The Innocents: Season 1 Review

The Innocents

by Dan Jolin |
Published on

Feeling like a Young Adult The OA with a touch of last year’s time-travel thriller Dark, this UK-produced Netflix Original doubtlessly has ambition. But it fails to live up to the promise of its premise, lacking the visual or narrative flair to compensate for its lack of budget.

The Innocents

Pinging between gloomy England and a mysterious commune in Norway, The Innocents presents a perplexing set-up involving a small group of women who can take the physical form of the last person they touched. Which is acceptable enough as a supernatural concept with potentially interesting psychological ramifications — one which could also work as an apt metaphor for impetuous teenagers trying to discover their true selves. Except somehow these “shifters” always maintain their own reflection, even to the eyes of others (or CCTV cameras) — a physical impossibility too glaringly preposterous to brush aside, and one that remains frustratingly unaddressed.

Despite the efforts of Groundsell and Ascott, we don’t get a sense of what really drives June and Harry.

It’s indicative of the many questions that pile up, whose answers are tiresomely tardy. For far too long we’re left wondering why, on the island sanctuary for these troubled, superpowered women (run by Guy Pearce’s Ben Halvorson), they are forbidden from speaking Norwegian, closing doors, or doing much apart from gardening and having elliptical chats with their obscurely motivated keeper. He’s creepy, but we’re left wondering why 16-year-old “shifter” June (Sorcha Groundsell) is running from this Nordic ‘Sanctum’, especially when her long-missing mother Elena (Laura Birn) is there.

Off the island, the focus is on June’s elopement with her tender, sensitive, uninteresting boyfriend Harry (Percelle Ascott), during which she not only discovers her powers, but also encounters an episodic series of threats to her and Harry’s just-come-of-age innocence. There’s Pearce’s deranged, syringe-wielding stooge Steinar (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) for example, sent to abduct June; a couple of canal-boat-dwelling drug dealers; and a cynical young woman named Kam (Abigail Hardingham), who has a secret of her own — beyond her predilection for corny sex clubs, that is.

Meanwhile, despite the efforts of newcomers Groundsell and Ascott, we don’t get a sense of what really drives June and Harry’s relationship, beyond youthful passion and bland expressions of a desire for “freedom”. And the potential June’s power has for dealing storytelling twists is never fully tapped.

Little about The Innocents rings true. The characters’ motivations flow from little other than plot demands, their world looks flat and drab, the performances are unabsorbing and the set-pieces — from a limp London car-chase to the climactic confrontation — fail to excite. It picks up slightly during its final two episodes, but hardly sufficiently. And you likely won’t make it that far.

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