“True” radically upends everything we thought we knew about The Nevers, but is it all too little too late?
This recap of The Nevers season 1, episode 6, “True”, contains spoilers.
As someone who has spent the last six weeks complaining about The Nevers, it’s difficult to know where to stand on its Part 1 finale, “True”. On the one hand, it completely upends everything we thought we knew about the show, so a lot of the problems I had with it were either intentional obfuscation or probably won’t matter whenever someone gets around to filming Part 2, which thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic and Joss Whedon’s lingering radioactivity, probably won’t be any time soon. On the other hand, though, it also highlighted a lot of what I dislike about the show anyway; its deliberate fancy-pants ambiguity, its tendency to raise more questions than it has answers to, and an overwhelming sense that it isn’t just the audience who have no idea where it’s all going. The fact that it opens in a far-flung future in which Earth’s atmosphere is toxic and our so-called “hero”, Amalia True, is revealed as being from the future, is intended as a big recontextualizing twist, but The Nevers has been so unsure of what kind of show it wants to be all throughout its run that this latest revelation landed with little impact for me.
If nothing else, it makes the thematic underpinnings of the show a bit tastier. Now, what was believed to be an X-Men style allegory for great societal upheaval manifesting as bigotry against perceived others is now a much bleaker suggestion that humanity’s own hubris will destroy it and its determined paranoia and prejudice will prevent it from being saved. The talked-about Galanthi turn out to be a race of time-traveling inter-dimensional extra-terrestrials who intervene in the human race’s ruined future by trying to make some long-term sustainable improvements – and to mixed results. Essentially, the Planetary Defense Council, or PDC, is for the intervention, and Free Life is against it. Thanks to a convoluted turn of events, a woman named Stripe, which is her military rank and not her actual name, ends up in the body of Victorian baker Amalia True after discovering a plot to give humanity a second chance by intervening in 19th Century society. Enter, then, the Touched, and the show’s first five episodes.
The Nevers episode 6 expects us to take a lot of its developments at face value on the same hand-wavey terms that we’ve accepted everything else. Which is to say that humans destroying their own planet shouldn’t be surprising, the emergence of a self-defeating anti-Galanthi organization was inevitable despite how obviously and earnestly the Galanthi seem to be helping, and the ongoing theme of humans violently rejecting those perceived as different has led to almost the complete eradication of all the Galanthi besides one. With the help of some scientists and research that Galanthi was ready to head back to Victorian London to enact a more severe and desperate plan for humanity’s salvation. Stripe, or Zephyr Alexis Navine, an addicted cynic wracked by PTSD, ends up being thrown back to that time period after her suicide, trapped in the body of Amalia “Molly” True, who also committed suicide after the hardships of two miscarriages and being married to a wanker.
So, Stripe’s soul or consciousness or whatever ended up in Amalia’s otherwise useless baker body, and here we are.
In the future, the Galanthi’s MO was to make humans “better” by also making them more empathetic, whereas in Victorian London they make humans “better” by giving them superpowers, which is a much more objective measurement. Stripe-as-Amalia is among the Touched, obviously, and has gotten the sense that these people are integral to humanity’s survival – her getting them together is according to the last Galanthi’s wishes, although exactly what the endgame or indeed the point of it all is remains mysterious. The Nevers season 1, episode 6 loves its mystery more now than it perhaps ever did, which is saying a lot, but it’s arguably even more aggravating that it continues to be so enigmatic and inscrutable at just the time when it would benefit from being up-front about some things. Whenever Part 2 materializes, we may or may not get some answers to the many questions that have been raised by this admittedly ballsy episode. But whether or not anyone will care enough to find out when we finally get there is another question entirely.