HBO’s The Nevers killed off Mary Brighton, a seemingly major character early on its run, which is tragic for the series. Set in Victorian England, the sci-fi drama revolves around a group known as The Touched that suddenly begins to demonstrate extraordinary abilities. Introduced midway through the premiere episode, Mary Brighton (Eleanor Tomlinson) is revealed to have a unique power of her own. Her power, or “turn”, manifests in an angelic singing voice that can only be heard by other Touched individuals. Her song temporarily restrains the murderous rampage of Maladie (Amy Manson), although Mary is eventually captured by Maladie.
Upon being rescued by Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), Mary stays with a cohort of the Touched in an orphanage. Her time is brief, mainly used as a respite while Amalia figures out how to use Mary’s turn to gather and unite large numbers of the Touched under one roof. It’s eventually decided that Mary will sing at the park and, with the help of a voice amplifier, call out to every person that possesses a turn. Though the plan looks to be working, it is eventually cut short when Mary is shot repeatedly and killed by one of Maladie’s followers.
Mary’s death is a tragedy in several ways. In one sense, it’s a severe setback for Amalia’s plan to unite the Touched. More damaging in the long run, however, it sends a clear message that no one in the group is safe. This is made explicit in a scene between Amalia and Lord Massen (Pip Torrens) during The Nevers episode 4. Massen refers to Mary as a casualty of war. Massen goes on to explain that if he did, hypothetically, order that Mary be killed, it was for a clear purpose. By killing someone he describes as “pure” and “blameless”, as an inoffensive woman with a benign turn, it sends a message that no one in the orphanage or beyond will be treated with mercy or kindness. It would be no different than murdering Primrose (Anna Devlin) in broad daylight, a 16-year-old girl who just happens to be one of the Touched.
But even setting aside the conversation between Amalia and Massen, it’s plain to see that Mary’s public demise sends a cripplingly cruel message. Whoever ordered that Mary be killed ensured her murder would be witnessed by Myrtle (Viola Prettejohn) and Lucy (Elizabeth Berrington). Earlier in The Nevers, just prior to Mary’s death, these two characters and others are seen smiling and laughing in Mary’s presence as she sings and plays the piano. Despite being abducted by Maladie, and only recently rescued, Mary is upbeat and optimistic. Her demeanor, her mere existence perhaps, provided hope that something better could exist for the Touched.
Like so many of their kind, Lucy is ostracized, and Myrtle is seen as a strange creature by her own family. Mary provided promise that a hopeful future could exist. That future was ultimately distinguished right before their eyes. Amalia witnesses Mary’s death as well, and she takes it particularly hard. She blames herself for pushing Mary to use her turn out in the open, falling back into destructive habits of drinking and picking fights in the aftermath. Although she was only around for three episodes of The Nevers, the series is able to convey the enormity of Mary’s loss. It’s a loss that drives home the fact that nothing will come easy for the Touched.
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