Title card for Netflix's The Innocents.
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The Innocents begins with you asking a whole lot of questions, with just enough intrigue to continue onto the next episode.


Network
Netflix
Creator Simon Duric

Hania Elkington

Director(s) Farren Blackburn
Writer(s) Hania Elkington
Air Date 8/24/2018
Genre(s) Romance, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Good If You Like Sci-Fi Productions Without Any Bells or Whistles

Subtle, Understated, Characters

Young and Innocent Romance

Noted Actors
June Sorcha Groundsell
John Sam Hazeldine
Harry Percelle Ascott
Lewis Philip Wright
Ryan Arthur Hughes
Steinar Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Ben Guy Pearce
Runa Ingunn Beate Øyen
Elena Laura Birn

The Introduction

Somewhere off in the more rural parts of northern England, there is a girl named June. Someone on the cusp of her 16th birthday and who lives under the watchful of her father John. And by watchful, I mean controlling to the point he walks her to her locker at school and only hands her a cell phone, a basic kind which can only make calls, during the day. Yet, she has a plan to change that. With a boy named Harry, who she has mostly known through swapped notes it seems, she plans to run away. Thus leading them both to leave someone dear to them behind.

For Harry, it is his dad, Lewis, who seemingly suffered from a stroke. As for June? It is her brother Ryan, someone who has agoraphobia possibly because one of his arms aren’t like the average person’s. If not because John keeps him a bit trapped. But, supposedly, with him planning to whisk both to Scotland, John was supposed to explain why things were the way they were. However, with June leaving, and Ryan covering for her, that ended up not being possible.

Which for June might be a terrible thing for she runs into Steinar while on the run with Harry. Now, whether Steinar is friend or foe is hard to say. All we know for sure is that a man name Ben works with him, and Ben works with a woman named Runa as well as June’s mother Elena. That, together, live in this isolated place in Norway and seemingly, women like Runa, Elena, now June, are some kind of shapeshifters. Which perhaps is the secret John has been trying to protect June from all this time.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. So do only women become shapeshifters and is it just that family or perhaps a random mutation?
  2. Is John perhaps an old colleague of Ben who disagreed with his methods so he stole the next generation and his her?
  3. Why Did Runa, while in Steinar’s body, try to commit suicide?
  4. Ryan notes that John isn’t their dad, so who is?
  5. Was that June’s body in the woods? When we saw Runa shapeshift, it seems her body wasn’t abandoned so I’m confused. Unless Steinar is a shapeshifter.
  6. Why do we see their true selves in reflections?

Highlights

It Presents Enough To Intrigue You But Not Overwhelm You

Runa, in a mirror image, and Steinar.
(Left to Right) Ingunn Beate Øyen as Runa and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Steinar

Episode 1 is treated as a proper introduction. We aren’t inundated with characters who don’t each have their own personality and something you can remember them by, not a huge amount happens, but we do get enough to be lured in. Who is Ben and what began his isolated farm? Are the women there, like Elena, there by choice or were they kidnapped? Are there more out there? How do their powers work?

Not to forget, considering England and Norway are nowhere near one another, how was June discovered by Steinar, much less was she the one kidnapped? We get a lot of breadcrumbs vs. the usual big nugget item that gets chipped away until we reach the core. Making it where, even for those like me who aren’t the biggest of sci-fi fans, don’t feel we are lost and confused just by the mere introduction of a universe.

On The Fence

Not Necessarily Sold On The Romance Yet

June gripping Harry, as Harry believes June is Steinar, until he sees her reflection.
(Left to Right) Sorcha Groundsell as June and Percelle Ascott as Harry

When it comes to Harry and June, they aren’t that couple you want to see make it till the end just yet. From what it seems, June might not have had the opportunity to barely talk to any boys and probably was seen as a weirdo thanks to her dad. It’s just, despite John, Harry still approached her and that is the foundation to their relationship. He approached her despite the obstacle presented and she is enamored by that.

As for him? Well, considering the lack of Black people we’ve seen, outside of Harry and his mom, I guess someone being kind to him, showing interest, might have been the ticket for him. But, since it seems they rarely, if ever, spoke much in public, they are still in this awkward stage. One which doesn’t make them seem cute but an odd pair. Though, considering what June is going to go through, that will be the test that will either push them to be a cute couple or just a pair who came into each other’s life at the right time. Who may not appear to be the most interesting or awe-inspiring couple but have that enviable attribute that we don’t always see in productions featuring romance: Undying commitment.

The Characters Don’t Hook You As Much As The Sci-Fi/ Mystery Bit

Despite the sci-fi, if not fantasy, elements, everything is rather downplayed. There are no big personalities and while we have Lewis and Ryan who are noteworthy because of their physical forms or the way they act, no character really feels like someone you must hone in on. Any and all interest will come from this shapeshifting thing than Runa, Elena, or June. They are simply the ones who experience it. Your investment will more likely be why them, and how, than caring about each character in particular. At least, in the first episode.

First Impression: Mixed (Stick Around)

June noting she is ready for her life to change.
June (Sorcha Groundsell): I know everything’s about to change. And I’m ready for it.

“That Start of Us” doesn’t blow me away at all. In fact, I’d imagine, if I had to wait week to week to watch The Innocents, and there were better things on? I’d probably only watch the pilot and drop this. For in a world which often tries to begin each story with a roar, it is so rare to find one which begins with a whimper and has things in a dark place. Forcing you to rely on feign curiosity to become invested rather than because you got so overwhelmed that you need them to unpack everything they just dropped on you.

Yet, with all episodes available at once, so leads to this being labeled mixed. Since it is admirable to find a program, especially on Netflix, which isn’t necessarily desperate to hook you fully episode one with big characters or dramatic moments. Instead, it wants to build towards something and asks for your trust as it outreaches its hand to take you on a journey. And while it isn’t clear if they’ll be a payoff, in the long run, it oddly pushes you to give your hand and follow.

Here is hoping this won’t be in vain.

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