The Innocents season 1, episode 1 premiere recap: ‘The Start of Us’


With The Innocents, Netflix finds itself in swoony supernatural teen romance territory.

Created by Hania Elkington and Simon Duric, the 8-episode first season of The Innocents stars Sorcha Groundswell as June and Percelle Ascott as  Harry, a teen couple who go on the run together only to discover she has a special ability she doesn’t understand. The best-known member of the cast, Guy Pearce (Memento, Iron Man 3), is relegated to an island in Norway where he runs a facility for people with June’s ability.

When the first episode of the series begins, Pearce is one of the first people we see. His character, Ben Halvorson is chasing another man through treacherous (but beautiful) territory. When the other man reaches the edge of a cliff, he stops.

He flashes back to quick scenes of suffering and medical equipment. He has a decision to make: go back with the other man or jump. As he prepares to jump, Halvorson tackles him in the nick of time.

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Back at the facility, a place called Sanctum, Halvorson questions the man from a desk on one side of a glass window. Beside him, another man who looks exactly like the one on the other side of the glass is sitting unconscious.

Halvorson and the man on the other side of the glass converse, referencing things they know but the audience doesn’t. Then we see the man reflected in a mirror. His reflection isn’t of a man at all but of a blonde woman.

The man begins to twitch and transforms into the woman in the mirror. Meanwhile, as the woman becomes herself again, the unconscious man whose looks she had taken regains consciousness.

Halvorson promises the woman, Runa, he’ll do whatever he can (whatever that means).

Then, the scene switches to June’s house. She’s writing a letter confessing her excitement about her plans to run away. She’s looking forward to escaping her controlling father who’s planning to take her away to a Scottish isle.

At breakfast, she pretends to be excited about her father’s plans and obediently takes the pill he gives her.

Outside at Sanctum, one of the women living there, Elena, complains that all they do is work. The facility is isolated from the rest of humanity and they must provide for themselves.

When Elena tells the woman she’s talking to that she barely knows her, Runa interrupts her to tell her they don’t discuss their secrets because their secrets are triggers. When Runa reprimands the other woman for engaging in the conversation with Elena, the woman says Elena told her it’s June’s birthday tomorrow.

Back at June’s house, June brings a breakfast tray to a man in a nearby apartment. He won’t answer the door so she slides a tray into a cubby by the door and leaves with her father.

He drives June to school. Before they get there he unlocks a cell phone and gives it to her. He tells her he knows the rules he’s set for her have been hard, but they can relax when they get to Scotland.

At school, June’s father accompanies her to her locker and stands with her until the bell rings. Then he finally leaves.

June finds a piece of paper with a symbol in her locker. She goes to the library, finds an atlas, and turns to a page where she finds a letter from Harry.  As she reads his letter, Harry buys a car for them.

June’s father meets her after school. She hands him the cell phone and tells him she’s said her good-byes. As they pull out of the school’s parking lot, another man takes photos of them from his car.

At their house, June knocks on the apartment door of Ryan, the man she brought breakfast to earlier. She tries to encourage him to get treatment for his agoraphobia and he tries to encourage her to run away from their father and the isolation he has planned for her in Scotland. Ryan also comments that he’s not really their father.

Ryan gives June a bank card so she can make a go of things with Harry away from there. Back in her room, June, packs.

Later that night, Harry says a tearful goodbye to his incapacitated father. Then, he takes off to meet June.

At June’s place, Ryan triggers an alarm in his apartment to get their father out of the house. June gets out of bed fully clothed and sneaks away.

Harry and June joyfully reunite and take off in the car Harry bought on The Innocents.

At his apartment, Ryan keeps their father distracted with a clogged toilet. But when their father tells Ryan he better be ready to come with them to Scotland, Ryan argues that their father just wants to lock June up because their mother got away. Their father says when they get to the island they’ll all have a talk and they’ll finally understand why he’s doing everything he is.

Meanwhile, as June and Harry drive away, June is thrilled to be experiencing her first taste of freedom. They pull into a parking lot and she gets out of the car. When she leaves, Harry spies the pills in June’s backpack.

When June returns, Harry asks her about the pills as they continue their drive. She says she takes them because she got epilepsy from her mother. But she’s never had a seizure because the pills keep it under control.

Harry tells June that the pills are really just sedatives — he recognizes the label from some pills his mother was on.

However, the conversation is interrupted when Harry rounds the corner and almost hits a broken-down van. Harry gets out to help the van driver and June waits in the car. But when Harry’s cell phone rings, June leaves the car to bring it to him.

As she walks, the man we saw at the beginning of the episode, who’s named Steinar, gets out of the back of the van and confronts June.

Steinar calls her by name and tells her he’s a friend of her mother, Elena. He claims he has a message for June from Elena on his phone in the van. He tells her Elena is in a safe place and asked him to find June. Unsurprisingly, June doesn’t believe him.

Harry doesn’t see Steinar talking to Elena until he closes the van’s hood, but when he sees what’s going on, things become dire. Steinar grabs June and tries to give her a shot as she struggles. The van driver tries to hold Harry off but Harry gets past him and attacks Steinar. After a struggle, Harry bests Steinar and the driver and he and June drive off in their car.

As they race away, June marvels at what happened. June can’t understand how Steinar knew who she was. Harry is bloody and shaken but says nothing. June tells him to turn off into a motel parking lot.

They get a room. Harry believes he murdered Steinar in the altercation and thinks they should call the police. He feels terrible that they just left him on the side of the road. June says they don’t know if Steinar is dead and just wants to go on with their plan. But Harry thinks everything’s changed.

When Harry falls asleep, June leaves the room and walks back to where they left Steinar on the road. She finds his body and checks to see if he’s still breathing. As she does, he wakes up and grabs her hand. She screams.

In the next scene, Steinar walks into a gas station bathroom. He’s shaking as he looks at himself in the mirror. He vomits.

The next morning at Sanctum, Halvorson tries to reach Steinar. Runa overhears him and they discuss what’s happening. Runa apologizes for what she did on the cliff and says she wants to be there and to help June. Even though the chances are small, if June is one of them, she should be at Sanctum where she’ll be safe

At June’s house, her father writes June a birthday card and prepares breakfast, He tries to wake June and finally realizes she’s gone.

At the same time, the van driver who drove off during the altercation with Harry and June returns to the scene of the fight. He finds June’s scarf hanging off a nearby tree. He then follows a trail of June’s clothes to Steinar’s naked, unconscious body.

Meanwhile, Steinar-June returns to the motel and knocks on the door to her and Harry’s room. When Harry opens the door and sees it’s Steinar, he tries to slam it in his face, but Steinar forces himself inside.

Steinar tries to tell Harry he’s June but Harry just thinks he kidnapped her. Harry tries to attack, but Steinar holds him and drags him to a mirror where he sees the reflection in the mirror is June’s.

On The Innocents, June is a shape-shifter, and her abilities are manifesting themselves at the dawn of her 16th birthday.

The Innocents season 1, episode 2 recap. dark. Next

While this first episode is a bit obtuse given people constantly refer to things that happened in the past in vague, unclear ways, it’s still a potentially intriguing foundation for a series. The show includes many of the tropes that come with the genre: a moody atmosphere, oppressive or clueless parents, a lot of pop music, and numerous people who seem to know a lot more about June and what’s happening to her than she does.

Yet, much like a lot of supernatural abilities, shape-shifting is an apt metaphor for the changes one must deal with as a teenager. While it’s not yet clear where the story will go from here, we’re off to a slow but interesting start.

Also, special mention should go to Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson who convincingly played three characters in this episode: Steinar, Runa, and June.

What did you think of the premiere episode of The Innocents? Weigh in below in the comments

Stay tuned for our recap of episode two, coming soon, and stream The Innocents on Netflix.