After watching the first 26 minutes of tonight’s The Nevers, viewers were probably asking “What show is this?!”.
The series 6th episode, which is the last for this year, kicks off roughly a century from our present day in the future, but no exact year. A fighting squad secures an abandoned area where one of the alien Galanthi currently lives. More to the point, we meet Stripe (Claudia Black), a female fighter, whose soul is ultimately transported back into the body of Molly (who ultimately becomes Amalia True), played by Laura Donnelly, on the day of The Touched, Aug. 3, 1896.
We see Amalia’s past as Molly before she became Touched: How she was a gifted baker, married to a domineering, boorish husband who dies and leaves her with next to nothing. In the wake of this, Molly attempts suicide by drowning herself, which we actually witnessed in the pilot, before she was saved and became Touched with the arrival of the Galanthi. She’s thrust into a mental hospital, nearly becoming the subject of the evil Dr. Edmund Hague (Denis O’Hare). However, she is saved from the place by benefactor Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams) and Dr. Cousens (Zackary Momoh).
Later on, Amalia, in her Victorian present day, finally encounters the Galanthi in Dr. Edmund’s underground and tries to come clean with it about her existence and purpose. The glowing blue orb Galanthi rumbles, triggering Amalia to fall back, as her life flashes before her. One of the key people she sees is a young brunette girl from the future who says, “Amalia, this is a long time from that little cave, this I will need you to forget.” (Odds are we’ll make more sense of that in season 2). Amalia is run out of the cave by Dr. Edmund’s gnarly henchmen. The episode ends coming full circle with episode 5’s finale where Amalia and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) meet up at the orphanage after the latter’s assumed failed attempt to save Maladie (Amy Manson) from her hanging.
“We didn’t find out who our enemy is,” Amalia tells Penance. “But you found something out,” Penance realizes. “It’s time to tell them everything, the future, the Galanthi, the fight that’s coming,” says Amalia about her desire to divulge to her Touched community. She then turns to Penance and introduces herself by her real name which is Zephyr Alexis Navine.
Originally The Nevers was expected to be a ten-episode season, however, the pandemic got in the way. According to Donnelly, the decision was made to extend The Nevers’ first season to 12 episodes, but to split the series into two halves, six episodes each.
“The plan had always been to pretty much reveal what had been going on in the way that six has,” says Donnelly about tonight’s finale.
We unpack with Donnelly what occurred tonight, what’s next, and her experiences with The Nevers series creator Joss Whedon, who departed the show in late November amid controversies surrounding his time on Warner Bros./DC’s Justice League.
Has any part of the second half of The Nevers been shot?
Laura Donnelly: Not a thing.
What does peace mean for Amalia True? Obviously, in Victorian England her mission is to get The Touched accepted and to protect her people, but eternally, does she have another purpose? We learned tonight she arguably has another soul in her body from the future, that being Stripe. Does Stripe want to get out of this body?
Laura Donnelly: That’s a really good question. I think that, for her, she has been so long in combat, in war, that she feels more soldier than she does human, and therefore, it’s just a question of the only way forward, or the only way out, is through. She is 100% a soldier. I find it amazing that Stripe, when we see her in the future, has lost hope a long time before that, and that becomes clear in her conversation with Nitter, played by Ellora Torchia.
She’s long ago stopped even thinking in terms of winning, losing hope, whatever, but in the end, what else is there? You got to pick a side, you’ve got to be on it, and you’ve got to exist through that, and so I think that, for her, it is just that, and I think that there has to be, in some very, very small part of her, in the dark recesses of her soul, there has to still be an element of hope. Otherwise, she would just go ahead and try and commit suicide again.
So, I think she’s allowing herself to trust in the idea that because she did try and take her own life in the future, and the Galanthi decided that that wasn’t going to happen, and it was going to drop her back here in Victorian times and that the Galanthi clearly had a plan, which she discovered in the Victorian artifacts that they find in the cupboards in that room that they were in. I think that she’s just trusting the idea that somehow, in some way, the Galanthi does have a plan, and that she’s just waiting to find out what that is.
But I think that as these episodes go on and as she meets the Galanthi in the cave, you do see all of her despair and that it’s, like, is there even a plan, or have I personally messed it up? Is this all my fault that it’s gone wrong? Am I actually better off being out of here and away from everybody, and so I think that constantly puts Amalia on this very fine line between life and death and how much does she really think she’s worthy or worthwhile having around here?
You know, she shoots herself at the end of episode 2 in order to save two other people, and I know she says, well, I missed the vital organs. Obviously, that was all planned, but I don’t know how much I believe her there. I think she genuinely does not see the point a lot of the time, the point of her being around, and she’s always dancing along that very fine line.
So, the Galanthi is a good monster?
LD: Good alien. Yeah, it is a being that is entirely — well, it’s enlightened. It’s a higher-evolved being than humanity and so it’s entirely empathic, and genuinely, certainly, as far as I’m aware at this stage –though anything can happen– genuinely only wants to save humanity from itself. It’s trying to enlighten humanity so that it will find a way to be at peace with itself and with the Earth and be able to survive.
It appeared as though the Galanthi ate someone in the beginning of tonight’s episode with all that blood.
LD: So, they thought that was what had happened, and Nitter, who is a spore is enlightened. Nitter knew that the Galanthi don’t do that, and that’s why that didn’t add up for her, and what they discovered then was that the scientists who had been killed and were hanging above the Galanthi, that wasn’t for food. It was to torture. They had slowly tortured, slowly killed them, and obviously, it, like, led to…the blood would’ve been dripping onto the Galanthi, I gather. That would’ve been torture because the Galanthi had bonded so closely with those humans.
The hooded gunners whom you encountered in the pilot are back again. Are they protecting the Galanthi? What’s their connection to Dr. Edmund?
LD: Well, it seems, at this stage, like he has created them in some capacity. We see him with one of them in the chair, and he’s drilling into his head to find out kind of what went wrong this time, but we don’t know what the purpose of that is or what the origin of them are. Are they machines that he has made? Are they men that he has adapted, and what is the purpose of this work? All we know about them is that they are on this side of Hague and trying to capture The Touched for Hague’s experiments. They’re modified, so they have a little kind of extra strength and endurance than a man.
What I find fascinating is how Amalia was able to get away from Dr. Edmund. Is there more we’re going to see about that? How did he completely avoid snatching you in the hospital?
LD: So, I think, at that point, Amalia has figured out enough to know that there is some form of mission that needs her. She’s kind of gathered that she’s the only person that seems to have traveled back, and therefore, it is important that she gets out of there, and so, she throws Sarah / Maladie under the bus. So, she creates this idea that she’s just this innocent, slightly crazy woman; that she had only pretended to see the lights or know anything that Sarah knows about, and that, basically, she’s been making up all of this stuff all along just to make Sarah feel better. So, she basically goes, ‘Don’t look at me. Look at her’ and then she’s out of there.
Lavinia — good or bad person, or we don’t know yet?
LD: I can’t figure out what the audience is necessarily supposed to know as a fact from episode 6, because there are things that I know, and I don’t know whether they’ve been fully implied up to episode 6. I think there’s still more to develop there, so I don’t want to say too much about it, but I would say that she is not a straightforward person of either, and I think she and herself has some level of cognitive dissonance about everything that’s going on, and I think that that’s what we’re witnessing right now, is somebody that actually isn’t entirely certain either way.
When you sat down to talk with Joss Whedon, what were some of the show’s feminist topics you discussed with him and how were they going to be laid out? I understand you were really wowed by your first discussion with him.
LD: Absolutely. I don’t think that we ever discussed anything to do with, like, personal belief systems or anything like that. I guess it was a given that because I was there and interested in finding out about this show and hopefully as we would always think, as a woman, that I would be on the side of feminism. And I think it was just the very presence of that story itself, the characters that it was focusing on, the story it was telling about female relationships, particularly the Amalia/ Penance one, which is one of just pure love, support, sisterhood, us against the world kind of thing.
It was all very much implied that what this was telling was a feminist show. I doubt that Joss or possibly really anybody, in the course of us creating this and filming this, necessarily used that specific word. It was just about telling a story where we just naturally assume that women are entitled to the same privileges as men are, front to back. So, like I said, I think it was just a given that everybody in the room, everybody on the set, everybody in the cast, everybody who had anything to do with making this, we assumed that everybody was on the side of good.
Philippa Goslett is now in charge of The Nevers. Do you expect the dynamic of the show to change? Or no, not really, because the same structure is still in place? All that’s happened is the creator has left.
LD: I think yes and no. I think, yes, there will, of course, be change because for that very reason, but we have what is a very solid structure of the world that has been created, the characters, the story that we’re trying to tell in its overall sense. Same cast, obviously, and we’re getting, I would say, 98% of our crew are coming back. Very few were unable to because of other work that they’d taken on.
But I think it speaks so much to the experience that we had first time around that. Our crew especially, who could all go off and take other jobs in this very unknown last year of pandemic and all the rest. All could’ve done that. All resisted that and wanted to come back and be part of telling this second half of the season. So, I think the changes that will be there, I’m looking forward to because I’m really interested to see Philippa’s take, especially as a woman, and a woman who I know had already had very passionate views about many of the conversations that are being had in this series to do with politics and equality and humanity and the environment and all of those things.
I’m really fascinated to see where she will take that, but I think the TV, out of all of the art forms, is, arguably, the most collaborative one that you can get, and so, we have a structure that is in place that will allow, I think, for any, give and take within that. You know, we had very big changes even from episode 1 through episode 2.
We lost one of our very dear producers for personal reasons, and we all felt devastated by that, and then, instead, in her place, we got Ilene S. Landress, who’s one of the greatest producers there is out there and has done almost everything you’ve ever watched on HBO. She was an amazing addition and we’ve all grown very close to her, and we’ve come to trust her so much, and so it’s just that kind of thing. It’s like some people go, some people come in, and that will always bring change, but hopefully good change.
And there was never a toxic or abusive environment on set?
LD: No. No. No.
You have mentioned that there was only generosity, and creativity and all that was good just filtered down.
LD: Yeah. Yeah, very much. It was an incredibly joyous project to be a part of and I can honestly say that having to get up at 5 a.m. every day to go to work was never once a chore. Springing out of bed and going there and I think that that is absolutely testament to every single person, from the top right down, and I’ve never really had an experience quite like it on a set, and yeah, it’s special.
What do you think is next for Amalia?
LD: Well, I think that she has a lot to wrestle with within herself. You know, I think that she’s got a lot of stuff that she needs to come to terms with, and I wonder about that, especially as an emotional arc. You know, she has been plowing on as this soldier, and she’s managed to maintain control in a kind of Army structure way by really holding all of almost the information to herself, or at least sharing it with Penance to a degree, or to a great degree. She has managed to keep everything contained and maintain control, but obviously, that is now going to have to change going forward.
And I’ll be really interested to see how she deals with any change in structure like that and how she also deals with kind of the reckonings of her soul that seem to be just coming into clearer focus, especially since this meeting with the Galanthi; the massive flashbacks that she got and then the ripplings forward that she got, and how she’s going to try and connect and marry together who she has been in the past, who she is now, and how to go forward. I think that’s going to all be worth really looking into, now that we’ve kind of established the narrative as such.
What’s your next project? Is it this?
LD: It’s this. Yeah. I’m straight back into this, and that will take up, certainly, I would say, the rest of this year I think. I don’t know exact time frames. So, Amalia’s really me until pretty much next year.
And when does production start?
LD: Soon. It’s within the next few months this summer.