[Spoiler warning: The following contains major spoilers for Season 1 of The Innocents! Read at your own risk!]
If you've finished all eight episodes in the first season of The Innocents, which follows teenaged lovebirds June (Sorcha Groundsell) and Harry (Percelle Ascott) after they run away from an overprotective father and a neglectful mother, you probably also have a few questions after that gigantic cliffhanger.
But first, a quick recap: On the first night of June and Harry's journey, they quickly discover that June has the ability to shapeshift into other people. Their roller coaster of an adventure then takes them to London, where they encounter multiple seemingly well-meaning strangers who threaten to tear them apart. Eventually they find themselves in Norway, where June reunites with her shapeshifting mother Elena (Laura Birn) and meets Dr. Halvorson (Guy Pearce), who believes he's established a treatment that could help June suppress her powers. But when Halvorson's motives are revealed to not be as pure as they were presented, Harry and June barely escape his farm with their lives. Unfortunately, their attempt to get away leads to a car crash, and June can only survive if she shifts into Harry. His mother interrupts the shift though, making it a chain and leaving Harry in a catatonic state, just like the father he left back home.
TV Guide talked to series creators Simon Duric and Hania Elkington about the shocking but poetic ending of the first season and what it means going forward. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
I found it interesting these two teenagers spent the entire season trying so hard not to be their parents and then we sort of come to this very poetic cyclical ending. How long did you guys know that's where you wanted to end this season?
Simon Duric: Very, very, very early on.
Hania Elkington: Almost from the very beginning. Certainly from the first time we pitched the show to a production company, we knew what the final scene and the final image would be.
Why was that the most fitting way to go for these two?
Elkington: I think, at the climax of the show, we wanted to combine the most powerful, emotional elements. Then there's powerful of the supernatural and then the shifting. What's the most effecting, most disastrous, most emotional shift that could happen, after everything that they've been through? And what shift represents the greatest sacrifice on Harry's part. How can we really push those two to the metal? And Harry knowing that the only way to save June is to have her shift into him, which is what they've been avoiding doing all series. Of course she doesn't want to and they don't know what will happen.
It's almost like another sexual act, which is them kind of coming together, in that way. It's almost like an existential joining of the two into one, which has beauty about but also danger and his death stems from terrible fallout.
Harry had an aversion to being shifted into long before he found out what happened to his dad. What was behind his fear of June shifting into him from the very beginning?
Elkington: There's a theme in this series about growth and self-knowledge. Si and I often talked about relationships — and how it's not healthy to be two halves of a whole. It's so easy to be subsumed by someone else. To thrive, love needs each party to be themselves, and remain true to themselves. Harry's aversion to June shifting into him is not only natural, it also compromises trust, crosses a line of intimacy where Harry would have no control and would also put June at risk, because Harry is the only one so far who is capable of helping her come out of shift and return to her own body.
Duric: Exactly what Hania says — I think the very best relationships we have with the people in our lives are the ones where our differences are encouraged, and allowed to be expressed.
The romance between them is very much the center of the series. If we move into Season 2, what excites you about exploring June if Harry is technically out of commission?
Elkington: Yeah, in series one we meet June as this seemingly quite meek, shy, unconfident girl and the series is kind of about her starting to get to know who she is. In [Season] 2, we'd love to push that even further and having put this young girl into the spot light and giving her this gift, which she initially sees as a curse.
Duric: Now that she knows what she is, it just feels like it's a really good space for June herself to very, sort of, personally explore her relationship to what she is.
The shifter gene usually skips from generation to generation. But we see it go from mom to daughter twice in the series. Almost around the same time, because Kam and June are around the same age. Is that a coincidence or is it a new trend that you think you might want to explore going forward?
Elkington: Yes, it is a coincidence at this point, but there's also an interesting question. If a shifter born with a shifter has that empathetic level to their power, where if they shift into someone they can see their thoughts and memories, what would a third generation shifter be capable of? Are there shifters who have other aspects to their shifts that we could potentially explore? It's not about building world, in terms of new superpowers with a capital S. There won't suddenly be vampires and werewolves jostling around. In terms of developing the gift, there's certainly interesting places that we could explore.
Was it really Halvorson's plan to replace Runa with June or is that something he made up when he realized he had been caught?
Elkington: This is Halvorson's plan as soon as he realizes that June has the same gift as Freya/Kam. We hope that when people look back across the series they'll see Runa's jealousy and realize that all the while Halvorson was hoping not to start a new family with Elena and June, but save the woman he loves at any cost.
What can you say about what Kam's journey will be now that she's gotten some closure with her mom and Dr. Halvorson?
Elkington: We leave Kam in a very tragic place as well. She's deserted her mother who's losing her mind. She's lost her life partner, abusive as he might've been. She was left wailing on the sidelines. The moment that Kam rows away in that boat is devastating for her. So, I think what she doesn't have yet actually is closure. We are going to realize that the Kam we met in Episode 5 is a construct that she built as a defense mechanism to protect Freya, who is still the young girl that she is inside. We'd like to strip some more layers of Kam and find out, can she reconnect with her mother? Should she forgive her for what happened?
Duric: I think Cam, when she gets off that row boat, wherever she's rowed to, has to ask herself an awful lot of questions about who she actually is because her family says Kam is a construct. She really is Freya. And at the end of the series, well obviously, she realizes it. To some degree she's always going to be a girl and those experiences are always going to be a part of her. So I think she has to vary much to look in the mirror and go who am I now, who do I choose to be? And who do I want to be moving forward? Very much the question that June's asking herself during [Season] 1.
Christine kind of took advantage of Harry before he ran away because she didn't want to deal with Lewis. Do you think she learned to appreciate her son more after he ran away? Did you want her and John's journeys to be parallel in that way (realizing they weren't taking the best care of their kids)?
Duric: John's perception of the world was blown wide open when he discovered the existence of shifters via Elena. And when she left, John did what he thought was best to protect June. But deep down, he knew what he was doing wasn't healthy — for him or June. But the combination of strong feelings of love and fear can be a heady cocktail, that can make us do extreme things.
Elkington: There are many obstacles to being a good parent. With Christine we explore how her pain and devastation about Lewis has kept her in denial about her family life. Harry running away forces her to appreciate her son while also connecting with her husband. She can't hide anymore. So although Harry feels like he's betraying his parents, he ends up helping them. In the same way, John's determination to protect June has led to a stifled and repressive existence for her. He can see this, and he hates it... and yet we can understand that his strict rules come from a place of love rather than, as we might initially suspect, a sinister agenda.
Obviously Lewis was unfaithful in his marriage to Christine, but how much should we read into her vibes with Doug? Was there something more going on between them?
Elkington: There's a definite chemistry between Christine and Doug. A sexual undercurrent that electrifies their professional relationship. However, Christine loved Lewis very deeply. It's been four years of failing to grieve but being unable to carry on as before. And while she's desperate for the comfort that Doug provides willingly, she's in no place to take things any further at this point.
Duric: I think Doug saw that uncrossable boundary too — he and Lewis were friends before Lewis was trapped in his catatonia, and he tried to continue that friendship afterwards. What happened to Lewis haunts them both, since they were the investigating officers of the case, and they carried their failure to fully solve it, together.
Elena seems to have the hardest time with shapeshifting, not that any of them had an easy time with it, but she's the only love trigger we really explore. Would you guys say that love triggers typically have the hardest time? Or is that something that Elena just had a really, really tough time with?
Duric: I would say that probably Elena had a really, really tough time with it because I think people's, sort of relationships have a — what love means can be really, really different. And I think for Elena, the fall out of love being her trigger was quite sort of catastrophic. She carries that guilt around with her. So, I would say that if another shifter potentially had love as a trigger it could be a very, very different experience for them.
Elkington: They also talk about shifting as a fight or flight mechanism. If you have a negative trigger like June such as fear, or, if you have a trigger like anger, then actually there's something about taking on someone else's body in a moment of danger or fear that has a positive development. There's something very tragic about love being your trigger because the moment that you want to connect with somebody in a positive way, and be with them as yourself, is the moment that you lose yourself and potentially harm them.
Finally, do you know what Harry and June's actual plan was when they sped off that ferry, or where they might've been going? Were they sort of flying by the seat of their pants per usual? Duric: I thought they were going to go on a huge European rode trip. That was always my guess.
Elkington: I think that what's quite lovely about Episode 8 is that, even in Episode 1, to be fair, their plan wasn't that well formed. It was enough for them that they were breaking with their families, despite the fact that they had defected life. It was a big thing for them to do that. They had this idea just to get to the city and start a new life and be together and in a way that survived all of these horrors and obstacles as the series. And it's still there enough today. They just want to be together they want to get the hell away from their families and just start again.
There's this kind of innocent, hopeful and, yes, quite naïve love at the center of it in [Season] 1. And it's quite beautiful to know that that [love] survived all of the trauma, even if it then is cut short.
The Innocents is now streaming on Netflix.