As the city buzzes with anticipation over a pending execution, Penance grapples with a moral calling at odds with Amalia's plan. With the two women at a crossroads, the Orphans must decide whom to follow.
The excavation continues to uncover the mysterious glowing orb protruding through the ground. A crack starts to manifest.
The council is divided on the matter of Maladie's public execution. Prince Albrecht is against, whereas Lord Massen is in favor of the public hanging and ensures that precautions will be taken to minimize the risk of a potential attack by the Touched, who may be angered by Maladie's sentencing. General Pecking will have the troops patrolling around the square. Regarding the Orphanage, Lord Allaven-Tyne has come to regret their decision to order Winemar Kroos to kill Mary Brighton, as her death has seemed to only have brought more Touched into their fold. Prince Albrecht reminds the council that they took a vow to protect the empire and not kill for sport, not to mention they still don't know the cause of the Touched. The council then begins to question his sympathies towards the afflicted and why Princess Bettina was bundled off to Zurich in the dead of night, to which Prince Albrecht claims that she has lumbago.
Penance shows Amalia an x-ray, or, as she phrases it, a spectral-acle of London to determine where they will drill to find the Galanthi. She believes the location is directly under Grand Abbey, though Nimble claims that the area is covered with thugs, so Penance concludes their best chance of entry is through the Royal Military Army.
While dressing, Amalia and Horatio discuss Maladie's forthcoming hanging and the precautions being taken. Horatio then asks about the Galanthi. Admittedly, Amalia is afraid he'll see what a horror she's been.
Lavinia watches as the Galanthi emits a bright blue glow. She suspects that it's hatching, but Dr. Hague explains that it's more so a chrysalis than an egg and that he's been monitoring its pulses. Fearful that it might break and do more harm than good, Lavinia orders for it to be killed. However, Hague is reluctant. He explains that, after another week of digging, they'll be able to transport it safely. Lavinia admits that her hope for a cure was childish, and she no longer believes this is the answer. Dr. Hague is still hopeful that they can use this creature to their benefit. Below, Elisabetta uses her turn to make a bucket briefly float.
Désirée reads Effie's article regarding Maladie's forthcoming execution. Primrose listens in from above. Also in the courtyard are Nimble and Annie, who practice using their turns using shields to deflect Annie's fire attacks. Meanwhile, Harriet and Aneel fight about his departure, and she sees him out, passing by Myrtle on his way through the front gates. Harriet is also upset with Maladie's conviction, which she suspects that they're only hanging her publicly for being Touched.
Effie begs Inspector Mundi for an interview with Maladie and discusses the unconstitutional registration of the Touched. She suspects that Mundi is against the hanging as much as she is, but he also believes in order and justice. Effie then notices a photo of a murder victim, who Mundi explains that the railmen tried to frame Maladie, but he deduced that this particular victim wasn't her handiwork. Effie recognizes the coat the female victim is wearing: it's cheap and popular with working women. Effie suspects that the victim was likely a secretary, to which Mundi replies that he'll take her to Maladie himself if she can identify the victim.
Lavinia encounters soreness around her eyes while having lunch with Augie in the Hotel Cecil. Now that Hugo's club has become a matter of public record, she advises her brother to steer clear of him, even though Hugo is Augie's friend and used to be Lavinia's as well. Augie recalls the time she took them ice skating with her. Lavinia has another headache, so Augie advises her to call Dr. Waterson. They suddenly overhear a conversation from another table praising Maladie's execution, which angers Lavinia, who screams back at the couple. Lavinia then tells Augie to stay out of the city tomorrow during the execution. He claims to have had no intentions of attending, as he's going to Brighton for the day for a new building opening. Lavinia notices his drawings or birds and Penance, then asks him to bring her a gift from Brighton.
Hugo learns from Mundi that Lord Bertie Humphries is pressing charges after he suffered a severe ice burn from an unregistered Touched named Ronald while at the Ferryman's Club. Hugo then produces an injury waiver, explaining no one can apply for membership without it. Hugo questions how he can make this go away. Mundi states that they'll have to get Ronald registered, though without listing the Ferryman's Club as his place of employment. However, Mundi warns Hugo to keep his employees in order or else he'll shut the Ferryman's down.
As soon as he exits Mundi's office, Hugo is approached by Effie, who is admittedly after something. She says that there is something he can do for her, then whispers in his ear.
While getting dressed, Penance notices a bird outside her window. She suspects it's Augie, but then he enters the room, apologizing for startling her and entering while she was indecent. Amalia joins them and ensures that Augie is prepared for tomorrow, when he'll make the birds sing as a distraction for the drilling. Penance then tests out her new drill, which continues to drill completely through the floor and beyond.
The Beggar King operates a child sweatshop, where the children assemble hanging dolls in Maladie's likeness. Declan then receives a visit from Lord Massen, who wants him to get their Touched problem under control. Odium enters, with Declan revealing that he was sent to kill Amalia, though the order didn't come from the Beggar King but rather Massen. Lord Massen then employs Declan and his men to cause a bit of chaos to instill fear into the people of London after the execution.
Amalia and Penance briefly discuss Myrtle and her ability to speak Galanthi. However, they will not be taking her on the mission, as it's too risky. Penance then reveals that some of the girls have been saying that Amalia killed Lucy, though Annie shut them down rather forcefully. While she didn't do it, Amalia does miss her. Penance questions the existence of forgiveness and kindness and reflects on her inventions being capable of killing someone in the wrong circumstances. Suddenly, there's a loud knock at the door. Outside, they find several nooses hanging. Penance decides to finish the drill.
In her cell, Maladie sings while being bound by chains.
Penance spends the entire night working, though not on a new drill as planned, but on a rescue mission for Maladie. Amalia reminds Penance that Maladie is a violent serial killer and that this hanging might be best for all. However, Penance refuses to turn her back on another Touched, even if it is Maladie. Amalia warns Penance that breaking Maladie out will put all the Touched at risk. Still, Penance cannot allow for Maladie to be executed, believing that she is not deserving of such a fate. Finally, Amalia relents and tells Penance that she's free to save Maladie. However, Amalia still intends to drill into the ground and find the Galanthi.
Amalia and Penance explain to the others how they've reached a crossroads. Amalia is leaving to find the Galanthi whilst Penance executes a plan to save Maladie. Su Ping Lim, Horatio, Bonfire Annie, and Augie join Amalia, while Nimble, Violet, Harriet, Désirée, and George join Penance. Rather than picking a side, Primrose urges them both against doing anything and tells both Amalia and Penance that she loves them. Su later joins Penance's plan, explaining that Amalia told her to take care of Penance.
Maladie's execution nears, and many people gather outside the prison gates. Mundi reads Effie's new article claiming that she personally spoke to Maladie. Mundi suspects that her article might turn the crowd into a mob and instructs the officers to allow only 400 of the viewing public to enter for the hanging.
The council arrives for the execution of Maladie. Massen reveals to General Pecking that the Beggar King was supposedly unresponsive and said that his men weren't trained to stop fights. However, Massen did warn him which neighborhoods to steer clear of. Hugo then arrives, greeting Lord Massen before joining the crowd below.
The Colonel makes his way inside a tent, convincing one of the guards that he's his uncle.
Penance arrives outside the execution. She reminds George that he must wait two minutes after the signal to pull the lever on the cart. After the prototype is deployed, George should drive out to Porchill Road.
Penance, Harriet, and Désirée break into the prison building. There, Harriet shares her relationship concerns with Désirée regarding Aneel and how he expects her to give up studying law after marriage even though she's a better student than he is. Harriet fears that this will be the reason for Aneel to leave her. Désirée bets that he'll soon return with flowers and apologies.
Effie blends in with the public for the execution.
The Colonel instructs him and another guard to dig below a tent until they find the electrical box buried beneath the ground.
Désirée distracts one of the officers while Penance sneaks past. Up above, Nimble and Su disarm one of the sharpshooters.
Maladie is escorted onto the podium. She is booed by the watching crowd, though Maladie acts amused. Suddenly, the ground begins to shake, though only momentarily. The crowd then chants repeatedly: "Drop the bitch."
Mundi spots Penance in the crowd. As he approaches her, Penance shoots her umbrella in the sky, signaling Nimble and Su. Nimble creates shields as stepping stones for Su as she jumps off the building towards Maladie. However, Nimble loses focus as the other guards begin shooting at him, causing Su to fall short on the steps. With the guards distracted, Maladie kicks the lever and hangs herself. Mundi then realizes that Maladie didn't want to escape but an audience for her to kill. He orders Penance to flee, but she instead inquires about the power lines beneath their feet and notices the metal barricades and the onlookers clinging to them. Just then, the Colonel turns on the power and effectively electrocutes those in contact with the metal barricade.
Nimble screams from the roof for George not to touch the lever.
Penance follows the power lines into a tent, where she finds the Colonel at the control. He throws the electrical control box to the ground and flees. Penance attempts to turn it off but is electrocuted herself.
Hugo is caught up in the panic and knocks headfirst into a steel banister. He then attempts to climb back up on the porch, where Lord Massen holds him at gunpoint before helping him over the railing.
Désirée and Harriet flee out the way they came, but Harriet gets trapped inside after Désirée makes it through as the door is too heavy to budge on her own. Before long, Harriet is joined by a couple with a baby. She crystallizes the entire door with a blow of her breath. The running crowd then rush towards the glass door, breaking through and trampling over Harriet. Effie appears and pulls Harriet to safety.
As the Beggar King observes, his men wrap pink hags on their hands and light a couple of bonfires, chanting: "No more Touched."
Mundi stands next to Maladie's hanging body as her right shoe falls off. He discovers that she is missing all of her toes except for the big toe.
Penance and the others return to the Orphanage. On their way back inside, George throws his jacket back into the wagon, inadvertently pulling the lever and releasing Penance's invention. They return to find out that Amalia's mission was as unsuccessful as their own.
Mundi returns to his office holding the file of Clara Stowe. He recalls Maladie strangling the Superintendent and their chase into an alleyway. Mundi realizes that the Maladie he apprehended was a decoy. He thinks back to Effie's interest in his unknown tunnel victim, who also had inky fingers. He takes the victim's file and, in place of "unknown" for her name, he writes: "Effie Boyle."
Maladie makes her way to the street, where riots have broken out. She throws away the glasses, fake teeth, breast padding, facial prosthetic, and blond wig. She laughs as she continues to walk away.
- Laura Donnelly as Amalia True
- Ann Skelly as Penance Adair
- Olivia Williams as Lavinia Bidlow
- James Norton as Hugo Swann
- Tom Riley as Augustus Bidlow
- Pip Torrens as Gilbert Massen
- Denis O'Hare as Edmund Hague
- Rochelle Neil as Annie Carbey
- Amy Manson as Maladie
- Zackary Momoh as Horatio Cousens
- Nick Frost as Declan Orrun
- Ella Smith as Désirée Blodgett
- Kiran Sonia Sawar as Harriet Kaur
- Anna Devlin as Primrose Chattoway
- Viola Prettejohn as Myrtle Haplisch
- Vinnie Heaven as Nimble Jack
- Ben Chaplin as Frank Mundi
- Domenique Fragale as Beth Cassini
- Martyn Ford as Nicolas "Odium" Perbal
- Mark Benton as The Colonel
- Sylvie Briggs as Clara
- Pui Fan Lee as Su Ping Lim
- Lola Dubus as Dominique
- Matt Emery as Detective Birch
- Brett Curtis as George
- Andrew Havill as Douglas Broome
- Nicholas Farrell as Prince Albrecht
- Tim Steed as Lord Allaven-Tyne
- Rupert Vansittart as Lord Broughton
- Timothy Bentinck as General Pecking
- George Dawson as Hague's Assistant
- Paul Bentley as Judge
- Heather Coombs as Anxious Mother
- Sam Lathem as Mean Cop
- Benny Ainsworth as Police Clerk
- Brett Allen as Tent Cop
- Grahame Fox as Crabby Cop
- Joe Reisig as Scarred Begger King Guard
- Bill Hurst as Male Diner
- Amanda Holt as Female Diner
- Frances Wilding as Hanging Watcher 1
- Simon Balcon as Hanging Watcher 2
- Jack Gouldbourne as Hanging Watcher 3
- Victoria Howell as Hanging Watcher 4
- Paul Hamilton as Hanging Watcher 5
- Zain Hussain as Aneel
- Anastasia Zabarchuk as Galanthi Digger
- Marcus Garvey as Gordy (Reporter)
- Jay Simpson as Tunnel Foreman
- Clara's hanging scene is similar to reports on Lavinia Fisher (1793–1820). Both she and her husband, Charles, were convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to death by hanging in 1820. At her execution, she yelled, "If any of you have a message for the devil, tell me now, for I shall be seeing him shortly," then jumped to her death before the sentence could be carried out.
- In its original American broadcast, the episode was seen by an estimated 570 thousand household viewers, receiving a Nielsen rating of 0.09 among adults aged 18–49. Both rates improved over the previous episode.
- Prince Albrecht describes society turning savage as descending into "ancestral apes," in reference to Charles Darwin's theory of biological evolution published in his book On the Origin of Species (1859).
- Amalia refers to Penance's spectral-acle invention as an x-ray, the electromagnetic radiation discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen.
- Clara sings "Unmindful of the Roses," a song first published in 1884, composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor over a poem by Christina Rossetti.
- A guard cries to Désirée about his father destroying his brushes of the fine art products brand Winsor & Newton created in 1832.
Behind the scenes
- "HBO Drama Series THE NEVERS Debuts April 11." WarnerMedia, March 23, 2021.
- Mitch Metcalf, "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 5.9.2021." Showbuzz Daily, May 11, 2021.