HBO’s “The Nevers” is the steampunk, Victorian-era X-Men I didn’t know I was waiting for, and the series is set to premiere on HBO’s streaming platforms on Sunday.
After an unusual weather system passes over England, a growing number of individuals – mostly women – begin waking up with inexplicable and other-worldly abilities.
Three years later, Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), both among the “touched,” are running a refuge for their kind funded by the wealthy benefactress Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams).
Amalia experiences “ripples” of the future, and Penance’s ability to see potential energy allows her an uncommon ability to manipulate machinery and electricity.
But not every “turn” has proved quite so useful or benign, and the public is on edge. The government’s position on “the touched” is predictably wary.
Some authority figures actually seem to care about the women and are worried about them being attacked and accused of witchcraft. Others see them as a threat to public safety. And, to be fair, some of them genuinely are.
While Amalia and Penance are busy trying to convince the public that these girls are more or less harmless, an escaped psychiatric patient called “Maladie” (Amy Manson), also believed to be among the touched, is terrorizing London with a series of murders rivaling Jack the Ripper.
But beyond the physical dangers of some of these changes, those in positions of authority are even more concerned that, given these new and somewhat unpredictable abilities, these “afflicted” women and immigrants and other “deviants” will disrupt the balance of power.
Lord Massen, a former military man and particularly powerful businessman, sums up the rather delicate situation: “I see the greatest machine, the heart of our empire, brought to a shuddering halt by the caprice and ambition of those for whom ambition was never meant.”
But where did these unusual powers originate? Do the touched have a purpose?
Within the first five minutes, I have questions, I’m intrigued, and I genuinely like the characters, particularly the leading ladies: Amalia, the quick-witted, no-nonsense, martial-arts expert, and Penance, the kind-hearted, brilliant inventor.
“Mrs. True,” Penance says greeting her friend. “Miss Adair,” Amalia responds. “You look very fine.” “I think so, too.”
The show is whimsical and fantastic, but, more than anything, it’s a story about change, leaving traditions behind, embracing innovations and uplifting the disenfranchised.
Add to that a pair of heroines unashamed of their femininity, a dashing young nobleman using an absurdly elaborate sex club to extort politicians and a masked troupe of baddies, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun watch.
“The Nevers” premieres Sunday on HBO Max.
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