The Nevers, S1E4: Undertaking

This Cold Open Should Be Taught in Film School

Can we please talk about how amazing the cinematography, editing, and overall presentation was in this episode’s cold open? It starts off with shots of Mary’s coffin being carried and lowered into her grave with ropes, which are perfectly juxtaposed with shots of the munitions crates being carried around and handled carefully with ropes by the disenfranchised workers. 

Next, identical shots from behind of Frank Mundi and Lord Massen staring at the scenes before them are mirrored back-to-back. 

The emotion of the scene is compounded upon not only by the slow, quiet singing of the mourners gradually getting louder with the musical accompaniment building up into a crescendo, but also by the fact that nobody speaks a single line of dialogue (like in WALL-E or A Quiet Place) until the purists crash the funeral with their vicious heckling. 

The second those assholes start acting like fools, it immediately snaps the audience back to reality in a jarring way that really makes you feel present in the moment – and also a little bit emotionally raw.  

Religious Overtones

I want to note that as True and Massen start to engage in their battle of wits, he refers to Mary as a “pure and blameless woman” while Amalia adds that she was “dressed in all-white” when she died. It’s also pretty safe to assume that Mary’s character probably was a literal virgin when she was murdered, given what a sweet creature she was and how unlikely it is that she and Frank would have illicitly consummated their relationship before their wedding night. The allusions to the Virgin Mary from the bible vis a vis Mary Brighton are about as obvious as a neon sign after midnight. 

We know that Penance’s actions are heavily motivated by her religious faith. In this episode, we also catch a glimpse that Lord Massen is doing something similar when he talks about whatever mysterious forces created the touched, referring to them as “an anarchic cabal with a power that mocks God, that molests and disfigures his natural law”. But is he truly a religious man? Or is he doing the typical white-man-in-power thing and using religion as a cudgel to beat down any opposition to his power and supremacy? It’s definitely a question worth asking. For all we know, it could be a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B. But I definitely think more of his motivations are coming from column B than A. 

As always, of course, there’s Maladie. We see her appear in this episode choking Frank Mundi’s boss to death with a garotte. She goes off on yet another rant about how she’s on a mission to kill angels – not innocents like Mary – and she demands that the papers stop blaming her for Mary’s death. After Mundi chases her down, incapacitates her, and takes her to jail, one of the final scenes of the episode is her lying in her jailhouse bed, begging that God give her a sign as to what his plan is for her. She is firmly held in the delusion that her actions are the will of her creator and that she is there to do his bidding. But to what end? 

This Is War (Or: “Nobody Is Quite as Barbaric as the Well-To-Do”)

Both Lavinia Bidlow and her friend Lord Massen have commented at least once during the previous three episodes that the rich, upper-class, established order of London is at war with the touched and whatever “unnatural” forces are responsible for their existence. For Lord Massen, it’s easy to understand why his brain is in war mode. The touch took his daughter from him. The touched are mainly women, minorities, and foreigners, three demographics which scare the bejesus out of him because he feels like their main goal is to unseat him from power. Plus, like True said, he’s a military man. So he’s used to seeing everything as a threat.

But what about Mrs. Bidlow? It’s understandable that she would want to use her family money to help the touched because she, as someone who is confined to a wheelchair, knows what it’s like to be different. But why play both sides? Why also turn around and fund a fake safe house and the excavation of a potential alien artifact? What is her end game? We still don’t know, but I really hope the show comes back around and answers some of these questions within the next two episodes. I’d hate to have to wait for the second part of Season 1 in order to get answers. 

The scene at Lord Massen’s estate gets particularly interesting when he and Amalia engage in verbal combat with a battle of wits (sadly, no iocane powder was involved). Massen reinforces the barbaric stereotype of the well-to-do by lamenting the fact that the gunman was killed immediately after shooting Mary – mainly because “he might have talked” during torture. 

We Should’ve Seen it Coming – Curse Her Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal

First, Lucy says: “I mean, I’m out and about more than most. I feel like I should have seen,” when talking about the flyers with Amalia True’s face drawn on them – the same flyers which are meant to lure the touched into the 100% completely unsafe “safehouse”. 

Next, she makes a point of letting Amalia know “I’ve got money, it’s not from stealing”. It’s presented so casually that most viewers probably think nothing of it. Those who do think anything of it probably just assume she’s lying, and that she did steal in order to get that money.

But the final straw is when she lets it slip that she knows Lord Massen has hunting trophies with animal heads mounted in his office. Amalia sees them twice: both in her ripple, and again when she visits him in person. And that’s when she finally figures out that Lucy has betrayed her. 

During the battle of wits, when Lord Massen confesses-without-confessing to being culpable in Mary’s death, he suggests that Amalia’s true enemy is (among other things) the woman who “should have known what would happen to you in that park”. Most viewers might assume in that moment that he’s referring to Lavinia Bidlow. But in the very next scene, when Amallia says that Massen “never gave up his source”, did anybody else notice how the camera immediately cut to Lucy glancing at True with a very, very guilty look on her face? The show further foreshadowed what was about to happen with that carefully-crafted editing choice. 

When Lucy finally confesses that she’s been working for Lord Massen, their dialogue put me on a rollercoaster of ambivalent emotions. On the one hand, the fact that she tries to play the Misery Olympics card and use her Gold Medal in Suffering as an excuse for betraying True and the rest of the touched makes her a goddamn asshole. But at the same time, she admits she was lured in because Lord Massen had promised her that they would find a “cure” for their “afflictions”. Anyone who has a turn like Lucy’s – or, dare I insinuate, Lord Massen’s daughter – probably would do anything to have their turn removed and go back to a normal life. But that doesn’t mean that what Lucy did was okay. And I also can’t help but wonder if Amalia showing her mercy is going to come back to bite her in the ass later or not. 

Amalia True’s “True” Identity

WARNING: This next section is going to include some pretty bizarre theory crafting that I don’t think I can avoid talking about any longer. But if I’m right about what I’m about to say, it will be a huge story spoiler that some viewers may actually want to avoid. Keep reading at your own risk. 

If you want to read my theory about Amalia True’s true identity, click here. Otherwise, just skip along to the final section to read about my final thoughts on this week’s jam-packed episode, and all of the wonderful things worth mentioning/commenting on which I couldn’t fit into their own thematic sections.

Thoughts, Feelings, Concerns, and Honorable Mentions:

  • New Characters: We’re introduced to two new characters in this episode: Nimble Jack, and Effie Boyle. Obviously, the show wouldn’t give them full-ass names if they weren’t going to be important going forward. I’m excited to see what roles they play.
  • LGBTQ Inclusivity: Speaking of Nimble Jack, I got a very strong non-binary vibe off him and looked up the actor who plays him. On their twitter account, their preferred pronouns are they/them. That, along with Hugo’s obvious pansexuality, makes the show even more inclusive and I’m 100% on board with that. 
  • Chess vs. Cheese: I hate the idea of learning how to play chess. It seems very overwhelming, and I doubt I’d ever get good at it, no matter how much time and effort I put in. But this episode makes me want to learn how to play cheese – mostly because I’m hungry, and cheese is delicious.
  • Ice, or glass: I thought Harriet’s power was freezing things with her breath – and I was this episode years old when I finally figured out that she’s turning things into glass instead. Dear lord, what’s it going to look like when she uses that on a person?! 
  • Lord Massen’s Language Pivot: See, this is EXACTLY why I never became a lawyer. The basic duty of a lawyer is to manipulate the meaning of language/laws in order to favor their cause and win their case – real justice be damned. It’s all about winning. And Lord Massen does exactly that at the beginning of the episode when he seemingly abandons his previous position – that the “employed” is a perfectly fine word to define laborers, and that the French word “employee” is an unnecessary individualization/humanization of them – with the antagonizing statement: “Next time, come and talk to me as individuals. To band together when you could stand alone? I would expect more courage from Englishmen!” And, no, I don’t think his 180 is truly genuine. I think he’s manipulating the language in order to gain an advantage and get his way. 
  • Annie Gets It: When Horatio asks her why she flipped from working for Maladie to now working for True, Annie point-blank asks him: “Do you really think they’re that different?” I already wrote about this exact same subject in my Episode 2 recap
  • Colors: So, “The Purists” identify themselves with pink scarves. But isn’t Annie wearing a pink head scarf under her hat in the exact same scene where they talk about this?
  • Myrtle Being Seen: Dude, when Prim finally figures out what Myrtle is trying to say? After at least three years of being not only misunderstood, but chained to her bed and terrorized by her parents for not being able to communicate? Yo, I teared up. That was an overflow of feels that pulled hard on my heartstrings. 
  • Juxtaposed Dialogue: In the middle of a conversation with a freshly kidnapped Mary, Maladie suddenly exclaims “They say you shit when you hang,” a line of dialogue which is completely irrelevant and disconnected from the conversation they were having. Amalia does the same thing in this episode when she randomly blurts out “Do violins cost a lot?” Just another breadcrumb that lends credence to my yin/yang theory about Amalia and Maladie.
  • Maladie’s Turn Is Suspiciously Absent: I had a brief debate with a friend of mine about the scene where Mundi slams Maladie’s head into a stone wall and, some-freaking-how, her turn doesn’t manifest. My friend thinks she saw her eyes glow for a split second. But I’ve watched that scene several times over now, and her hair is strategically covering her eyes. One might logically assume that she wanted to get caught, and that that’s the reason she didn’t fight back or let her turn manifest. But something doesn’t feel right. My spidey senses are tingling. There’s something else going on here, and I can’t put my finger on it.