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Note: This article is about the episode. For the group, see Touched.

"Touched" is the debut episode of season 1 of The Nevers television series. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, it premiered on April 11, 2021 on HBO and HBO Max.

Synopsis

Series premiere. London, 1899. Three years after an inexplicable event suddenly equips them with extraordinary abilities, Amalia True and Penance Adair work to protect their kind from widespread, deepening antipathy. Meanwhile, police inspector Frank Mundi investigates a string of murders at the hands of a reportedly Touched and highly dangerous serial killer named Maladie.[1]

Plot

Three years ago, August 3, 1896, the residents of London are startled by a strange noise passing above. Meanwhile, Amalia makes her way down a secluded alleyway and jumps off a cobblestone path into the Thames river.

Present day, Amalia awakens on the floor of St. Romaulda's Orphanage and prepares for the day ahead. Elsewhere, Penance follows suit after spending the earlier hours of her morning blacksmithing. The two convene in the courtyard and head out in a carriage to the Haplisch residence, where they had received word about a young girl who has potentially been Touched. Myrtle Haplisch's parents suspect a Satanic element. As they talk, Amalia finds herself lying on the ground with three young children, a boy and two girls, hovering over her in a brief vision. Amalia and Penance proceed to introduce themselves to Myrtle, who, while unable to speak English, can comprehend it. However, she appears fluent in Chinese, Russian, and Turkish. Mrs. Haplisch then suspects that she may have learned Chinese from the acrobats in the park.

Amalia hears a thud and rushes upstairs to Myrtle, ordering Penance to keep the Haplischs downstairs. She enters Myrtle's room to find two men taking her. One of Myrtle's attackers turns his attention to Amalia, shoving her into the other room. As foretold in her vision, Amalia lies on the ground with a boy and two girls hovering over her. Penance rushes upstairs, and Amalia jumps to her feet. She re-enters the room and combats Myrtle's would-be abductors, tossing one of the attackers out of the window. Amalia then fights with the remaining man. Penance blinds him with her shiner, a tiny explosive device, and Amalia binds his hands before tackling him out the window.

Outside on ground level, she finds a group of masked men taking Myrtle. Amalia fends them off with her electroshock umbrella long enough for Penance to pull the carriage around, though she is wounded in the fight. Now it's a chase, with one of the masked attackers climbing onto the carrier. Amalia commands Penance to initiate her auto-carriage prototype, which allows them to escape. Amalia has a brief glimpse of being at the opera house, so she plans to go there.

A council meeting is underway, during which they discuss Maladie, who has already claimed five victims. Moving forward, they discuss the Touched and their placement in society. Lord Broughton points out that there are hundreds of those with unique, inexplicable afflictions, and Lavinia Bidlow has made a cause of them. Lord Allaven-Tyne argues that they need to take a stand, but Prince Albrecht writes them off simply as biological anomalies caused by electricity. Lord Massen informs the council that the Prime Minister will not be taking a position on the Touched. Nor will he allow any official debate on the subject until they understand the nature of the attack. He recalls three years ago when reports on the Touched first emerged; all in London, mostly female, and not a single man of stature was afflicted, leading him to suspect that the Touched were afflicted with these abilities to be used against the empire.

Detective Mundi is called down into the underground tunnels to investigate the death of an unidentifiable woman. Her corpse has marks of stabbing and rat bites. There's a message written in blood on a nearby wall: "Behol my works for I am the Angle of Death." However, Detective Mundi doesn't believe the message is Maladie's work, reasoning that she can spell correctly. He asks the foreman who moved the body, claiming that someone wrote the message in hopes of framing Maladie for the murder. Mundie orders for every worker to be checked for blood on their nails and clothes. He then grabs the foreman and demands to know how exactly he altered the crime scene.

In the Orphanage, Harriet and Aneel bring back the remains of Penance and Amalia's carriage. Lucy tells Primrose about their deployment of the auto-carriage, but she responds indifferently, explaining that her mom told her that motor cars are common and a blight. Lucy makes an unwarranted remark about Primrose's absentee mother, so Primrose replies that Lucy wouldn't know anything about being a mother. Amalia and Penance return to the orphanage with Myrtle. Dr. Horatio Cousens greets them and inquires about their journey. Amalia displays her wound and tells Lucy to fetch her a pen and paper to write to Ms. Bidlow about the latest attack. Penance introduces Myrtle to Primrose, who is not only impossibly tall but eager to make friends with someone of her age. She asks that Primrose take Myrtle to get a cup of tea. Meanwhile, Harriet and Aneel take a seat inside the auto-carriage and agree they should get married inside it.

Amalia and Penance share their encounter with the masked attackers with Horatio, Lucy, and Harriet. Amalia suspects that the masked men have been tracking the Touched for some time, which would explain all that of the Touched girls who allegedly "just ran away." That said, they'll be bolstering their security moving forward to protect the Touched in their care. Lucy has been teaching some of the girls to defend themselves. Amalia would like for her to extend this to everyone — to show the girls how to protect themselves without using their turns. Lastly, Amalia wants to send word to the Beggar King for a meet up, who they pay for protection as well as knowledge of potential candidates. Amalia needs to confirm whether or not he's sharing this information elsewhere.

Hugo awakens in bed with a man to his right and a woman to his left. Drugged, he meets with Augustus, who has taken a notice of the crows outside of Hugo's home: they are unhappy and massing nearby. More importantly, he's come to talk about his sister and her charity regarding the Touched and the orphanage. Augustus shares with Hugo how Lavinia just got word that a young Touched girl was attacked but is currently safe. And now, Lavinia is bringing Amalia and Penance to the opera. Hugo asks if they're hideous and advises Augustus to flirt with the "ugly one" to create an unexpected balance. Augustus is hoping that Hugo will agree to attend the opera as well, to coach him through the evening. Hugo initially turns Augustus down as he has a meeting with the Minister of Finance about the Ferryman's Club next Midnight Carouse. However, he reluctantly agrees under the conditions that Augustus attend the Ferryman's. After Augustus leaves, Hugo watches him from the window above as he interacts with the crows. The maid joins him, and Hugo says that Augustus is above reproach and beneath contempt.

Horatio heals Amalia's wound using his turn. She tells him that with a gift like his, he should be a royal physician, not patching up gangsters and freaks. However, Horatio's turn has branded him a voodoo witch doctor in the eyes of many. Myrtle interrupts with a dress and invitation to the opera from Lavinia Bidlow.

That evening, Amalia and Penance leave the orphanage headed for the opera house. They come to a sudden stop and, within moments, they're joined inside their carriage by Declan Orrun, the Beggar King. He introduces them to his new henchman, Odium, a large and smelly man by the window. Declan tells Amalia that there are channels they must go through to contact him. She tells him about the attack on Myrtle Haplisch and her suspicion that the masked attackers have been tracking the Touched for some time. They're a danger to the Touched and to anyone known to be connected to them, which Amalia has made sure Declan was known far and wide to be, forcing him to help them.

Amalia questions if Declan sold Myrtle's information to anyone else. He replies that nothing is exclusive except his marriage. For a price of his choosing, Amalia needs the name of whoever is hunting the Touched and why. They offer him an automated motor-carriage as a gift for today and payment if he helps them. Leaving the carriage, Declan pulls a blade from his pocket and threatens to kill Amalia should she not uphold her end of the bargain. She tells him this isn't her face, which bewilders him as they leave. One of his henchmen laughs at it, so the Beggar King demands that he spreads his fingers wide.

Amalia and Penance arrive at the opera house. Inside the theater, Lavinia, Augustus, Dr. Beldon, Mrs. Beldon, Hugo, and Lord Massen discusses ancient prejudices and the specificity of modern language, such as the differentiation between "the employed" and the French "employee." Amalia and Penance join them and the topic shifts to their "afflictions," a term that Amalia doesn't acknowledge as being true to the Touched. While some women are more fortunate in the nature of their ailments than others, Amalia believes that more suffer from society's perception than their own debilitation. Augustus loudly asks "what's wrong" with the two ladies. Amalia explains that Penance is an inventor, able to see potential energy and where it wants to go, move, or settle, allowing her to put things together, whereas Amalia sees glimpses of the future.

During the opera, the crowd shrieks at the sudden arrival of Maladie, who makes her presence known when she slits the throat of an actor dressed as the Devil. She is accompanied by Bonfire and Winemar Kroos. Maladie tells one of the actresses it's not her fault, but the doctor's. Amalia has a brief vision of Maladie climbing the balcony to attack her. Maladie then announces that she has come to kill an angel witch, but, the closer she came, the more she felt she was there for a reason. She claims to have seen God, who put his wreath on her, whereas they turned their back on Him. She adds that he sings, but she can't make the sound out, though she can feel his presence. Maladie's henchman fires into the crowd, shooting, among others, Dr. and Mrs. Beldon, causing the audience to scatter.

As Bonfire creates a fireball, one of the stage performers, Mary, begins to sing. Her voice garners the attention of Maladie and several others, including Amalia, Penance, and Augustus. Maladie covers the singer's mouth and scurries out the back with Mary and Bonfire. Amalia jumps down onto the stage and disarms the henchman before following Maladie and Bonfire backstage, where they cross paths with Hugo and Katie. Amalia jumps down several flights of stairs and confronts Maladie. A fight ensues and Maladie's eyes begin to glow orange. She delivers blow after blow to Amalia, but Maladie and Bonfire flee with Mary when the police arrive.

Detective Mundie interviews Hugo about the attack on the theater. Hugo reveals that the girl abducted is someone they both know. The two begin to discuss their nefarious business dealings, though Inspector Mundie doesn't profit from their exchange. Hugo says that, once he has enough girls and a certain investor becomes interested, the Ferryman's Club will become not just a profitable business but a phenomenon.

Dr. Hague complains to one of the masked men who was tasked with bringing Myrtle to him. He declares that every subject gets him closer to finding exactly where they're Touched. Unable to do so today, Dr. Hague inserts a drill inside the man's wounded skull, who screams in pain.

Penance follows the sound of commotion down an alleyway to Amalia, who was fighting two drunk men. She tells Penance that she lost the girl to Maladie, but she suspects that Maladie won't kill Mary, at least not immediately. Penance recalls the feeling she had when Mary sang. It reached into her and everyone that's Touched, confirming that they belong. Should they find Mary and get her to sing, the others will come to them, Penance assures Amalia.

Three years ago, on August 3, 1896, a crystalline object emerges from the clouds and emits a bright-colored exhaust. It falls over many people, including Amalia, Penance, Horatio, Maladie, Mary, Augustus, and a young girl with Lord Massen. With the exception of Maladie, all witnesses forget what happened as soon as the object disappears. Amalia opens her eyes and pulls herself up from the river in which she had just thrown herself and lays on the ground.

Cast

Main cast

Supporting cast

Uncredited

Production

  • The scene with the Beggar King was filmed at the Trinity Church Square[2] and the interior of the opera took place in the New Wimbledon Theatre.[3] It was reported that the episode was filmed as well in the Chatham Historic Dockyard.[4]
  • A cockatoo was reported as stolen while filming the episode, in Holiday Inn Rochester.[5]
  • The episode filming was wrapped up on August 14, 2020.[6]
  • According to Jane Espenson, the light effect from Mary's singing was not meant to symbolize an actual visible light for those in the room, but to represent its feeling instead. Some characters were left off-camera to leave their status as Touched ambiguous.[3]

Broadcast

  • The episode drew over 1.4 million viewers across linear telecasts and digital during its premiere on Sunday night, the best debut for a new original series on HBO Max.[7]
  • In its original American broadcast, the episode was seen by an estimated 548 thousand household viewers, receiving a Nielsen rating of 0.10 among adults aged 18–49.[8]

Music

Original score composed by Mark Isham.

Cultural references

  • The newspaper boy announces that Maladie's murder spree will soon eclipse Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who acted in London in 1888. Like Maladie, the Ripper has five victims confirmed. His attacks typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums, hence Lord Broughton's later commentary that Maladie wasn't just killing whores, but "respectable men."
  • Hugo meets Augie in a room with the paintings The Three Graces (1636–1638) by Peter Paul Rubens and The Lament for Icarus (1898) by Herbert James Draper.
  • Before meeting Amalia and Penance, Augie wonders if one of them is similar to the Elephant Man (1862–1890), who was known for having severe deformities.
  • The Don Florio's Opera Company presents a production of the opera Faust (1859).

Gallery

Promotional

Behind the scenes

Videos

References

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