HBO’s upcoming sci-fi series The Nevers has finally been forced to follow in the footsteps of so many of us tonight, taking a deep breath, acknowledging the good times we had, and then cutting Joss Whedon the fuck on out of our lives. This is per THR, which reports that the HBO show has “parted ways” with its high-profile creator, who had previously pitched the series as his big return to TV for the first time since Dollhouse went off the air back in 2010.
It’s been a minute—or, more specifically, 673,920 minutes—since we last heard from The Nevers, which stars Laura Donnelly and Dollhouse’s Olivia Williams as members of a Victorian England women’s gang that sounds a whole lot like the X-Men, mysterious “Touched” powers and all. The series reportedly began filming back in July 2019, although details about its shooting have been pretty quiet ever since, a situation not helped by the global pandemic. It’s not clear at this point how much of the show has been shot under Whedon’s watch, although the THR report (and Whedon’s statement, below) definitely makes it sound like the thing isn’t even remotely close to done.
Meanwhile, the circumstances of Whedon’s departure—as showrunner, writer, director, and producer, apparently—are still a little unclear. The terseness of HBO’s statement feels telling—”We have parted ways with Joss Whedon. We remain excited about the future of The Nevers and look forward to its premiere in the summer of 2021"—while Whedon himself gave a much longer answer, citing, basically, exhaustion:
This year of unprecedented challenges has impacted my life and perspective in ways I could never have imagined, and while developing and producing The Nevers has been a joyful experience, I realize that the level of commitment required moving forward, combined with the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic, is more than I can handle without the work beginning to suffer. I am genuinely exhausted, and am stepping back to martial my energy towards my own life, which is also at the brink of exciting change. I am deeply proud of the work we have done; I’m grateful to all my extraordinary cast and collaborators, and to HBO for the opportunity to shape yet another strange world. The Nevers is a true labor of love, but after two plus years of labor, love is about all I have to offer. It will never fade.
All of this has to be processed in light of the public decay of Whedon’s reputation in recent years, a somewhat remarkable descent for a guy who was once both a TV darling, and the director of some of the most successful superhero movies of all time. Among other things, Whedon is currently at the heart of the controversy that continues to surround 2018's Justice League, with original director Zack Snyder expressing outright contempt for Whedon’s film, and cast member Ray Fisher calling his behavior “abusive” on set. Whedon has been quiet through it all—speaking up only to refute Fisher’s allegation that he’d had an actor’s skin tone digitally altered for the film—but the Snyder Cut’s high-profile development at HBO Max can’t help but color his exit from another major HBO project.