a strange communication intended only for Mrs. True that is transmitted through an unaware Turned woman who comes to Mrs. True for protection. There’s shadiness around Mundi and blackmail attempts; the seemingly insane Maladie spilling details of her plan that don’t make any sense, but that somehow result in numerous deaths; and Maladie’s associates turning on her and on each other. There are operas and parties and secret meetings, chess matches and orgies and duels, bar brawls and experimental procedures and double crosses. “The Nevers” doesn’t want for narrative, but it feels like Whedon throwing all the “Buffy”-lite ideas he had together—women mistaking pain for pleasure, female friendships built on quippy asides and oppositional personalities, condescending men looking down on women in every way they can—and hoping some of it would gel. “If you can look a man in the eye, you can stab him in it,” one of Mrs. True’s comrades says. “The Nevers” should have devoted itself to that misandrist idea rather than this hybrid of “X-Men,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which four hours in feels like a copy of a copy of a copy.
 

Spanky

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From Paste

Joss Whedon's Overstuffed HBO Series Is Much Ado About Nothing.

If the series existed in a vacuum, the very Whedonesque hallmarks present in the show’s concept certainly speak to his geek base: a newly supernaturally empowered, female-centric ensemble (dubbed “the Touched”) live together in an orphanage in Victorian-era London, and try to navigate their imposed “otherness” at the hands of the white patriarchy and everyone else just fearful of their abilities.

But if you can tolerate the tone deafness of Whedon wading into those themes at all, then the obvious question becomes how he comports himself in exploring all of that, in a medium where his skills have arguably been displayed to their best effect? Unfortunately, the answer for The Nevers is not well.

While The Nevers is a beautiful series (production-designed, costumed, and produced to the nth degree by many of the talents behind the cinematic spectacle of HBO’s Game of Thrones), the narrative is often dense beyond comprehension. Despite sexy intentions, the series is sometimes laughably prurient. Moreover, it’s riddled with Whedon’s signature dialogue that’s entirely too self-aware with how smart it’s trying to be.

Maybe existing outside of the everyday grind of episodic storytelling for the last decade has made Whedon incredibly rusty, or perhaps it’s just the sheer volume of ideas, themes, characters, and plots he’s crammed into The Nevers that renders it inert. Despite a talented cast, led by the exceptional Laura Donnelly (Outlander) as the Touched protector, Mrs. Amalia True, it’s frankly far too large—there are 19 principal cast members are all vying for screen time. Each has a complicated and purposefully enigmatic history that Whedon dribbles out to the audience in haphazard and confusing ways. At the same time, he’s also using many of them to contextualize this high-concept world through huge lumps of exposition-filled dialogue, all told across a plethora of regional English, or Irish, accents. It’s exhausting to the eye and ear from the get-go, and what is sacrificed in the din is the audience forming genuine connections with any of characters, which is usually Whedon’s forte.

The Nevers problems aren’t limited just to its first episode, either. In the four provided to critics, the pile-on of new characters (they just keep coming), over-abundance of side plots, and concurrent character machinations are relentless. There’s no clear through line for what the show is about even at the end of four hours, what with murders, arch mental patients running amok, messy romances, secret societies, sex clubs, and more all vying for narrative supremacy.

Whedon manages to fail some of his cast hard by directing them to overact in performances that are endlessly untethered, especially Amy Manson’s Touched villainess, Maladie. To say she’s larger-than-life is the understatement of the year, as she struts, spits, or thrusts through every scene like a female Joker on opium. It’s tedious and unfortunate. But she has plenty of other company from others like James Norton’s excessively posh and almost offensively swishy Hugo Swann, or Tim Riley’s sputtering Augie Bidlow, a character who comes across like an unending Hugh Grant impression. I don’t blame the actors, I blame the writers and directors for doing this to them.

At this point, the best thing going for The Nevers is that Whedon left the series in November of 2020, which means his creative rudder will be absent from the show after Episode 6. Episodes 7 through 12 (shooting now and airing later in 2021) will be guided by new executive producer Philippa Goslett, who inherits a show that needs major course corrections.
 

Taake

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and you don’t get closer to late-seasons Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, with her self-hating sexual choices and desire to abandon all responsibility, than the brawl-happy, pint-chugging Mrs. Amalia True (Laura Donnelly).
I mean, speaking of representation and what not, there are women like this and why shouldn't their journeys get to be seen on screen ^^
Is the only valuable fictional woman one who dutifully takes on responsibility and affirms every sexual choice she makes... ?

*cranky* All this hatred of Buffy's s6 journey is actually reminding me of why I liked that season first time I watched it. Flaws are ok, and women who make questionable choices and are not always their own biggest friend or fan, are interesting.

Are they trying to make me want to watch this against my will? I had no interest, but now I'm starting to feel that I must check it out to see if it is as awful as all that.
 

Spanky

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I mean, speaking of representation and what not, there are women like this and why shouldn't their journeys get to be seen on screen ^^
They aren't saying it shouldn't, they were just saying how his past characters were being reused and repurposed for this show. It ties into the whole "plagiarize himself" thing they said.

Are they trying to make me want to watch this against my will? I had no interest, but now I'm starting to feel that I must check it out to see if it is as awful as all that.
You should watch it, and report back to me.
 

Taake

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They aren't saying it shouldn't, they were just saying how his past characters were being reused and repurposed for this show. It ties into the whole "plagiarize himself" thing they said.
Disagree as the whole tone of the opening paragraph is scornful and paints the characterization as a bad thing, not just a bad thing for being reused. And we've already seen critical articles regarding Buffy in season 6 come out, so I feel like people are jumping on that to fuel the Joss-tirades.
 
Spanky
Spanky
I read it differently. What with the 10ft teenager, et al.

thetopher

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Are they trying to make me want to watch this against my will? I had no interest, but now I'm starting to feel that I must check it out to see if it is as awful as all that.
I think its worse, I'm getting a distinct 'Whedon's new show is s**t! Actually, all his shows are s**t! They always have been! Here, I will toss surface level references to them into this review as I eviscerate this hack and all his hack writing!!'

Yeah, impartial reviewing of a new show is apparently super-hard.
 

Spanky

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No one has mentioned it yet, and I don't know for sure, but based upon what and how I read the character to be, the villain reminded me alot of Tudyk's Alpha from Dollhouse. I wonder if she's growing medicinal carrots too.
If anyone's got a chance of making a good Buffy ripoff it's probably Joss.
That's the part that irks me. Because I wanted to watch this show. I didn't want to watch a Victorian-era Buffy ripoff which is what it sounds like. I am sure it's my fault, because when I heard HBO I just thought it would be a cut above the "regular" broadcast stuff. If it were Fox or WB the whole thing wouldn't have riled me up as much.

I just wasn't expecting a Whedon Highlight Reel with elements from Straczynski story used.
 
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Cheese Slices

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They aren't saying it shouldn't, they were just saying how his past characters were being reused and repurposed for this show. It ties into the whole "plagiarize himself" thing they said.
Isn't that what 99% of authors do though ? All my favorite directors/writers have their tropes and wells that they go back to ; what makes a new work good or not is not whether he uses the same themes, but rather how he uses them.
 

Spanky

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Isn't that what 99% of authors do though ? All my favorite directors/writers have their tropes and wells that they go back to ; what makes a new work good or not is not whether he uses the same themes, but rather how he uses them.
I don't think that's what good showrunners do. Tropes are one thing, but basically reusing their same characters from one of your other properties is different. Unless they are meant to be tied together. Compare Mr. Robot to Homecoming or Lost to Leftovers or Grey's to Scandal. The leads are new and different, not, more or less, a copy of a their previous successful counterparts. Granted, I don't know that is what happened, but the more reviews I read, the more it sounds like it has all been recycled.
 
Cheese Slices
Cheese Slices
I can see how it is different for tv shows. Good point.

Synch

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I think its worse, I'm getting a distinct 'Whedon's new show is s**t! Actually, all his shows are s**t! They always have been! Here, I will toss surface level references to them into this review as I eviscerate this hack and all his hack writing!!'

Yeah, impartial reviewing of a new show is apparently super-hard.
Yep.

I've seen the first 4 episodes and the show is good. VERY good.
 
thetopher
thetopher
I'm gonna check it out. Give it a fair viewing. :)

TriBel

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The Guardian has reviewed the first 4 episodes of the Nevers
Yeah...read that yesterday. It's a bit odd. The review isn't great (though I've seen worse) but it gives it three stars out of five - not a bad rating for The G. I think the subheading's telling. The compelling leads of HBO’s drama about women afflicted with special gifts can’t charm past an overstuffed plot and the shadow of its creator

It's knocked a point off for the plot; a point off for Whedon himself, and so, in theory, given full marks to the female actors. Good old Guardian...never lets you down! 😄
 

DeadlyDuo

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I think its worse, I'm getting a distinct 'Whedon's new show is s**t! Actually, all his shows are s**t! They always have been! Here, I will toss surface level references to them into this review as I eviscerate this hack and all his hack writing!!'

Yeah, impartial reviewing of a new show is apparently super-hard.
I was getting that impression too. It's interesting that the Ebert review mentions misandry when normally everything is all "yay feminism!" even when is does lurch into misandry. Could it be a jab at Whedon's self-proclaimed "feminism" and show that the constant attacks on men in the name of "feminism" are actually getting pretty tiring?
 
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