2021 was a weird time to become a fan of a show with Joss Whedon’s name on it. The Nevers, a supernatural thriller series set in an alternate fantasy version of Victorian England, premiered in April 2021 under a cloud, as accusations of on-set abuse dating back to the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer built up against Whedon, the series’ creator and producer. The Nevers struggled to find an audience amid all the negative press, and the show went on hiatus after six episodes, reportedly because of production holdups. Two years later, the promised back half of the opening season — the other six episodes in its 12-episode run — are now sporadically streaming free online, at least for those willing to jump through the considerable hoops involved in watching them. Few viewers are going to bother. And that’s a pity, because The Nevers was always better than its reputation, or the man so strongly associated with it.
The series’ launch was doomed from the start. For nearly a year before the premiere, Justice League actor Ray Fisher had been complaining circuitously about Whedon’s behavior as the stand-in director on the film, after Whedon took over from director Zack Snyder. In the wake of Fisher’s statements, other actors and creatives who had worked with Whedon came forward with their own stories of abuse and humiliation. In November 2020, Whedon stepped down from The Nevers, leaving producer Philippa Goslett in charge. But the damage was done. Fisher finally provided details about his experience with Whedon in April 2021, as the series was premiering, and the show’s launch was muted and meek in the wake of the news.
Early reaction to the show was mostly dubious to disgusted. The pilot episode is certainly a problem, introducing so many characters and concepts that it doesn’t feel like a teaser for a coherent story. It packs in too much of the kind of banter-focused, self-aware whimsy that fandom has come to despise — and to blame Whedon for whenever they see it in any medium. In the wake of Whedon’s career-long focus on waifish yet tough, troubled but duty-driven female heroes, the show’s focus on that exact brand of superpowered women didn’t feel empowering, so much as it felt like Whedon plagiarizing himself. Season 1 villain Maladie (Amy Manson), yet another in a series of wacky-talking, gamin-ish, emotionally damaged characters in Whedon works, similarly feels like a lightly reskinned version of Drusilla from Buffy, and she feels embarrassingly outdated in an era where creators are trying to get past portraying mentally ill people as dangerous villains.
But The Nevers did earn a low-key fandom, because in spite of everything, the first half of its one and only season picks up considerably once you get past that unpromising beginning. It rapidly turns into a surprising, compelling science fiction series full of huge, unexpected shifts and ambitious storytelling. It feels like Whedon was banking on his fame and his fans to get viewers over the hump of a somewhat conventional fantasy-series opening. But a lot of them never did — and they missed out on a lot of surprises, especially once they got past the pilot Whedon wrote and directed, and on to the deeper action of the series.
And above all, they missed a killer performance from Laura Donnelly as series star Amalia True, a character equally defined by kick-ass action sequences and rich, complicated character work. Donnelly and Ann Skelly as Amalia’s best friend, Penance Adair, both feel like cliched types in the opening episode, then rapidly blossom into winning and admirable characters whose strengthening resolve and developing relationship throughout the season’s first half was a major part of the show’s appeal. All of which means that for the fans The Nevers did manage to accrue, the reveal that the second half of the show actually exists is exciting news.
Now they just have to figure out how to watch it.
Given everything that happened around Whedon in 2020 and 2021 — and his insistence on digging himself in deeper with a disastrous interview once he did respond to the accusations — the show’s suspension after episode 6 made it seem unlikely that the other episodes would be made, let alone that they’d ever air. When HBO Max dumped The Nevers off its platform, reportedly as a cost-cutting measure that also saw pricier shows (like Westworld and Raised by Wolves) get the boot, it seemed like the end of the story.
Then Tubi announced that it had acquired the license to not only the aired episodes but the back half of the season and would stream it free online, via a WB Watchlist channel — one of a number of livestreams hosted at Tubi, and accessible through all the same apps and services that access Tubi. But “livestreaming” means the episodes air at specific times and in multi-hour back-to-back blocks. So if you want to see them, you have to create a free Tubi account, tune in at a specific time, and watch them uninterrupted, with no access to pauses or rewinds — which is really not how most people watch TV these days. “Appointment television” is certainly a thing, but it usually means people sitting down to start a new episode of their favorite show the moment they can first watch it, not logging three-hour stretches locked in front of the TV starting at a specific time.
That limitation on finally seeing the back half of The Nevers has led to fans of the show trying to find workarounds, or begging someone to record and download the episodes for them. It also means even the biggest fans are likely to watch the episodes asynchronously over time, at least until they can reliably pirate them. It’s just the latest depressing blow for a series that deserved better, and never really had a chance to thrive.
Tubi is available at TubiTV.com, via apps on Android and iOS mobile devices, on Roku, on smart TV apps and devices including Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, and on current-generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles. The Nevers and other shows can be found under the “Live TV” tab, which takes you to the service’s continual-streaming channels. The next window for episodes of The Nevers will be from March 1-3. Tubi says to expect the show “in regular rotation.”