W.As it would have been the flagship of this new HBO series just a few months ago, the station is now trying to hide as much as possible. It is the name of its inventor, Joss Whedon, who let various broadcasters and platforms fight for the rights to “The Nevers” in 2018, including Netflix.
The radiance of his name is great. With the success of his teen fantasy series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” at the end of the nineties, Joss Whedon became the hero of the then marginalized “nerds” and a whole generation of young girls who watched with enthusiasm like a pretty young blonde in a horror scenario, the bloody execution is not, as usual, at the beginning of the narrative, but takes up arms and vampires, demons and all sorts of other pursuits.
A career of ups and downs followed for Whedon. Some of his series were canceled after a few episodes, in 2012 he wrote and directed “Marvel’s The Avengers”, which is currently number eight of the world’s most successful films of all time. Over the years, Whedon has had a loyal fan base and a stable number of well-meaning critics.
Above all, his female characters brought him fame, the quick-witted heroine became his trademark. There was much debate about whether Buffy and Co. with their short skirts and deep necklines were really that conducive to feminism, often by people who focused on these outward appearances and were unfamiliar with the actual plot. In any case, twenty years after the series ended, Buffy has remained an icon of female self-empowerment. Joss Whedon, however, is no longer seen as a feminist and genius, but as an unsympathetic person, in the worst case as an overbearing tyrant.
Several actors and actresses have reported being badly treated by the series maker, describing a “toxic work atmosphere” under his leadership. Charisma Carpenter accuses him of bullying her on the set of Angel: Hunters of Darkness because of her pregnancy and damaging her career. For a man who capitalizes on his reputation as a fighter for women, such accusations can mean the end of his career, because what is a storyteller without his credibility?
All of this now overshadows “The Nevers”, a series that Whedon wrote, staged and produced and which is once again dedicated to his supposed specialty. The series takes place in the alternate reality of London in 1896. Overnight, some of the city’s residents, mostly women, developed special skills. One can throw a fire, one can speak all languages, one makes everything she touches fly, and a little girl grows up to the ceiling. These so-called “touched” have a hard time in Victorian society, they are marginalized, exploited and sometimes even killed.
Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) wants to put a stop to this and runs an “orphanage” that is supposed to be a refuge for the persecuted. The landlady herself regularly has short visions of the future that wear down her emotionally, but are very useful if you lead a life like Miss True. Not only does it have to find the women who are left alone with their often dangerous abilities, it also has to do it faster than a gruesome organization that tries to find out with a saw and a drill what is in the heads of women. In addition, a male-murdering psychopath is up to mischief in London, also a touched one, which does not exactly contribute to the reputation of the group. “No whores are killed here – it’s about respectable men,” rumbles a noble group of gentlemen who are concerned about their glorious empire. In this society there is also talk of a “feminine plague”, of the dangers posed by the “ambitions of those for whom ambitions were never intended”.
Video: FAZ, Image: Walt Disney
Shattering such attitudes is the daily bread of Whedon’s fighters. But what has been jubilantly pointed out in the past, critics are now degrading to the “obsession” of Joss Whedons, who simply likes to see attractive women slam. “The Nevers” doesn’t do it justice. For this series, too, Whedon has devised a diverse range of female figures who surprise, touch and stand up for one another. The sensitive dynamic between Amalia True and her companion Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who incidentally can see electricity and with her inventions, brings chic steampunk elements into the equipment, is without a doubt the best thing about the series. Apart from that, there are some construction sites, such as the relative lack of humor and a confusing web of secondary characters and storylines that grows in the first four episodes in such a way that one can hardly imagine how Whedon would have wanted to unravel it.
He no longer has the chance. In November of last year, the series inventor announced that he had to retire for health reasons. One can speculate about the voluntary nature of this. The six episodes of Joss Whedon are finished and will now be broadcast weekly. The second half of the season follows later, the British author Philippa Goslett is responsible as showrunner for the other six episodes. It is questionable whether Whedon will return to the scene again. Many of his characters will stay.
The Nevers runs Mondays at 8:15 p.m. on Sky Atlantic.
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