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The Nevers: HBO Max Cancelling Series Now Feels Like Mercy Killing

The Nevers' final six episodes were a serious disappointment, losing the show's wit & sophistication. Was HBO Max cancelling it a mercy kill?

How many fans did The Nevers really have when it first aired on HBO Max? It was flawed but promising, an alternate history Steampunk series set in a Victorian London where some of the populace, mostly women, gained superpowers through some unknown event. It follows the mysterious Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), the head of an orphanage of the "Touched" children and teens, pursuing a secret mission with the help of her friend Penance Adair (Ann Skelly). They face prejudice, a mad Touched terrorist named Maladie (Amy Manson), an untrustworthy ally (Olivia Williams), and a Lord who hates them (Pip Torrens) to prevent death and chaos.

the nevers
Image: HBO

At First, The Nevers Was a Flawed But Intriguing Show

The Nevers is a pastiche of the X-Men and various Steampunk and genre tropes, with its creator marred by #MeToo despite his talent as a screenwriter and storyteller. He oversaw the first half of the first season with a solid team of writers who turned out a stylish, witty, literate, and ambitious Science Fiction saga. It wasn't perfect, but it had enough themes to give it meat: Otherness, outsiders looking to belong, and bigotry. It has one of the best casts of British actors you could possibly assemble, including the previously little-seen Donnelly and Skelly, two Irish actors with acclaimed stage careers but virtually unknown on television. Its original creator & showrunner was ousted after its premiere, and the Pandemic hit. The No. 2 executive producer was promoted to showrunner, and the second six episodes were written and shot in the summer of 2021. Then silence ensued before the new regime at HBO Max announced it was cancelled at the end of 2022. Then a few weeks ago, they announced that they had licensed the series, along with several other HBO Max series, to the free ad-driven streaming service Tubi (as well as Roku). This week, the entire 12-episode run of The Nevers was live-streamed over three afternoons as if to burn it off – including the final, previously-unaired six episodes.

Unfortunately, The Second Half of The Nevers Is Really Awful

Where the first six episodes ended on a note of potential for the rest of the series, the second six suffered a steep drop in the writing. It's terrible. All the literate wit and humour of the first half have disappeared. The characters became passive. The dialogue became on the nose and boringly functional. Literally, everyone on the good guy and bad guy side has become utterly stupid in order for Plot to happen. It was as if the best writers who revised the scripts – for it was not only the original creator and showrunner – had left the show.

Amalia True, in the first half of the series, was flawed, conflicted, and competent. Now in the second half, she's flawed, conflicted, navel-gazing, and incompetent, conveniently forgetting how to fight when the plot says she has to get beaten up. Even Maladie, a dangerous, deranged Harley Quinn manque, became depowered, passive, and mawkish. There's even a tedious "confronting my dead past selves in a hallucination" episode. Everyone now talks like 21st Century Americans, not Victorians. All the while, it also sidelined Amalia True and Penance Adair, the two main heroines who are the most intriguing and interesting characters played by the most compelling actors in the cast for much of the last quarter of the series. All the worst storytelling decisions a television show could make are in the second six episodes of The Nevers. By the end, we're relieved it's over… not hungry for more.

Why is Tubi Streaming The Nevers When No One is Home to Watch it?

Also, why have the remaining episodes of The Nevers been relegated to live streaming only on Tubi during the afternoon when everyone who was most interested in watching it would be at school or at work? It's no wonder no outlet is writing about the unseen episodes – no one is actually seeing them. The next opportunity to watch them is in March… and once again, only live. We're being taken back to the days of live television before even VHS or physical media, where we're slaves to the schedule. We know the streaming model of television is in flux, but is it really a good idea to take something that viewers actually want to see and make it difficult for them to see it?

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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