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Netflix Debuts an Exciting Thriller with 'The Innocents'
August 24, 2018  | By David Hinckley

If you’re a fan of shape-shifting, don’t miss The Innocents, because June McDaniel offers an interesting variation on that popular pastime.

Won’t describe it any further here. Spoilers, you know.  

The Innocents, an eight-part British-produced series, debuts Friday on Netflix and provides a first-rate showcase for Sorcha Groundsell (top), who plays 16-year-old June.

It’s also true that The Innocents isn’t the kind of supernatural thriller that throws creepy stuff at you so fast you barely have a moment to look over your shoulder wondering whether you remembered to lock the door.

The Innocents takes its time, giving the requisite scenes of false calm and measured setup plenty of room to play out. Perhaps, in some cases, a bit too much room.

The first episode, for instance, makes it clear through several vignettes that June doesn’t come from a family of normal blokes and birds.

Her father, John (Sam Hazeldine, right), seems unusually possessive and protective, for reasons that may or may not have to do with the vaguely mysterious absence of his wife.

Her brother, Ryan (Arthur Hughes), appears to be secured in a barn-like structure on the McDaniel property. While he has a television that naturally seems to have become the center of his rather restricted life, Dad has ordered that he be served his meals with a tray passed through a small opening in the wall, much the way prisoners are fed in solitary confinement.

Under the circumstances, June seems fairly well-adjusted. So well-adjusted that she’s planning to run away with her boyfriend Harry (Percelle Ascott, below, with Groundsell). Let’s be honest; this is a situation where it would be weird not to want to get away, though those of us who are older and on the outside have the luxury of knowing that most teenage elopements end badly.

By the end of the first episode, though, when June’s secret is revealed in a stunning moment, it’s clear that her issues extend beyond her troubling family situation and her seemingly impulsive response.

The reveal shocks Harry as much as the audience and understandably so because he has more at stake.

Harry soon becomes a pivotal character, precisely because he is not part of June’s thing. He’s a near-Everyman caught in a situation for which there is no rulebook, and the fact this doesn’t change his feelings for June grounds both characters.

June doesn’t fall into the isolation that torments so many Marvel characters when they discover they have supernatural powers. While she can’t avoid some of the torment, she has Harry, who is game albeit occasionally puzzled.   

This is not to say that June has enough powers to turn The Innocents into a rom-com. She doesn’t.

The Innocents does, however, deliver character drama as well as the supernatural stuff. Even June’s father gets to explain why he has established his rules, while both June and Harry help family and friends deal with problems that don’t involve supernatural powers.

It takes The Innocents a while to get to where its central story is going. Groundsell, in particular, makes it an engaging ride.

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