When we first meet June McDaniel (Sorcha Groundsell) all we know is shes a girl struggling with her fathers’ overprotective nature, a girl struggling to be normal while under the thumb of someone else. What we come to know about June is that the word normal should never be used in the same sentence as her. Her search for freedom comes with danger, unexpected and unbelievable things but most of all an overwhelming sense of feeling lost.
The Innocents is not just June’s story however, this is at its core is a love story because when June decides in the opening episode to run away she doesn’t go alone. Along for the ride is Harry (Percelle Ascott), June’s boyfriend who is also trying to escape his own trapped existence where he is taken for granted and ignored. However when June is attacked by a man who claims to know her mother she shifts into her attackers form. Understandably things get a little complicated.
Now before you stop and say, oh its another supernatural show, we’ve got enough of those already, this is at its core a story about people. While June’s ability makes her different its what connects her to reality that makes her interesting. Be it her connection to Harry or her strive to find meaning in change, these are all things we all go through on our way to understanding ourselves. In a way the show serves as the perfect allegory for the millennial generation.
While you can’t ignore the pacing of the series there are some expertly crafted characters along the way that are all connected by their joint desire for better. The German word Weltschmerz describes it best. The idea that the world you see isn’t quite right, there is something wrong with it that will never live up to your idea of it. June and Harry both see better in their future so despite this feeling of Weltschmerz they hope for more. While both of them latch onto their own idea of better, we too seek out what they really want.
It’s easy to connect with the two but the show never shies away from the darker characters either. While June looks for answers, mysterious doctor Ben Halverson (Guy Pearce) searches for June, a missing piece in his collection of shifters. While it would be easy to describe Ben as having a mysterious darkness about him, creators Hania Elkington and Simon Duric never judge their characters. We all have a little darkness in us, including June.
If anything these people are just doing what they think is right in the moment. Be it June’s father John locking his daughter away to protect against what he doesn’t understand to Ben creating a place to isolate his patients from the outside world and each other. It’s easy to see these characters as wrong then to understand their choices and Duric and Elkington strive to make you understand.
The only problem is that for a show all about connection and finding oneself the show itself gets remarkably lost along the way. The opening episodes seem to meander between heavy handed exposition and young, naive love story. The sense of urgency that comes from June’s first shift is quickly diminished by the directionless nature of the story.
However the show transforms at the halfway point due to the introduction of some new characters and a much needed change of direction. What begins as a chase film transforms, much like June herself, into some other kind of beast, a more emotional one. June’s journey towards understanding brings her into contact with her mother Elena (Laura Birn) which adds a new dynamic to the show.
While the idea of being someone else is an exciting one, The Innocents uses it as yet another analogy for hiding. June might find momentary freedom from being someone else but reality always bites back as we are reminded deep down who we really are. We cannot hide as someone else forever. Ben and Elena might hide from the world but June hides from herself. It’s the moments she embraces that fact that Groundsell embraces and brings out June’s complicated transformation.
Credit however must go to Ascott who grounds Harry and the series in general. His struggle feels relatable thanks to some subtle inflections. It also doesn’t hurt that he and Groundsell seem to be having a great time in the roles. The two are the core of a community if they know it or not and the chemistry between the two brings this odd little family together.
While the series does find itself by the end there is much left unsaid, some intentionally but some not. While it does feel that the story is meant to continue, you might find yourself hoping that if it does, it does so with more direction, which is ironic considering the core theme is finding yourself. While Harry and June might find themselves by the end, other questions leave them on a different journey and thanks to a well built world of complex characters it’s a journey I will be taking with them.