The Start Of Us
Keep Calm, Come To No Harm
Bubblegum & Bleach
Not The Only Freak in Town
Will You Take Me Too?
There’s no denying that The Innocents has a really good concept at its core – shape-shifters in a bleak, near-future world – buts its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Between questionable sound editing, lacklustre characterisation and an uneven pacing, The Innocents has its fair share of problems. Having said all that, this will almost certainly be a hit with young adults whom the show is tailored for and The Innocents manages to do just enough with its plot to make it an enjoyable watch, flaws and all.
The story begins intriguingly enough with a strange Norwegian man being interrogated in a dank, underground bunker. Within minutes, the man suddenly, and violently, shape-shifts into a woman, setting the tone and mood for what’s to come. After this brief prologue we shift to our main protagonist June (Sorcha Groundsell) who we follow for the duration of the show’s 8 episodes.. Imprisoned by her father in her own house, June finds refuge at school in fellow student Harry (Percelle Ascott) and together they decide to skip town and ride into the sunset together. Everything seems to be going according to plan until they’re chased by a mysterious man who June shape-shifts into. From here the series devolves into a game of cat and mouse as the teens find themselves on the run whilst struggling to deal with June’s unpredictable shape-shifting power. Alongside this story, the series skips back to Norway to reveal more about the strange community we got glimpses of during the series’ opening scenes. All of this back-and-forth inevitably builds toward the two storylines converging at the end only to close the final credits on a somewhat annoying cliffhanger ready for a second season that may or may not be green-lit.
The main problem with The Innocents, aside from its questionable dialogue choices and characterisation, stems from its sporadically uneven pacing. There are moments where the plot moves along at breathtaking speed only to suddenly grind to a halt 10 minutes later. Most of the issues occur with the incessant need to tie both the Norwegian and English storylines together which ultimately offsets the pacing. The scenes in Norway just aren’t that engrossing and the characters fail to garner any sort of meaningful emotion, positive or negative, making these scenes largely mundane until late on in the series. For a show tailored toward young adults it’s surprising that the pace is so slow here and while it may work for technically impressive shows like Sharp Objects while you admire the craftsmanship, it’s difficult to have the same level of patience for The Innocents.
Despite its cliched idea of teens-against-the-world, The Innocents does feel original in its execution and a lot of this is thanks to its unique take on the shape-shifting trope. There are a few stand-out moments here including Harry’s inability to kiss June as a middle aged woman she’s shape-shifted into and June’s torn devotion to her mother and runaway love. It’s little moments like this that really help flesh the characters out and it’s a bit of a shame that the show doesn’t explore these golden bites of personality more. The juxtaposition between June’s own insecurities and her shape-shifts really help accentuate feelings of isolation and it’s here that the show is at its strongest. It’s a shame too as these fleeting moments are overshadowed by largely mundane and formulaic plot developments that stop this characterisation in its tracks.
The Innocents also suffers from some questionable sound design too. With the series played out to a backdrop of a bleak dystopian future, blaring pop anthems like Strangers by Sigrid and other vocal-heavy tracks really take you out of the moment. Most episodes feature at least 3 or 4 tracks throughout the 50 minute run time and while some are well placed and accentuate the emotional weight on screen, other times they’re completely discordant with the action and feel sloppily implemented.
With such an interesting concept and unique spin on an otherwise formulaic idea, The Innocents really fails to live up to its premise. While the show is still enjoyable to watch and has its own handful of memorable moments, there are just too many issues with the series to ignore. From the questionable music choices in the episodes to the uneven pacing, The Innocents is a show that could and should be great but the end product is something that’s certainly watchable but lacking the cutting edge needed to make it a shining Netflix Original.
Verdict - 6/10