The Innocents premieres August 24th on Netflix.
By John Baker
Youngsters Harry and June would seem to be the ideal young adult love story – both come from home lives that are dragging them down and yearn to be free. Together, they concoct a plan to run away together and start the rest of their lives away from everything and everyone that’s been dragging them down.
So while the escape is successful, the trip to youthful self-discovery is paved with plenty of unexpected twists. The new Netflix offering, “The Innocents,” will be ready for viewing on Aug. 17 and screams “binge-watch me” quickly.
This isn’t just a young adult series that delves into the raging hormones and scattered emotions of young people. “The Innocents” delivers quite the exciting twist when it turns out that June is – wait for it – a shape-shifter.
That’s right, this voyage is also a sci-fi nugget that’s got plenty of “ah ha” moments. As it turns out, June’s “father” knows what’s up with his “daughter” and there are forces out there that want to somehow find and use her unique abilities.
There’s a wonderful element of surprise and even creepiness “The Innocents” brings to the screen, something that works extremely well via the work of Percelle Ascott (Harry) and Sorcha Groundsell (June). Once the cat is out of the shape-shifting bag, their relationship comes under plenty of stress and turmoil as each tries to come to grips with June’s abilities and how that fits in his and her overall lives. Not exactly that kind of storybook romance either envisioned when they ran away, but then again, they hadn’t planned on being chased across Scotland by any number of entities.
June’s initial transformation is a bit disorienting as she shape-shifts into the form of a man who had been hunting her. However, as the series moves along, you get used to seeing her unique talent unlocked even when the shock instinct is engaged.
But wait, there’s more! You’ve got a shadowy professor who claims to be able to cure June and reunite her with a mother that ran off some years before, as well as a revelation that June is not alone in the shape-shifting realm.
Plenty is going on here besides two star-crossed youngsters trying to get away from it all. And that’s what turns this work into something a little special.
“The Innocents” offers a thoughtful look at love and relationships through unique trials and tribulations that two young lovers never thought they’d experience. It’s also a look at self-image and some of the things that go into that tough task we like to call self-discovery.
Guy Pearce does a marvelous job as the mysterious Dr. Halvorson. He’s dedicated his life to studying the condition that’s afflicting June, and her mother before her (as well as the others). He’s scary in a semi-caring sort of way – providing that scientific focus that sometimes seems like to lack caring or empathy. In the end, he’s somewhere in the middle, and that makes him more than a little interesting as he brings his influence more and more into the series. There’s also stellar work by Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Laura Brin, Sam Hazeldine and others who bring such a unique show to life for Netflix. It’s complex, exciting and highly entertaining work by all involved. Initially, you wonder about the premise, but it doesn’t take long before you just want more.
Truthfully, watching June and Harry manage their relationship as they come to grips with what June has become is a fascinating little journey all its own. Add in those folks trying to get (protect) June for their own personal or scientific reasons, and the story offers plenty to enjoy episode by episode.
“The Innocents” is a much-appreciated detour on the path of sci-fi entertainment and a show that should grab a passionate fandom fairly quickly.
I give The Innocents a B+.