Show + tell: top telly

The new su­per­nat­u­ral series The In­no­cents has it all: star-crossed ru­n­away teens and Guy Pearce in a lead role


IT’S THE EVE of June Mcdaniel’s 16th birth­day and her fa­ther is split­ting a pill to pop into her por­ridge. June is se­cretly in love with Harry, with whom she mostly cor­re­sponds by good, old-fash­ioned snail mail. She lives in a farm­house at the back­end of some­where cin­e­mat­i­cally both rue­ful and pic­turesque. Mum’s gone awol. Dad’s a tyrant. Next door, in an out­house that looks like the Nazareth sta­ble Je­sus was born in, she de­liv­ers meals to her dis­abled and se­verely ago­ra­pho­bic brother. To­mor­row, June and Harry will run away from it all. Be­cause they are The In­no­cents.

This warm, weird drama is cut from some of the same cloth that made The End Of The F***ing World an early TV high­light this year. Both owe a debt of stylis­tic grat­i­tude to Skins. To avoid the feel of a soft-ped­dling teen ro­mance, it shows its su­per­nat­u­ral hand early. A trou­ble­some fig­ure called Steiner keeps ap­pear­ing, some­times just in his old white Y-fronts, a screen wardrobe sig­ni­fier for mad­ness ever since Wal­ter White first stepped into his on Break­ing Bad. His ap­pear­ance in­di­cates that June is sur­rounded by more than the tor­por of teenage life. She has the dis­arm­ing abil­ity to turn into other peo­ple.

Cursed with her Kafka-es­que char­ac­ter, this star­tling trav­el­ogue turns into some­thing more mys­ti­cal. The hot-but­ton top­ics of men­tal health and gen­der are wo­ven through a thought­ful, beau­ti­ful script. The In­no­cents is a show about de­sire and lone­li­ness, too; about what we can rely on when cor­po­real fa­mil­iar­ity is stripped from us and rein­vented. Far away, in an inlet locked in a for­bid­ding fjord and alarm­ing Scan­di­na­vian moun­tain range, Mike from Neigh­bours (Guy Pearce) is try­ing to or­gan­ise a work­ing com­mune to sta­bilise the lives of oth­ers suf­fer­ing the same in­con­ve­nience, in­clud­ing June’s miss­ing mother, Elena.

The In­no­cents them­selves, Sor­cha Ground­sell as June and Per­celle As­cott as Harry, are a dis­qui­et­ing joy to watch. Ground­sell has al­ready made a name for her­self in the bril­liant Clique. The In­no­cents should turn her into a star. This is a strange, pleas­ing beast, touched with just the cor­rect spoon­ful of hor­monal im­bal­ance and warped imag­i­na­tion. On Net­flix now


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