Updated: Sep 26
So, you’ve watched the first half of season one of HBO's The Nevers. You got some answers, but you were left with far more questions than you started with…and hopefully a hunger to learn more.
The one question that comes up A LOT is “what are the Galanthi?” and it is generally followed by “Who are they? What do they want? What are their motives?”
At this point in the series it’s difficult to provide many answers about the Galanthi, due to the limited screen time they’ve been afforded. Though, that’s by design of course. What fun is a mystery if you get all the answers up front? And the Galanthi are clearly the central mystery in The Nevers, being that they’re the literal catalyst for the show.
To provide some possible answers, I’m going to have to jump the timeline, so beware: spoilers ahead!
Focusing first on who and what they are, Episode 6 (‘True’) is where we get the most information about the Galanthi. In that episode, we learn that 20 Galanthi came to earth via portals/spatial anomalies.
Inside the project station, Byner opens a file and we get our first look at the Galanthi in its true form. It appears to be bipedal, with two arms and a tail. As far as facial features, it could be best described as elephant-like, with two trunks, and a bone-like protrusion similar to a unicorn horn, but flattened and elongated. This feature of the Galanthi is unique in that it is not connected to the head by tissue but by energy.
But how do they communicate? Of interest, there’s no sign of a mouth (though of course, it could just not be visible). But it’s mentioned between the ‘empathically enhanced’ Knitter and Stripe that the Galanthi release spores that “…activate parts of the mind needed to comprehend Galanthi language and tech.” Though not expressly stated, I believe that they communicate telepathically, either directly to an ‘empathically enhanced’ individual or through one—this would explain the lack of mouth.
Physiologically, there’s also much more to the Galanthi. They’re able to ‘phase’ their bodies and pass through solid matter.
And they can shape shift! The only example of this provided so far is in episode six, when the Galanthi transforms itself into a ship and propels itself (plus Stripe…and others?) through the atmosphere to the portal in space.
Jumping back to the past…which is the future (gotta’ love time travel: the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache), the Galanthi releases its spores.
Then disappears into a burst of light, only to be found later, underground, in a chrysalis, as it attempts to heal itself.
A very unique creature indeed!
So, what do they want/what are their motives?
There’s very little on screen to truly tell us what the Galanthi’s motivations are, so I’m going to build my thoughts around taking them at their word, that there’s no ulterior motive. They’re simply a benevolent species that arrived on Earth to help us, after we’d killed five billion people and fraked the planet.
But allow me to theorize about the motives of this particular Galanthi.
The plan was always to travel back to the past. After Free Life killed all the other Galanthi and destroyed all the planet-saving projects, it was time for a Hail Mary. That’s why the lab was full of Victorian artefacts and a ‘boatload’ of sim strips.
The scientists, with help from the Galanthi, were going to go back in time to save the future. That’s why there were so many sim strips: they were training simulations so that they could acclimate themselves to where they were going.
This is where the spores come in. The spores are programmable by the Galanthi: when they land on a person, they activate parts of their brain. However, I believe there’s also a mental component; each individuals ‘turn’ mirrors, to some extent, their deepest desires, or regrets, or feelings (weak to strong for example).
Where it gets interesting is in who has been touched. In episode 1, Lord Massen states that there was “…not one man of stature afflicted.” The people who have turns are women, people of colour, the disenfranchised. Old white men of stature and power had their opportunity to run the world, and they clearly screwed the pooch. By giving this other group of people an edge, and an understanding of Galanthi technology, tiny ripples were created in the time line. The Galanthi-induced reboot is the butterfly effect in action, giving power to the powerless and watching the ripple effects it produces. As we continue to move forward those ripples will grow into waves, changing the course of human history and preventing the horrible future we all saw in episode six.
I rarely use bible passages, but ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’ is pretty apt.