‘The Nevers’: Season 1, Part 1 Blu-Ray Review – Troubled Science Fiction Drama Shows Real Promise

There are many real world factors that can color the perception of a series as you weigh whether or not to even give it a chance. Whether it is societal influences, personal issues with the talent involved or something else entirely, no show lives completely in a vacuum. While not without its creative issues, the new science fiction drama The Nevers has been saddled with a lot of negative criticism that feels more like an attack on its creator rather than the, admittedly uneven, content itself. It was not that many years ago that networks were in a bidding war to get the newest project from Joss Whedon. Originally announced in 2018, HBO was the ultimate victor of this ambitious, feminist-leaning period piece. Of course, early backlash for his role in Justice League was just beginning and revelations of his toxic workplace harassment had not yet been exposed. Whedon has since departed from the series, but not before putting his fingerprints all over the first part of a twelve episode season set to resume next year under the leadership of Philippa Goslett. The series has potential for greatness, but will audiences ever give it a chance? 

The narrative takes place in Victorian London right at the turn of the 20th century as we follow a group of special (mostly) women known as “the touched” who have found themselves imbued with special abilities referred to as “turns.” The symbolism is poured on thick as we discover that these women, already treated horrendously during this time, are regarded as the lowest of the low. They find themselves in a figurative war against the rich white patriarchy who view their attempt at empowerment as a plague in need of eradicating. Our main emotional connections to the Touched are two close friends, Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who help with attending to the orphanage where they bring back many of the Touched who have been abandoned by their families and societies. There is a mystery set up in the debut episode concerning many of the Touched being kidnapped before they can be helped. There is also a serial killer named Maladie (Amy Manson) who is bringing negative attention to the Touched in a time when they are already despised. 

Thus far, the series is best when it is having fun with its premise and forming emotional ties with its characters. The main draw for a show such as this one is learning all of the special characteristics of our heroes such as Amalia’s temporal perception of Penance’s knack for inventing due to ability to see electrical energy. It functions somewhat as an X-Men period piece in this regard. Yet, there are remnants of some of Whedon’s worst tendencies around every corner. Always positioning himself as an ally to women, there are plenty of crude and easy jokes sprinkled throughout that only elicit groans. There are also stretches of plot that are maddeningly opaque or emotionally manipulative at a point where the series has not earned it. Some of the dialogue is quite clever, and when sequences do work it delivers a real rush that keeps you invested enough to keep moving along to the next episode. It does not hurt that the series is technically stunning in the way it brings London to life with wondrous production design and gorgeous costumes.

Is this a simple matter of style over substance? Not exactly. The series experiences some growing pains in the beginning as it tries to acclimate us to this world and rapidly establish stakes. The writing gets a bit sloppy with some apparent plot holes and a few performances that can verge on scenery chewing. Yet, the final episode of the first part of the season really upends what we know about this series in a thrilling way. It is a boost of adrenaline which adds a lot more depth to key characters and sets the show on a path that we are eager to see play out. There is also the promise of a new showrunner for the second part of this debut season who arrived in time to recognize what is working with Whedon’s approach while hopefully jettisoning the aspects that make certain moments difficult to get through on this outing. This early into a show’s run, there is reason to believe it can find its way to something spectacular. There is a whole cast and crew who have joined together to create this show, and they deserve an opportunity to see what can happen without a negative cloud hanging over their head. We will be around when they are ready to show the world what they have planned next. 

Video Quality

The Nevers: Season One, Part One arrives on Blu-Ray with a gorgeous AVC encoded 1080p transfer. One of the first things you will notice is that skin tones appear very natural across the entire cast. There are thankfully no egregious instances of aliasing or compression artifacts detectable here. The color palette runs on the cooler side, but there are dashes of warmer colors throughout the season. There are some magical instances of beautiful colors popping off the screen. Black levels are appropriately deep and give way to a nice amount of detail in shadows. The bright whites do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. The levels of detail this presentation is able to eek out is quite striking, as all of the subtle details in the production design are easily identifiable. The Blu-Ray is quite stunning as it brings a meticulously crafted series to life in a gorgeous manner.

Audio Quality

This Blu-Ray comes with an incredibly active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that creates a truly enveloping world. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clear without being stepped on by the powerful score or any sound effects. Action sequences and more kinetic moments are given the appropriate power in the mix with a forceful showing in the low end. Ambient sounds are also precisely placed in the rear channels. Special consideration should be paid to the series music from Mark Isham. His work perfectly sets the tone for the story, and it creates a nicely enveloping sound that draws you further into the show. The audio presentation here is fantastic on all levels.

Special Features

  • Introducing The Nevers: A three-minute piece in which the cast and crew give a broad overview of the world and the story. 
  • A New Age Of Power: A five-minute featurette which explores “The Touched” and their place in this world, the orphanage, the persecution against them and more. 
  • A Touch Of Power – The Themes Behind The Nevers: A 17-minute featurette which does a nice job of detailing some of the issues this show tackles and how it relates to our society. Some of the points are repeated from the first two featurettes, but there are some fruitful insights provided here. 
  • Character Portrait: A series of closer looks at the characters on the show and how they fit into the larger story. 
    • Amalia True (3:36)
    • Penance Adair (3:10)
    • Mary Brighton (2:59)
    • Bonfire Annie (3:10)
    • Detective Frank Mundi (3:46)
    • Augie Bidlow & Hugo Swann (3:46)
  • Creating The Nevers
    • A Night At The Opera: A seven-minute featurette which explores the pivotal events of the first episode. 
    • A Charitable Event: A seven-minute featurette which explores the Gala and how The Touched are seen trying to integrate into London social life. 
    • Walking On Water: An eight-minute exploration of the unique challenges of filming one of the most unique fights of the season. 
    • Confrontation And Translation: An eight-minute look at the confrontation between Amalia and Lord Massen. 
    • Shock & Awe: A seven-minute look at the build-up to a hanging scene late in the season. 
    • Telling Time: A ten-minute dive into the game-changing nature of the final episode of the first half. 
  • Accustomed To The Impossible – The Making Of The Nevers: A 12-minute look at the journey of producing this show including the themes, production design, casting and more. Once again, there is a lot of repeat information included within this with some new tidbits. 
  • Villains Of The Nevers: An eight-minute look at the known and unknown “opponents” The Touched face throughout the series. 
  • The Craft: A brief exploration of some of the behind-the-camera elements happening with the show. 
    • Editor, Lisa Lassek (2:25)
    • VFX Supervisor, Johnny Han (2:34)
    • Director, Zetna Fuentes (2:23)


Final Thoughts

The Nevers is a bit of a mixed bag during this first part of its debut season, but the show displays a lot of positive elements that could be capitalized on once it returns with a new showrunner. Still, there are many fun moments getting to know these characters during these opening episodes, and the way the mythology unfolds easily keeps your interest. The performers are very charismatic and do a lot to deliver characters worthy of our time. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray featuring a superb A/V presentation and a strong assortment of special features. Don’t let controversy keep you away from a promising show. Recommended 

The Nevers: Season One, Part One is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.