What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
The Nevers Part 1 Finale Explained
At first, the Part One finale of The Nevers feels like it’s playing a trick on the audience, or like it’s a different show entirely. The episode opens on a familiar full moon, shining high in the sky through a thick layer of dark clouds. The whoosh of a spaceship—or what looks like one—suddenly shakes the frame, leaving a trail of skydiving bodies, parachuting into the planetary ruin below. Lightning cracks, revealing a post-apocalyptic war zone. A soldier crawls past corpses, her frantic eyes surveying the scene. There’s not a petticoat or smoking pipe in sight.
You’d be forgiven if you double-checked the channel, or your browser window, at this point. Over the next hour, our protagonist Amalia True’s real identity is revealed: she’s Stripe (or Zephyr), a soldier from somewhere around the 2100s, where an alien race called the Galanthi has come to earth to try to save humans from themselves, from total environmental destruction. The Galanthi sent Zephyr back in time hundreds of years and put her in the body of Molly, a Victorian Era baker who had decided to end her life. The Touched and their powers were actually “spores” sprinkled upon them by the aliens, giving them these strange abilities, all toward an unknown higher purpose of some kind. Pause to take that in.
It turns out, all of Amalia’s powers and idiosyncrasies had a deeper meaning. When she’d pull uncomfortably at her corset or seem jaded or out-of-it, that was all a hint, all purposeful. “I always wanted her to seem somewhat out of her time and just to seem displaced,” star Laura Donnelly tells Esquire, of pulling off the multidimensional character. Plus, now we know why Amalia is not only psychic but also a killer hand-to-hand fighter. What began as a Victorian fantasy tale spun wildly into a sci-fi about aliens, human nature, empathy, climate change, and the future. It’s a lot to take in, and this finale makes all five previous episodes worth a second look. As you piece everything together, we have an expert on the subject to guide you.
Laura Donnelly talked with Esquire about how she prepared to play multiple characters all in one, the Galanthi, and what’s next for The Nevers.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Esquire: Can you walk me through what happened in the finale from your point of view?
Laura Donnelly: Yeah! Obviously, I’m not personally involved in the first 20 minutes, but I was there for a good deal of the filming. I had to be there to see what Claudia was doing, to see what they all experience in that moment. Then I had to take it from there.
We get introduced to Molly, who is the original body that Amalia’s now in. That’s the story of her very ordinary Victorian life that, unfortunately, does not go well. We see the process of her life going more and more downhill as she goes from a young, hopeful, joyful woman to finding herself in extreme poverty and loneliness, with tragedy after tragedy hitting her. I’m really glad that we got to explore that side of what had happened because before, all we had seen was Amalia’s body dropping into the Thames.
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Then next, we get post-spores arriving and Stripe in Molly’s body. So that was the most fun for me to play. That required me studying Claudia, her voice especially of course, but her mannerisms, her way of moving her face, and her physicality. To get to play that extreme of, once Stripe is in Molly’s body and then who she becomes over the course of time as she tries to be who she needs to be in Victorian society. That was a brilliant journey to go on.
Then last, back to Amalia, and we get to find out where she is right now and how this all ties together and make sense of her finding the Galanthi in the cave, and having a bit of a reckoning with the Galanthi.
ESQ: In your view, what are the Galanthi? And how much in the future is this?
LD: As far as I’m aware, it’s 2121. So we’re looking at a hundred years into our future. The essential information is that Stripe comes from the future, was transferred here by the Galanthi and into Amalia’s body. Then the details can be brought out through multiple viewings.
I think the Galanthi is an alien race, it’s Galanthi in the plural and the singular [laughs]. And it has come to earth because humans have essentially destroyed the planet, destroyed their own future, and the Galanthi really do simply come to help humans save themselves from themselves. They are innately a good and peaceful life force. So, they’ve come to do that and then of course, what has happened, due to human nature, is that there are different reactions to that. Humans end up at war with one another over how they respond to wanting to be helped in this way. So you’ve got a future that is not only environmentally wrecked but humans are at war with each other over the theories of how to go forward.
Some of it, even just through watching six, I gathered for the first time, because there is so much to unpack there and stuff that I didn’t necessarily pick up from reading the scripts of the first chapter. Like the fact that the Galanthi had had this plan and were working with the other humans in the future about how to deal with this human problem and the plan had clearly come up that they had decided to go back to this particular moment in time to the Victorian era to try and do this all over again.
You know, they’ve tried it in 2121 and it hasn’t worked because of human nature so they’ve decided to come back to the Victorian era and try to change human nature essentially.
ESQ: It’s so great to hear from your perspective.
LD: That’s after a lot of studying.
ESQ: What went into your choices as an actor throughout all the episodes knowing this multi-dimensional personality?
LD: A lot of it is just to do with Amalia’s seemingly anachronistic way of being in the world. You know, I never wanted to play her as if she had one hundred percent successfully become a Victorian woman. There are things about being a modern woman that will never leave you no matter what, how much etiquette school you go through or how much voice training. So I always wanted her to seem somewhat out of her time and just to seem displaced. Physicality, some things that are in the script, and certainly her general attitude.
The other thing that I now hope is made clear is just that she keeps much more locked away under the surface than she ever reveals. I think that that is partly due to all of the secrets that she’s carrying and the weight of them. But it’s also to do with her PTSD and the experiences that she’s had in war. You know, this is not her first fight by a long, long way. She’s got the emotional responses of somebody who has been a soldier, and who has PTSD. A lot of the research I had done going in to play Amalia from the start was on PTSD. But obviously I couldn’t tell anybody that when I was doing it. So people would say to me, “So what kind of prep did you do?” And I’m like, “Oh, just a little! Into the Victorian way of living.”
But most of my prep was done on PTSD and what soldiers in our time go through and the training that they got through and the effect that it can have on the psyche coming out of war. So it was a lot about that, and then just putting all of that as far below the surface of it as possible.
ESQ: It’s delightful because I think a lot of people in the beginning were like, “Okay, Amalia has ripplings but also she’s the best hand-to-hand fighter.” Like “Well, how could she do that?” And now…
LD: See? [laughs]. I think it’s a huge part of this show and these first six episodes is over time, the audiences are learning to trust it, that it knows what it’s doing. That nothing in it is by accident and that everything has payoffs later on.
ESQ: Now that we have the full picture, what do you see as the motivation behind your character, what she wants, and where she can go from here?
LD: I think that it’ll still be confusing for her. Because while she has got this connection with the Galanthi now, she’s still largely looking to the Galanthi to give her the next stage of what is supposed to happen. And I think that one of the things that Amalia struggles with in the moment she’s in now is that it’s not a typical war. Because what she has to do is change human nature. Try and change it to be a society full of empathy and understanding, and what that accepts what otherness is, and embraces that, in order to set humanity on a different path. So that’s not something that can be achieved through just outright war. So while she is a fighter and she is good at combat, she’s been in red hot combat all her life and now is faced with this way of trying to achieve the opposite really.
And yet they have been given these abilities, some of which would seem to be violent, and so she’s caught in this confusion of: how on earth is it supposed to go forward? Equally, she doesn’t know if it’s all gone wrong. She thinks it’s all gone wrong. Because it doesn’t resemble what happened when people were spored in the future. When they were spored in the future, they did gain empathy and understanding, and enlightenment in a sense. Whereas, something has happened in this going back in time, that has created anomalies instead and these strange abilities. So she doesn’t know if it’s all been messed up or if this is part of a grander scheme. She is still just trying to figure out what her place in this is, and how on earth they’re supposed to go forward bettering humanity.
ESQ: What are the shooting plans for the next installment?
LD: Yes, we start in the next couple of months and that’ll bring us up to the end of the year. I don’t know what the release plan is for those six, but of course now we’ve got our new showrunner, Philippa, who is just taking this story and starting from that moment and taking over the story completely.
So it’ll be now coming from a new brain, and it’s somebody who has not been part of the shooting process, she’s been part of the production process but she’s not been part of the shooting process through one to six, and so now it takes what she takes from all of this and what she relates to and where she wants to bring that story. So I’m really, really interested and fascinated to see how she does that. Because it’s a woman now telling these women’s stories and I’m really excited how that changes and where it stays the same as well. Because of course we’ve fallen in love with these characters that we’re playing and I love the show and the stories it’s telling and the directions it’s going. So I’m fascinated to see how it changes and how it stays the same.
ESQ: In terms of showrunners, obviously the allegations against Joss Whedon hung over the show as it was rolling out. Now Philippa Goslett is going to be the showrunner. What does that shift mean to you? How do you think the show process might change with Philippa as the new showrunner?
LD: Well, I think that the story will obviously change because like I said, it’s coming entirely from Philippa’s head, entirely in the direction that she wants to take it. And what really excites me about Philippa taking over is that I’ve looked at the stuff that Philippa’s been involved in in the past and not just in terms of her writing, but also in terms of the issues that drive her in the world, and they run in such parallel to the story we’re trying to tell here. The political aspect of things, the environmental aspect of things, the feminist aspect of things. And having chatted to her and found out kind of at least where she emotionally wants to take the arcs of the characters, that is really exciting. But at the same time, I’m thrilled that we have the vast majority of people who’ve worked on the production coming back again. Because it didn’t have to be that way.
We’ve been on hiatus for a long time since we finished six and so often that will then automatically mean a crew change all round. But we genuinely had such an amazing time shooting the first six, I mean it’s the happiest and most fun and most inspiring set I have honestly ever been on. That was from the top right down. And our crew, I cannot speak highly enough of them. So that’s several hundred people who worked so hard and over two years to get these first six out. Because, you know, we hit hiatus after hiatus obviously due to the pandemic and other reasons as well. So, for everybody to come back, to me that just kind of speaks so highly of the atmosphere that was created in these first six. Because people, they could’ve gone off and taken other work—obviously the cast couldn’t but all the other people—and they didn’t. And I know that lots of our heads of departments turned down other amazing work that they could’ve got because they really believe in this show and they wanted to be part of that crew again. So I think that’s just a compliment to the process as a whole.
Anna Grace Lee
Anna Grace Lee is an editorial fellow at Esquire, where she covers pop culture, music, and entertainment.
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