American producer and director Joss Whedon is well known for his many mystical and action-packed television shows. “Buffy the Vampire,” “Dollhouse” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” are just a few of his many contributions to the entertainment industry. Once again, a new Whedon creation has debuted, the new HBO sci-fi drama “The Nevers.”
The series takes place in Victorian London during 1896 when, after a supernatural phenomenon takes place within the country, certain people start to exhibit special abilities. These people are referred to as “Touched” and are ostracized for their mysterious powers. Thanks to Amalia True (Laura Donnelly, “Outlander”) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly, “Vikings”), each Touched person discovers that they aren’t alone.
The women run St. Romaulda’s Orphanage, a home for Touched people who have been rejected by their families and shunned by society. With her ability to see glimpses of the future and impressive combat skills, True is deemed the main protector of her kind and a force to be reckoned with. Adair, True’s more demure sidekick, can see energy and use it to create innovative machines. The duo balances each other out: While one physically fights the bad guys, the other works behind the scenes, creating what is an extremely effective and admirable partnership.
As the Touched are predominantly women, they are unsurprisingly blamed for the supernatural occurrence that gifted them magical powers. In fact, as the antagonist Lord Massen (Pip Torrens, “Poldark”) puts it, “They came at us through our women.”
As more of the characters are introduced, it becomes clear that the Touched are not always women. After meeting Doctor Horatio Cousens (Zackary Momoh, “Harriet”), a Black man with healing abilities, the audience discovers that men can be Touched, too. Much like Horatio, however, these men are members of marginalized groups in society. And so, throughout the episode, a pattern seems to unfold: Those rejected by society because of these special abilities had been regarded as outcasts to begin with.
Lord Massen’s character, on the other hand, is representative of the wealthy white Englishmen who fear that, with their abilities, the Touched will shift the power dynamic of society. With that in mind, the Touched are shunned for their differences rather than embraced for the special skills that they harness. Much like the characters in the “X-Men” films or “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” the Touched are seen as the enemy solely because no one else understands them or what they are capable of. Since nobody can figure out how to control them, they resort to fear-mongering and demonizing them. And so, society does what it does best: suppresses the outcasts.
We may not live in 19th century London, but the domination of white men is a timeless artifact that has yet to lose its prevalence. As revealed in “The Nevers,” anyone who threatens this patriarchal power is seen as a rival as well as a burden; deviating from societal norms is not only perceived as undesirable but also as a danger to the status quo. In the series, however, this rather old-school concept is challenged and hopefully, in upcoming episodes, will continue to be.
By giving special powers to the powerless, Massen and his elitist companions are finally going to get a run for their money. And so, with conflicting character types and the battle between old and new, the show uncovers a troubling power dynamic, one that still thrives today. Thus, “The Nevers” proves that, in reality, many things we consider to be pieces of the past continue to linger in the present.
Daily Arts Writer Molly Hirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.