The Nevers Ending Story

Photo: HBO Max

Spoilers follow for the former HBO series The Nevers

When the sixth episode of The Nevers aired back in May 2021, the midway point of the series’ first season offered up a real turn (wink, wink) in the story of a group of superpowered individuals living in Victorian England. A tableau that already resembled a steampunk version of the X-Men, being stretched to accommodate a future war, an alien creature, and time travel? The Nevers was already doing too much, so, sure, why not do even more?

The first five episodes focused on close friends Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who ran and lived in St. Romaulda’s Orphanage, a sanctuary for the Touched, people (mostly women, mostly ethnic minorities) who developed unique abilities, or “turns,” after a mysterious object flying above London in August 1896 sprinkled some Lisa Frank–colored matter upon them. In the series’ 1899 present, the Touched are hunted on the streets by a deadly doctor and persecuted by the government and the upper classes, and only skilled warrior and future-seer Amalia and talented inventor Penance have the brawn and brains to protect their own. Sixth episode “True” ended on a cliffhanger concerning Amalia’s past and the identity of the creature responsible for the Touched — and then the second part of The Nevers languished for a year and a half.

Until December 2022, when HBO made an announcement about the series that was twofold: The Nevers was canceled and being removed from HBO Max, but the final six episodes would air (with ads) on Tubi through a newly established WB TV Watchlist channel. Over three afternoons in mid-February, the entire first season aired on WB TV Watchlist, and the channel will cycle through all 12 episodes again from March 1 through 3. For Nevers viewers accustomed to streaming or on-demand, watching these episodes in the middle of three concurrent weekdays, with no ability to record, isn’t the most flexible option, so if you can’t make that schedule work and have spent the last 21 months wondering what Amalia’s mission on Earth was all about, here’s what goes down in the back half of The Nevers.

Where we left off with Part One

“True” established that the soul inside Amalia belonged to a soldier named Zephyr Alexis Navine, who in a later dystopian Earth was responsible for defending the Galanthi, an alien creature that appeared on Earth and gifted it with technology to save the dying planet. But Zephyr and her Planetary Defense Coalition comrades are losing the war to the FreeLife Army, who oppose the Galanthi. As Zephyr takes her own life in a moment of despair, the Galanthi alien that is leaving Earth basically hijacks her soul to travel back in time. Baker Amalia True kills herself on August 3, 1896, when the Galanthi is flying over London, and the Galanthi brings Amalia back to life, deposits Zephyr’s soul within her body, and gives her the power to see snippets of the future.

“True” ended with Amalia deciding to tell the orphans her true mission, which is to protect the Galanthi that has landed on Earth and is lodged underground. Amalia knows that someone is hunting the Touched, but doesn’t realize that those responsible are the nefarious Dr. Hague, who has been conducting gruesome experiments on them, and the wealthy philanthropist Lavinia Bidlow, who supports the orphanage in public but actually loathes the Touched and wants to find a way to reverse the turns. They’re also the ones trying to unleash and kill the Galanthi, because they’re jerks.

The next six episodes — chronologically, “It’s a Good Day,” “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” “Fever,” “Alright, Okay, You Win,” “Ain’t We Got Fun,” and finale “I’ll Be Seeing You” — divide their focus between various subplots involving the Galanthi and the Touched’s many enemies before bringing everyone together in the end.

What we find out in Part Two

Let’s start with Dr. Hague: Amalia and Penance learn he’s responsible for the half-human, half-machine figures taking the Touched, and he’s been poking around in Touched’s brains at the behest of Lord Gilbert Massen, who has a Touched teen daughter he’s locked up in a basement. Dr. Hague believes he’s communicating with his dead mother through the phone — a literal ghost in the machine — but Penance figures out that this person is actually another time traveler from Zephyr’s present. Dr. Hague threatens Penance into helping him transfer what he believes to be his mother’s spirit into the host body of the Galanthi (which sort of looks like Disney’s Stitch crossed with a Cthulhu monster and put through a luminescent filter), but when Penance tries to kill him by electrocuting him with his mother’s hologram, she’s actually inadvertently successful in transferring the being into Dr. Hague. That’s science, I guess!

Dr. Hague later dies after being tortured by Maladie/Sarah, the Touched woman who became a deranged serial killer after he spent years poking around inside her brain (“God gave Maladie power because men gave Sarah pain,” she says). And Lavinia, who had been aligned with Dr. Hague, is killed by her Touched brother Augie for all her abuses of his kind. (Oh, and Augie and Penance kissed!)

While all the “mother” stuff is happening, Amalia ends up in a fantastical time loop engineered by the Galanthi. While unconscious, she converses with both Zephyr, who provided her soul, and the real True, who provided her body, and is told by the Galanthi that her suicide was essentially selfish. “What did you do with this life that you were given? … We never really know what we’re living for until we know what we’d die for,” the Galanthi tells her through the body of Mary, the Touched singer killed by Maladie in the first half of the season. That message inspires True to return to the orphanage and fight against the attacking, Touched-hating Purists.

Because the Galanthi is dying, the turns it created for the Touched are fading, and their reversion to being humans puts them at a profound disadvantage against the armed, enraged bigots. The war between the Touched and the Purists claimed many, including Lord Massen (killed by Inspector Frank Mundi, who was once engaged to Mary) and hedonistic, Oscar Wilde–quoting Lord Hugo Swann (killed by Massen). Swann admits his love to Frank before dying, and previously redeemed his narcissistic dandyism by both saving Massen’s locked-up daughter from her entrapment and helping vote down a law authored by Massen that would have banned the Touched from congregating. Good for him!

Amalia is fatally stabbed at the orphanage while defending her friends — a worthwhile sacrifice, according to the Galanthi — and then the Galanthi itself decides to die. As its soul leaves the facility where Dr. Hague had it trapped, it absorbs all the turns from the Touched in glowing streams of purple and blue and then explodes over London, raining down the same kind of light as it did three years ago. The turns were gone, but now they’re back (allowing for Touched doctor Horatio to heal Amalia), and the Galanthi’s decomposition means that there are more opportunities for people to be turned into the Touched. And as all those new particles of light fall down onto London, Amalia and Penance get into an argument about the future of the Touched and the Galanthi’s involvement (or meddling, depending on which of the women you ask) on Earth that ends the season on an unexpected down note.

What we’ll probably never find out

The back half of the season sprinkles in developments that were clearly meant to be expanded in a second season, but given how unlikely it seems that The Nevers will be renewed by another network or streamer — the Joss Whedon affiliation of it all, the recent cancellations of many a sci-fi show — a number of these subplots will remain unresolved. Of note is that most of these lingering story lines are related to Penance, which perhaps signaled her character taking a greater leading role in the second season after the first spent so much time unraveling the mystery of who Amalia was.

First up is the issue of Augie. As his relationship with Penance progresses, he resents the amount of time she was spending with other people, he avoids telling her about killing his sister Lavinia, and he willingly offers up a shoulder for her to cry on when things go bad in the war between the Touched and the Purists because she’s putting her trust in him, and not in Amalia. The character was beginning to resemble Xander Harris and the Trio from Buffy the Vampire Slayer — which is to say, insufferably self-involved — so maybe it’s better that we might not ever see whichever way he would have certainly broken Penance’s heart.

Alongside Augie as another former ally turned foe is the polyglot Myrtle, who lost her faith in Amalia once the Purists ramped up their violence toward the Turned and best friend Primrose is killed. After Penance inadvertently transferred that traveler from the future into Dr. Hague’s body, the scratchy-voiced, red-glowing “mother” finds its final form within Myrtle, who then develops a new power related to controlling electricity and abandons the orphanage. Is she really Myrtle anymore, or has her consciousness been totally taken over by Amalia’s enemy? Either way, the episode ending on her wandering through London’s streets and menacingly singing like Maladie is definitive baddie behavior.

Finally, what would have happened to St. Romaulda’s? The Purist assault on the orphanage leaves it in ruins; Lavinia is dead, which means the orphanage is out of funding; and the Galanthi creating more of the Touched means there are potentially more people to be abused, bullied, and vilified. The possibility of more turns is what ultimately drives Amalia and Penance apart at the end of finale “I’ll Be Seeing You.” While Amalia is moved by what the Galanthi did and sees it as a moment of inspiration (“It was always here, inside us,” waiting “to share itself,” she says of the alien), Penance compares it with colonization. Admittedly, this is a bit of a sudden and drastic shift, given how optimistic Penance had been throughout the season beforehand. But the violence of the Purists’ assault, and her fear that more of her friends and found family will be murdered or imprisoned, causes Penance to now consider the Galanthi’s particles not seeds of growth, but spores of contamination; she thinks the Galanthi used humanity to spread aspects of itself, instead of saving people on their own terms. “We’re here to change the future, Penance,” Amalia tells her, but whatever future that is, we’ll probably never see it on The Nevers.

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