There is a moment during The Innocent – about ten minutes, give or take – where everything makes sense. ‘This is a well-acted, prestige drama about a man trying to rebuild his life after a traumatic event’, you think. That moment ends. Everything thereafter is pure chaos.
This – a Spanish language adaptation of Harlan Coban’s 2005 crime novel – is TV for troubled times. There is no slow burn. No inertia. It is a story designed for modern day attention spans. Twists – and there are more twists here than on a 1950s dancefloor – aren’t sequenced at the end of episodes, as your TV viewing will have trained you to expect. They come thick and they come fast. Whether you binge The Innocent will depend upon how much mayhem you can withstand.
Set in Barcelona and Marbella, as opposed to the novel’s original locale of New Jersey, Coben’s thriller miniseries follows Mateo, a white-collar con man played with gravitas by Mario Casas – a solid, imposing actor. Sadly, his Mateo is the show’s least dynamic character, but that actually suits the show. He provides the strong foundations upon which the madhouse is built – preventing the unbelievable plot from ever feeling too ridiculous.
Elsewhere, it is The Innocent’s women that steal the show. If Mateo is the ballast, it’s his wife – the beguiling and bespectacled Olivia (Aura Garrido) – that fills the show’s sails, plotting a course through eight lengthy episodes. Alongside her is the brilliant but bruised by life Detective Lorena (Alexandra Jiménez), probably the best crime drama creation since The Killing’s Sarah Lund or The Bridge‘s Saga Norén.
Directed by Oriol Paulo, The Innocent is the fourth of Coben’s books to be adapted by Netflix (in 2018, the streaming platform signed a multi-million deal with the author to rework his bibliography – Safe, The Stranger and The Woods have all preceded, with Stay Close to follow next year). This is a show that won’t be for everyone. It’s often darker than night, often extremely gruesome, and there will be those who find the dizzying pace of the thing muddled and unenjoyable.
And yet, there is so much imagination on display here; so many ideas; so many cleverly nuanced characters; so many right turns when you’re expecting left ones, that it’s unquestionable that The Innocent will find an audience – most likely a big one. Our advice to you? Strap yourself in. Engage with it as fully as you can – and enjoy The Innocent’s wild, wild ride.
‘The Innocent’ is streaming now on Netflix