The Nevers episode 3 recap and ending explained: Steampunk gets steamy

The gloves are off and so are the clothes in the new episode of Joss Whedon's sexy superpowered saga, streaming now on HBO Max.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
5 min read
The Nevers on HBO

Amalia (Laura Donnelly) faces her true nature.

Keith Bernstein/HBO

Episode 3 of The Nevers has only got one thing on its mind. The fantasy series reveals steamy shenanigans and forbidden relationships among the cast of hot-blooded superheroes.

Episode 3, "Ignition," is streaming now on HBO Max. There's a new episode every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max until mid-May, with episode 4 "Undertaking" available Sunday, May 2. Here's our recap of the third episode -- huge spoilers ahoy!

spoiler alert

This being an HBO show, it isn't long before things get explicit. Debauched toff Hugo Swan enjoys "auditioning" the boys and girls who provide erotic entertainment at his decadent Ferryman's Club. Not only that, but Swan previously had a thing with cantankerous copper Frank Mundi... and the grumpy flatfoot was only drunk the first time.

Meanwhile Amalia True admits drinking, fighting and and chasing anonymous men. One conquest she definitely remembers is Dr. Cousens, who apparently broke off an affair with Amalia that still haunts his marriage. Cousens also seems to have figured in Amalia and Maladie's shared past, and when he heals Maladie (played with coquettish relish by Amy Manson) she jibes he's made her a virgin again.

And the bad behavior isn't just confined to the bedroom. After Amalia and Penance stop Bonfire Annie from taking over the Beggar King's dockside operation, an incinerated cartload of opium sees Penance high as a kite. It was an accident, but a happy one -- and Amalia soon joins in, taking a lungful of opium smoke.

One person who rejects the pleasure of the flesh is Lord Mallen, who refuses to replace his wife. There are gravestones for both his wife and daughter -- who was revealed to be among the Touched in episode 1's final moments -- but if they are dead, then who or what is shambling around in the basement?

What is real?

Amalia and friends reside in St. Romaulda's Orphanage, but there is no saint with that name. Dickers Wharf is not a real place, and nor is Candlemas Park. There isn't a Dun Cow pub in London either, although it's a fairly common name for hostelries around Britain: The Dun Cow in Shrewsbury, built in 1085, is one of the oldest pubs in the UK.

The name is perhaps more likely a reference to an 1893 music hall song called "When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire" in which drinkers comically take advantage of their local pub burning down. Bulstrode Street is real, although it could also refer to wealthy hypocrite Mr. Bulstrode from George Eliot's 1871 novel Middlemarch.

Unlike the 40 Elephants gang mentioned in episode 2, the Top Hat Lads don't appear to have been a real criminal enterprise.

The Nevers on HBO

Penance and Amalia get high.

Keith Bernstein/HBO

He's not the messiah 

The Touched may be touched by the divine. Certainly at least two of the superpowers in episode 3 are rather Jesus-like. The prisoner from Linker's Lane describes how her daughter turned wine into water, and was "the opposite of Jesus." Then the Beggar King's henchman Mr. Odium walks on water. He's also the opposite of Jesus, using his ability for brutal violence. Amalia once again takes this spectacular lake battle as an opportunity to shed her clothes before turning the tables on the overfed angler.

Mr. Odium's attack shows that after their argument in episode 1 and the intrusion upon his drug business in this installment, it seems the Beggar King has lost his patience with Amalia.

The hulking and water-averse Nicholas "Odium" Perbal is played by Martyn Ford, a British bodybuilder who towers 6 feet, 8 inches high and weighs over 300 pounds. He tussled with Dave Bautista in Final Score and will next be seen in Fast and Furious 9 (aka F9).

Much more Touched

As well as Odium, the Touched introduced this week include twins who feel it when the other is subjected to Swan's delicate touch. A crowd of superpowered sisters arrive at the orphanage, but many other women were not so lucky. Amalia thoughtfully turns page after page of a book filled with women who have presumably been subjected to terrible abuse.

Episode 3 ending explained

Mary doubts whether she can trust Amalia and wonders if she should bring more people like them to the orphanage. But by the end of the episode, Mary has seen the alternative and realizes that Hague and the Linker's Lane crew are far worse. She finds her voice and sings into Penance's amplifier, sending her ethereal tones wafting across London so the Touched -- and only the Touched -- hear her siren song. The sound fills those who hear it with hope and the promise of a better world, but the real world shockingly intrudes. Mary is gunned down by the spinning machine gun seen at the opera in episode 1. Fortunately, her song brings a number of members of the Touched to the orphanage.

Observations and Easter eggs

  • Mundi calls Swan a "Panto Moriarty," referring to the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. You'd never know it from the many movies and TV shows featuring the great detective, but Moriarty only actually appeared in two of Arthur Conan Doyle's original Holmes stories. Meanwhile "Panto" is short for pantomime, a form of riotously silly musical theater enjoyed by British children and families every Christmas. 
  • Mary sings The Band Played On, an 1895 song about a wild party involving a strawberry blonde. It's also the title of a commanding book about the genesis of the HIV and AIDS crisis. The show depicts a marginalized community facing fear and prejudice, evoking just such real-life tragedies.  
  • Penance uses her affinity for technology -- with some opium-enhanced imagination -- to build a sound system that broadcasts only to the Touched. Amalia jokes that she's invented the amplifier, which is an odd way to put it when the first audio amplifier wasn't built until a few years later, in 1906, by a chap named Lee De Forest.
  • The Beggar King brands the men he likes and slices open the ones he doesn't. You have to wonder why anyone would work for him.
  • Lucy and Amalia set out on a "Proper lady's outing" to Linker's Lane where the lilac armbands lurk. They encounter the creepy masked figures -- but under the mask is even worse!
  • The boss of the masked men in Linker's Lane is a tall well-spoken man in a fur coat. Who could it be?

New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

See all photos