Everything. Anything., the season 1 finale, begins much the same way as the season premiere did, with the camera floating across the fjord to give the audience a panoramic view of the beauty and isolation of Sanctum’s setting. As with the premiere, Bendik’s Halvorson’s plans are spiraling out of control and he’s trying desperately to stop the chaos. Sanctum is his kingdom, and he rules it with an iron fist covered by a velvet glove. But even on an isolated island, the past has a way of coming back to haunt you.
Live by the sword, die by the sword, as they say.
The shots of the fjord gradually transition to a montage which recaps the season, reminding the viewer where we are now and how we got here. Sohn’s The Wheel plays over the montage. It has a pretty melody and vocals interrupted by staccato silences that sound to me a lot like a record skipping. The contrasts in the song fit the contrasts in the show’s physical and emotional environment well. Every character’s life has been interrupted and rendered out of sync by the events of the season.
On a side note, John is still naked in the morning. I find it hilarious that everyone else at Sanctum is wrapped in multiple sweaters and layers from head to toe, 24/7, but they got John naked as soon as he stepped onto the island. The harem’s been deprived of a broad-shouldered specimen like him for ages and they’re going to take advantage of it. While they launder his clothes, of course. Slowly.
Once the “previously” montage is done, June gets up and finds a single dress waiting for her to wear in her armoire,
so that she’ll match the other cult members and lose her individuality.
Harry is still locked in the soundproof observation room. Ben has the nerve to come into the adjoining room and try to calmly interview Harry about June, while leaving Harry imprisoned, as if this were a normal therapy session. He wants to know if Steinar was June’s first shift and a few details about that. He explains to Harry that June has an extraordinary gift. Why, she could even live her life as someone else if she wanted to!
But why would she want to?
Ben needs to understand the root cause of her trauma if he’s going to help her, or so he says to Harry. Harry points out that the root cause of her trauma is obvious. Ben sent Steinar to kidnap her.
Ben has been alone with his terrified, docile women too long. He actually expects Harry to answer his questions and pretend this is a normal conversation. He tries to scare Harry into cooperating by threatening that June might have another shift like she did the day before. But Ben is the one who couldn’t help or control June with her shift. Harry got her through it in about 2 minutes. The shifts don’t scare him anymore.
Harry screams at Ben to let him out and pounds on the glass. Ben is shocked and frightened. He’s become so delusional that he really thought Harry would just cooperate. Now he’s got two angry men on the island to deal with.
He takes his worry with him to breakfast with Runa. While he’s already having a bad morning, Runa is distracted and tired looking. She says that she didn’t sleep well because she kept dreaming about Freya.
June walks in and asks for Harry. Ben feeds her the expected story, that Harry decided to leave and Ben took him back to Holen Fjord himself, complete with extra smug demeanor. He tells the story the way he wanted it to play out, with Harry saying the shifts were driving them apart. He says that Harry understood that Ben was the only one who could help her and that he didn’t belong there. He adds in some choice put downs of June, trying to make sure that she’ll be so hurt she’ll never go looking for Harry.
June doesn’t believe him, but her mother keeps telling her to trust this man. June desperately wants Halvorson to help her, so she sets her doubts aside.
This is how you end up the victim in a horror movie, and in real life, by ignoring your gut feelings.
June walks out. Runa follows. Ben is left wringing his hands.
Runa follows June to the lakeshore. She notices the little “F” marked on June’s dress, since it’s a hand me down from Freya. She tells June that they’ll look after her now that Harry is gone.
Ben takes June to visit Elena. He makes them stay on opposite sides of the room and stands just outside of the open door to eavesdrop on their conversation.
Elena tells June that this is still a good place for her, despite what happened yesterday. June says she’s going to work hard to get well. Then she’s going to find Harry. It has nothing to do with her mother.
Ben gets a little panicky again when he hears that June hasn’t given up on Harry yet.
Runa looks at Freya’s things again. She remembers Freya telling her about what Ben was doing to her and Steinar. At the time, Runa didn’t believe Freya’s story about Ben forcing her to stay shifted into Steinar for long periods of time, reliving Steinar’s memories. Runa thought Ben was essential to her own stability. Freya was planning to run away, but Runa refused to leave or intervene with Ben on Freya’s behalf. She told Freya that they’d never see each other again if Freya left. Runa chose Ben over Freya, and Freya ran.
Runa chases the ghost of Freya’s memory outside. In the distance, she sees John limping across the yard toward the vegetable garden.
Sigrid is working in the garden, but stops to give John the evil eye. Ben quickly runs over to intervene, before Sigrid and John can have an actual unsupervised conversation. He explains that the women aren’t used to having strange men there.
John isn’t intimidated by Ben. He points out how odd it is that Ben lives there with all of those women, who dress alike and follow his rules. It looks to John like Ben is a David Koresh wannabe, and Sanctum is his Waco.
Ben ignores the implication that he’s a dangerous cult leader and segues straight into explaining that Sigrid was one of the first women he helped. Now she has complete control of her shifting. He explains that Sanctum is on a remote island to protect the women from people who don’t understand them. He thinks John ought to be able to understand that, given his plans for June. Ben senses he’s found a soft spot there, and keeps going, insisting that John can’t help June, but he can.
John gives in, for now, with the condition that if June stays, he stays. Ben says, “Of course,” with a fake smile. He goes back to his plans to get rid of his unwanted guests as soon as John walks away.
John visits June in her room. This is starting to feel like The Handmaid’s Tale, with all of the captive women, dressed alike and following stifling rules, living in these barren rooms with nothing to do if they aren’t doing chores.
John tries to hug June, but she won’t let him, because of the rules. After seeing what Elena did and losing Harry, she’s totally demoralized. She thinks she’s toxic, so she plans to follow the program to the letter, hopefully go into remission, then get out.
John wants to take her home now. June tells John that she understands why he wanted to take her to Scotland. John tells her that he was wrong to try to control her like that. He was scared. But he realizes now that he should have talked to her, and prepared her for what was coming.
June says that he was right to be scared, given the things she’s capable of. She has to stay here, take responsibility for herself, and try to learn.
John brings up Kam, who thinks Sanctum is dangerous. June says that Kam is dangerous. When John asks about Harry, June says that Harry left, with Ben’s help. John doesn’t believe that Harry would just leave like that. June thinks that he’d had enough, after everything he’d seen and heard. John insists that Harry loves June and she should never forget that, implying that he doesn’t think that anything would ever change it. Is that how John feels about Elena?
John leaves June and notices Ben coming out of his office in the barn. John goes over and shoves his shoulder against the door to break the lock, then goes inside. Even with a gimpy leg, he still has those broad shoulders to help save the day. He searches the office, but only has a few minutes before Elena finds him and tries to remove him.
Seeing Elena for the first time in 3 years, John drinks in the sight of her for a moment. Then he hardens up as they argue. Elena asks if it’s true that the Penines 5 never woke up. He says that the woman she shifted into last did, but the others haven’t. She asks about Lewis, and he gives her an almost imperceptible nod.
They argue about whether June belongs at home with Harry and John, who can love her unconditionally, or at Sanctum with Elena, who can understand her as a shifter. John lets Elena know that he’s there only for June, not her, like she assumes for a moment. She looks disappointed that he’s not chasing her.
There’s some star-crossed love going on here. Elena cares about John, but she took him for granted while they were together and convinced herself she was just with him for the kids. It’s a reasonable coping mechanism for someone triggered by intense feelings of love, but she took it too far when she cheated on John with Lewis and decided that Lewis was the one she loved.
Elena’s crimes are made worse by discovering that she never checked on the condition of the people she hurt. At least June checked on Deborah and the baby without prompting from anyone else, and was worried enough about Lil to go to the hospital with her. Elena just walked away from everyone.
Christine and Doug meet Norwegian authorities at the Bergen airport, which asks the existential question, “Bergen?” of all travelers, giving them something to think about on their flights. They find the record of John’s rental car, and put a tracker on it.
Ben discovers that someone has broken into the barn and is worried that they’ve discovered Harry. He goes into the observation room, turns on the lights long enough to see that Harry’s there, then turns them off and locks Harry in again. Harry is no more than an inconvenient object to him. Then he checks his office and finds that it’s been broken into. His records cabinet has been broken into, with the doors left swinging open. John didn’t go into that cabinet.
Ben finds Runa in her bedroom and asks her if she’d been in the barn. She says no, but she saw Steinar go in a while ago. And she saw Freya earlier as well. Ben dismisses what she says as the delusions of her dementia. He encourages Runa to rest.
Lunch that day feels like the dinner from Rocky Horror Picture Show. You wonder how many bodies
Frank Ben has hidden under the tablecloth. Ben makes a toast to June with the usual pleasantries and encouragements that are thinly veiled put downs meant to undermine every positive thought she has about herself. Runa isn’t present because Ben doesn’t want her dementia to get in the way of his evil plans. Columbia June doesn’t know it, but Eddie Harry’s locked in the freezer basement. RiffRaff Sigrid is eyeing the guests warily, sharpening her knives. Frank Ben prepares to eliminate his competition, Brad John. He’s knee deep in cataloguing Brad’s John’s sins when Magenta crashes the party.
Ben is just offering to help John leave, the same way he helped Harry leave, when Freya’s voice begins playing over the loudspeaker. It’s a recording from one of her earliest sessions with Ben, before she ran away. Runa hears her voice and runs to the barn, screaming at Ben not to touch her. Everyone else follows.
The next 15 minutes are so compelling that I could hardly take my eyes off the screen to summarize them, even after viewing several times.
Everyone goes to Ben’s office, where Steinar is waiting with the rifle. He holds Ben at gunpoint while he plays excerpts from Kam’s “therapy” sessions, which are really a Nazi-style combination of torture and unethical human research. Ben coerced Kam into her first shift by electrocuting her without consent, then making her touch Steinar. After that, he continued to force her using electrocution, humiliation, guilt, and who knows what else.
He’s a master manipulator, and one of his gifts is quickly getting to the heart of someone’s insecurities so that he can use them against the person. That’s why each woman’s first shift was so important to him. It’s typically brought on by the core fears of each shifter, giving him clues into their psyches that he could use to control them.
He overused his favorite techniques with Kam to the point where she was able to ignore the electrocution and anything Ben said. That may be why she had to burn herself as a trigger later. Maybe now it takes severe pain to break through her tough shell.
Runa is devastated, seeing for herself just how badly Freya was treated, while Runa turned a blind eye and chose Ben. The others are appalled. Ben orders Steinar to stop and tries to convince the others that it isn’t what it looks like, because it’s so early in the development of the therapy. No one believes him. Finally.
The whole time, through every recorded session, he uses that horrible, calm, patronizing voice that he uses on everyone, which the women found so comforting.
It’s the voice of a narcissist/psychopath. Anytime they put actual emotions into their voices other than those which relate to themselves, they’re lying, and is has a false ring to it. In this case, there’s a cloying, used car salesman feel to everything he says. It all sounds rehearsed instead of heartfelt.
Runa wouldn’t tell Sigrid what her final test was to graduate from therapy, she just said the therapy was very different then. What did Ben do to her?? How much torture did it involve?
On the recording, Freya is able to access Steinar’s memories right from the beginning of her first shift. She knows what Ben said to him in the bar, about needing a good man for a partner who could keep secrets.
In another clip, Freya tells Ben that she and Runa will leave him, but Ben is certain that Runa will never leave him, because he saved her. Freya is sure that her mother will choose her out of love, but as we know, she was wrong.
June asks Steinar why he’s doing this. Steinar tells her that he had to help her. He couldn’t let Ben hurt June, too. He says, “See, he tells you that you will find yourself, but you will lose everything. This place is poison.”
On the screen, Freya is refusing to shift, despite repeated electrocutions. Ben says to her, “All you need to do is submit. You’re being selfish.”
The voice of the patriarchy speaks. We wouldn’t have to hurt you if you’d just hurt yourself first. It’s better for everyone that way.
Steinar moves closer to June and Ben. June says she doesn’t understand why Steinar would help her after he tried so hard to kidnap her. Steinar is distracted for a moment, and Ben grabs the gun, hitting Steinar in the face with it hard enough to knock him out. Then Ben starts to give orders everyone else.
Sigrid becomes angry, because he told them they were a family and that they could trust him. She calls him a monster. Ben starts bringing up all of her secrets, which he knows from the therapy. Sigrid begins to go into a shift state and moves toward him. Ben shoots her in the chest and she immediately drops to the ground, eyes wide open as if she’s dead. It looks to me like the bullet was a bit off from the heart and put her in stasis instead of killing her though.
Ben yells that all of the shifters have done much worse things than him.
Elena starts to go into a shift state- because she’s feeling extra protective love for June? Her triggers are odd and unpredictable. John starts chanting “Keep calm, come to no harm,” to her and June. We’ve heard both June and Elena chant this in the past, separately, so there’s proof that he’s tried in the past to help Elena with her shifts, and to surreptitiously prepare June. He keeps chanting it, as a guide for them.
Ben orders June to come with him. Runa tearfully asks why he’s doing this. He lovingly tries to explain:
“Because I said I would do everything for you. Anything.”
Then he drags June from the room, along with Runa, saying, “I’m going to save you my darling. I’m going to save you.”
He locks the others in the office.
They go to the observation room, where June discovers that Harry is still there. Ben leaves June and Runa in the observation room while he joins Harry in the soundproof room. He explains that he wants June to shift into Runa and absorb all of Runa’s memories so that they won’t be lost. She can stay Runa forever, so she can help Runa remember. That’s the way he plans to save Runa.
Runa laughs hysterically. She can’t believe that he wants to sacrifice a child to keep her going. Ben says that yes, he’ll sacrifice June so that Runa can live. “I won’t lose you. I can’t lose you.”
Harry frantically tells June to remember who she is, but Ben forces him to kneel on the floor. He orders June to shift, or he’ll kill Harry. When June hesitates, he shoots the floor next to Harry.
Meanwhile, John, Elena and Steinar have broken out of the office. Before that, Steinar checked Sigrid’s pulse, but didn’t share what he found. He didn’t look terribly sad, so maybe she still has a pulse, despite how she looks. Steinar didn’t close her eyes, like you normally would with a corpse, either.
John, Elena and Steinar move to the hall, where Steinar attempts to kick the door in. Elena does her usual helpful panicked screaming. Seriously, she’s the worst person ever to have with you in a crisis.
But back to the emergency.
June goes into shift state. Ben yells at her to touch Runa. Runa tries again to talk him down, this time with reason and flattery. Harry can see everything that’s happening, since Ben is reflected in the glass. Once Runa distracts Ben, Harry, who you do want around in a crisis, turns and knocks Ben down, then grabs the rifle. It goes off toward the ceiling in the scuffle, so the people in the hall are extra panicked now.
Harry demands the keys from Ben, while Ben immediately starts trying to undermine Harry’s confidence. You’ve got to give Ben credit for having a level of plucky, can-do spirit in his evil that’s hard to beat. He’s a 50 year old, slim guy, up against 3 men, 2 of them bigger than him, and 3-4 shapeshifters. Does he give up? No, he steals the gun, loses the gun, and starts plotting to get the gun back. He’s the Terminator of mad scientists on the Island of Dr Moreau.
Ben tosses Harry the keys along with a look that could kill. Runa, the one person Ben won’t kill, takes the gun from Harry and holds it on him. Now Ben is scared.
Runa unlocks the door to the hall so that the screaming finally stops (you’d think the gun were being pointed at them) and Harry goes to June. June and John hug. June doesn’t hug Elena. Runa tells June to take her family and get out of Sanctum, since it’s become such a horrid place.
Before she leaves, June says to Runa, “I’m sorry about Freya. You should know that she’s still alive. I’ve met her.”
June and her family leave. Steinar stays, but he says, “Bye, June,” with a quirky little half-smile as she walks out the door. No way is that Steinar.
Now that everyone else is gone, Ben is sure that he can manipulate Runa into letting him go. He tells her to put the gun down.
Runa: “The day Freya left, she told me everything that you did. Steinar, the shifts, the memories. And deep down, I knew what she said was true. But I told her she was lying. Because I was weak. My daughter. She should have been the most important thing in the world to me. She wasn’t just running from you. She was running from me, too.”
Ben: “Runa, listen to me…”
Runa: “Don’t! All this effort to bring June here. Planning for her to shift into me. Trying to save me. But when my mind finally failed, and I’d given up the ghost, what were you going to do with me? Lock me away?”
Ben rolls his eyes. She has a gun pointed at him, and he’s still belittling her.
Runa: “And forget about me? Would June have helped you with the work, with the other women? Be your partner? Would she sleep in our bed?”
And we have a winner. Because, to him, June would now BE the real Runa, and the actual real Runa would be a dried out husk. Obviously it’s not going to feel the same way to the real Runa. She doesn’t want to feel like she’s so easily replaceable with a Stepford Shifter.
Ben: “I would love you like I always have!”
Steinar: “He doesn’t love you. He needs you. He’s always needed you because he knows he’s nothing without you.”
Runa: “Yes, and maybe I’m nothing without him.”
Steinar: “Don’t say that.”
Ben: “My love, we built something together. For us, remember?”
Steinar: “Don’t listen to him. Sigrid…Sigrid was right. He’s a monster. You know he is.”
Steinar turns to look at his reflection in the glass. Ben looks, and is shocked and dismayed. Runa looks, and sees that Steinar is really Freya.
Realizing that Freya couldn’t even come home as herself, she had to use the form of her hated enemy to hide her identity, puts Runa over the edge. She repeats Freya’s name. Ben sees the new resolve in Runa’s eyes. He starts panicking and repeating her name. She shoots him in the head.
June, Harry, Elena and John take one of the boats back to the mainland. Ben’s body is left where it fell, bleeding. Someone holds Sigrid, though I don’t recognize the clothing. Was there another, mystery person on the island? Runa collapses in tears as her life collapses around her.
June and company walk to the car, then drive to the ferry. During the drive, John and June fall asleep. Harry tells Elena that he can’t forgive her for what she did to Lewis, but he won’t fight with her either, since he loves June. Elena says that she knows he loves June. Harry asks if Lewis said anything to Elena about him. Elena says one of the few other phrases that Lewis repeats, “You should meet my son.”
Once they’re safely on the ferry, Harry asks June if she really thought he’d leave her at Sanctum. She doesn’t know. (He has left her before, after all.)
Harry asks for her hand. To hold. He pulls out his bracelet, and puts it back onto her wrist, saying, “It’s you and me, always.” Then they kiss. There’s got to be a country where that’s legally binding.
No one says they’re the King of the World, and no one dies, and it’s a totally romantic, happy ending to the season, right? RIGHT??? No, of course not. How could we have a season two then?
But if there isn’t a season 2, ever, I totally recommend stopping either here or when they drive off the ferry, before Christine chases them, depending on how much you’re invested in the other storylines and can tolerate broken hearts that will never be fixed. This is the point with the most possibility of redemption and love for everyone.
Okay, let’s move on, if we have to. I guess.
Ben is still dead. Runa tries to convince Freya to stay and build a home with her there, like they always wanted. Kam tells her that Freya is gone. She reverts back to her original form. She says that she came back to Sanctum for June, not for Runa. Looking for closure, she asks Runa why she chose Ben over her. Runa says she was scared and weak. She needed Ben.
Kam says that for years during her childhood they moved from place to place, living rough, but she stayed with Runa and took care of her. Yet Freya was the child. She needed protecting. Ben could never have loved Runa the way Freya did, but it’s too late.
Runa begs Kam not to leave, but Kam gets in the boat and rows away, watching her mother as she goes. It’s time for Runa to experience the payback for her mistakes. And, after so much betrayal and neglect, Kam has nothing left to give her. She has to try to become a decent person again on her own. Saving June is a good start.
As the ferry approaches the dock, Harry sees Christine and Doug waiting there. He tells the others. Elena prepares to turn herself in. John will stay with her, while Harry and June will escape in the rental car.
Elena thanks John for taking care of her kids. John asks if she’s sure she wants to turn herself in, and she nods her head yes. They’re standing close to each other, so close they might even be touching. They have good chemistry together and seem physically drawn to each other. I think Elena still has feelings for John. He makes her feel safe and protected. Maybe Kam can do for Elena what Ben couldn’t, and she can live a more normal life with John eventually.
Christine is wound up tight as they wait for the ferry. The police were planning on taking it across the fjord and are surprised that Elena has come to them.
The ferry docks and Elena goes straight to Christine. Christine swears she won’t leave without Harry. Elena tries to distract her by confessing to hurting Lewis.
Harry speeds off the ferry as Christine is cuffing Elena. Elena pleads with Christine to let them go, but she’s not losing her son again, especially with that
harlot shapeshifter June in the car. Christine jumps in the nearest car and gives chase.
Harry drives as fast as possible on the narrow, wooded mountain roads. June pleads with him to slow down so that they don’t get in an accident, but he’s afraid the police will catch them if he does. He’s not about to let June get taken into custody.
Harry doesn’t know that Christine is the one who’s following them. Would he stop and try to talk to her if he did?
The car has a tire blowout and Harry loses control. They smash into a tree at high speed and are both knocked unconscious for a minute. Harry wakes up first. The side of his head is bloody. He probably has a concussion. He sits up and turns to check on June.
She’s still unconscious. Her chin is bloody from the seat belt. Her abdomen is bleeding profusely. It looks like the seatbelt latch was driven into it hard enough to break the skin and crush her insides.
June wakes up and fights going into shift state. Harry tries to calm her down. He can see that she’s in serious condition. He tells her that he wants her to shift into him, then go find help. He’s afraid she’ll die if she doesn’t. He hopes that in his form she won’t be injured.
June doesn’t want to, but Harry convinces her that it’ll be okay, and it’s the only way. They tell each other, “I love you,” and Harry says, “I’ll see you soon.” Then June shifts into him.
Christine finds them while June is still recovering from the shift. She runs to the car and throws open the door to hug Harry, not noticing in her excitement that there are two of him. June tries to stop her, but Christine moves too quickly. As soon as they hug, Christine is knocked unconscious and falls to the ground. June shifts directly from Harry’s form to Christine’s, without settling into her own form first. It’s the same situation that caused the Penines 5.
June tries to wake Harry up, then shifts back to herself using memories of Harry to help center her. Harry becomes technically conscious, but his mind isn’t really there. His eyes are blank, and all he’ll say is, “I’ll see you soon,” the last thing he said to June. June keeps desperately trying to wake him up.
Christine begins waking up as well.
Here, have a couple more kiss screencaps. No one wants to think of Harry as a catatonic zombie for the next year or so.
See? Much better. The end.
Harry & June
After having their ups and downs all season, June and Harry are committed to each other as a couple. June has developed control of her shifts and Harry has gotten over his fear of shifting. After making June promise to never shift into him in episode 5, Harry heroically sacrificed himself so that June could shift into him to try to save her life.
Because Christine interfered with the shift process, Harry is catatonic, much like Lewis has been for the last 3 years. June is gravely injured from the car crash. Christine is waking up from the brief coma she went into when June shifted into her. They are out in an isolated area outside of Holen Fjord, far from good medical help.
What happens next will depend on how Christine reacts. She has a car, she has a police radio. She can get help quickly.
But she’s obsessed with the shapeshifters and thinks they’re dangerous. She might not stop to look at the entire situation clearly. She could blame June for everything, separate her from Harry, and refuse to listen to reason. Or she could join the cause to help the shapeshifters and help June figure out how to bring Harry back to himself as soon as possible.
Then there’s the issue of how Harry and June will each react to these events once they’ve recovered from them. Will Harry change his mind and decide to keep his distance from June? Will June decide she needs to leave Harry for his own protection? Will they fall back on Christine’s words to Harry that things go wrong in love and it’s no one’s fault, you just have to keep loving the person?
Christine, Harry & June
Christine’s obsession and worry over what a shapeshifter might do to Harry, and her fear of losing him the way she lost Lewis, consumed her and made the ultimate outcome a self-fulfilling prophecy. She became the Javert of the season, relentlessly hunting down the shifters, when they were just trying to live their lives in peace, make amends, and get their powers under control.
Javert couldn’t handle the moral paradox when he discovered how wrong he’d been about Jean Valjean, and consequently took his own life. What will Christine do in season 2? I don’t think she’ll attempt suicide. The most likely choices are between 1) throwing both June and Elena in jail and refusing to listen to anyone who could actually help Lewis or Harry, so that any rescue attempt for the boys has to start with a jailbreak and a kidnapping. And 2) listening to June at the crash site and becoming an ally in the search for a cure for Harry and the Penines 5.
Christine is a reasonable, logical person who’s a trained investigator and good at her job. She knows how to put the pieces of a puzzle together. But she’s also lost everything now. She was already becoming obsessive about the shapeshifters, she might become insanely paranoid and vengeful.
But I hope not. This season, John came around and became an ally for June and Harry. If he could do that, so can Christine. I’m not comfortable with them taking the one black woman in the cast and turning her into the villain, especially after caging the one black man at the end of this season, then turning him catatonic. Christine has been a fantastic character so far, one of my favorites. She’s also been kept isolated from the main cast, for the most part, other than Harry.
Christine has been a fair-minded person, able to look at the evidence and listen to Harry, then admit her mistakes. Hopefully, Christine will look at the crash site, look at June’s injuries and her worry over Harry, and see June for the innocent 16 year old girl that she is, rather than jumping to the conclusion that June’s a monster who attacked Harry.
I’d like to think that they won’t keep Harry, and Percelle Ascott, benched for very long. It seems obvious that the first thing they should try is having June shift back into Harry, then back to herself the normal way. Since it’s only been a few minutes, that might be enough.
They can make it be more difficult for the people who’ve waited three years, and who were in the middle of Elena’s Penines 5 shift sequence. Maybe she’ll need to cure them in the order she hurt them, and stay shifted longer, in order to regather their essence thoroughly.
Christine & Lewis
Christine arrested Elena in the Penines 5 case, but in reality the only evidence she has is a blurry picture that shows Lewis walking by Elena in a storefront. There’s no evidence that Elena had anything to do with the other Penines 5. The case won’t stand up in court. Even Elena’s confession will sound more like insanity than assault. There’s also no credible evidence that June did anything to Lil or Deborah. Just being next to someone when they pass out isn’t evidence of a crime.
Lewis is still catatonic. He was also having an affair with Elena, which Harry and Christine don’t know about. They’ve both put so much into taking care of him for 3 years and transformed him into a saint in their minds during that time. His fall from Grace is going to be terrible for everyone.
I shudder to think what will happen when Christine finds out that the man she’s spent 3 years pining over was about to leave her for another woman. Hopefully she’ll go straight into Doug’s arms and he can keep her from killing Lewis and Elena.
Imagine her discovering that poignant phrase, “Will you take me, too?”, was the last thing he said to Elena, and was his way of asking Elena to be with him. He’d better hope Christine doesn’t find out until after he’s cured. If she finds out before hand, she’ll send him straight to a nursing home and visit once a month to make sure he’s still alive.
Harry will be devastated too, but he’s not the murderous type. He’ll just break your heart with justified anger and sadness.
Runa, Sigrid, Kam & Steinar
Runa is alone on the island with dementia and Sigrid’s body. Sigrid’s death was too quick and not bloody enough. She may be in stasis while she heals instead of dead. Ben implied that Sigrid has more secrets than the ones we know about. Runa also has a troubled, complicated past to work through, and her relationship with Kam to repair. Her dementia has progressed to the point where she can’t live alone, especially on an isolated island.
Kam is on her way to Holen Fjord, or wherever the ferry docks. I’m fuzzy on the geography. She has extensive experience with shifting, even in unusual situations. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s encountered Harry and June’s situation before, and she views June as her family now. How fast can that ferry move her? Doug said it takes an hour. Was that each way or round trip? If she can help them save Harry, June will forgive her for everything else.
Steinar was unconscious somewhere, probably Kam’s flat, but she might have moved his unconscious body somewhere else after she shifted. He should be awake now. It’s possible that he could make his way back to Sanctum, now that Ben’s dead.
I don’t think we got to know the real Steinar at all this season. He’s willing to do unethical things and is easily influenced, but I wonder what he’s like on his own. I’m also not convinced that he wanted to hurt Kam. He either wanted to bring her back to Ben, he’s in love with her, or he wanted her help, and they made a deal that she’d use his body again to go back to Sanctum.
Kam said that you always have to push them away in the end. She wasn’t talking about Runa and herself. I think she meant Steinar. And what bad things did she see in his mind? Typical adult things a young girl wouldn’t want to see, or more?
Elena, John & Ryan
Elena has turned herself in to the police for the Penines 5 assaults, hoping that taking responsibility will give her some peace and give June time to escape. It’s one of the few sacrifices she’s made for her children. John is with her, standing by her, as he almost always does.
I’m on the fence as to whether it was a sacrifice for Elena to be with John for all of the years before Lewis, or if she actually did come to love him in a way she didn’t realize was love. Elena is self-sacrificing and self-loathing, but she’s also self-sabotaging, which has the unintended consequence of taking others down with her.
Right now the police only have enough evidence to question her as a person of interest in the Penines 5 case. Will she prove she’s guilty by publicly shifting? That would expose all of the other shapeshifters as well. Will she go back into hiding or try again to get her shifts under control?
After all of the suspicions about John, he turned out to be a decent guy who can admit when he’s wrong and try to change. I have huge amounts of respect for that. He’s devoted to his kids, and is currently standing by Elena. Once Harry had proven himself, John accepted June’s boyfriend into the family. He even officially turned over the task of looking after June to Harry, so that he could take up looking after Elena again. Looking after Elena might be a full-time job.
Ryan is back home, taking care of the farm. He got over his agoraphobia through a combination of forcing himself out of the house to help June and finding out the truth about Elena, his mother. He’d started refusing to leave the house after the events of the Penines 5. The things he overheard that night between Elena and John confused and scared him. Once he understood the truth, he was able to work through his fear. Now he’s flirting with cute girls at the pub.
Ryan was mostly missing from the last two episodes, which is totally unfair, but he already knows what Elena is like. She’ll have to earn back any affection from him, just as she will with June.
Elena, John, Lewis & Elena’s Trigger
During their affair, Elena and Lewis were mistaking passion and infatuation for the kind of love that lasts. It’s hard to say if they could feel a more lasting love for each other, too, since we saw so little of them together, and of Lewis as he was before he became catatonic.
But it’s hard to root for them as a couple. They were ready to break up two marriages and two families to run away together. Both John and Christine thought they were in happy marriages, so Elena and Lewis were being very careful with their lying and sneaking around. They didn’t want to upset their comfortable lives unless they had to, so they made fools of their spouses instead.
Harry idolizes his father, who was ready to run away with another woman. Elena did walk out on her family. Even without Elena’s meltdown and the Penines 5 incident, they didn’t exactly bring out the best in each other.
I think John’s still in love with Elena and could eventually forgive her. She needs a stable home and a strong partner who wants to take care of her. I’m not sure what she even brings to a relationship, other than her looks and the need to be taken care of, but John appreciates those things. She is self-sacrificing when she’s not being selfish.
Maybe her recent experiences will teach her the value of a quieter, mature love that still has passion, with a solid partner you can trust. Love doesn’t have to be overwhelming all the time, like infatuation. A man like Lewis, who’ll leave his supposedly happy family once, will always be at risk for doing it again. You can never really trust him.
Elena is triggered by love, just like Kam is triggered by pain and June is triggered by fear. Both Runa and Sigrid seem to be triggered by anger, Runa’s with a side of jealousy and Sigrid’s with a need to protect. Kam’s pain trigger is physical pain. June’s fear trigger is the emotional fear of losing the people she loves or losing herself, eventually narrowed down to losing Harry.
Elena has nuances to her love trigger as well. We saw her keep herself under control many times during intense emotional situations when her love for June should have been at the surface, like when they said goodbye on the ferry. I’m not sure, but I think her trigger is love mixed with fear. She was afraid of what loving Lewis would mean and she was afraid of what living near her beloved daughter at Sanctum would do to her.
Like Ben said, shifting is a defense mechanism. It doesn’t make sense for it to be triggered by a purely positive emotion.
During therapy, Elena described watching Ryan chase butterflies. Assuming the point of her telling Ben about it was that the memory ended in a shift state, young Ryan must’ve ended up tripping and falling while running, and her love and fear for him caused a shift state.
So Elena’s training shouldn’t be any harder than anyone else’s. The main issue would be to rid her of the false conclusion that her trigger is love instead of fear. Then she just has to learn to trust that the people she loves will ultimately be okay, and learn to relax. Just like every other parent has to do.
What was it, then that triggered the shift state in the convent that was described in the article Kam found? Was Elena in love with the nun she shifted into just before she left the convent? Were they discovered together? Did someone discover her secret and threaten her children? What could have brought on her unique emotional trigger state of intense love and fear in a convent? Did Ben find her and trigger her on purpose so she’d leave with him?
Doug & Christine
Doug has his promotion to DCI, though he feels a bit guilty that he only got it because Christine’s circumstances took her out of the running. He was friends with Lewis and partners with Christine before the Penines 5, and has tried to maintain some objectivity in the case.
He has feelings for Christine, but respects her marriage. He also respects her as an investigator, but thinks she lets her personal feelings take over at times. Sometimes he lets his feelings for her affect his decisions. Right now, he’s waiting on the ferry dock with Elena and John, while Christine chases Harry and June.
He’s seen some of the shapeshifter evidence. Will he be able to accept the reality? How will he react to Lewis’ affair? Will he and Christine give romance a try? Will he convince her to take a reasonable approach toward June and Harry’s situation, or will he be the more rigid of the two?
He’s been Christine’s rock since the days when they were partners, and they are still there for each other. Their longstanding relationship should help them both cope with what they’re about to discover.
The Featured Players
Alf, Lil, Shane, Deborah and Andrew all appear to be out of the picture, and all are okay, as far as we know. I’d be happy to see any or all of them again next season.
Lil is smart, fun, kind, in her own way, and she has connections that could come in handy for a shapeshifter in hiding. Andrew was also good to Harry and June, in his own way, and he has shifting experience from the host’s perspective. He’s savvy, observant and analytical, and was with Kam for long enough to have picked up some knowledge she might have missed. Those are the two I’d like to see back the most.
Alf was also a useful, conflicted character, and could give Steinar somewhere to go. Shane took off when Lil was taken to the hospital, so Harry and June are better off without him. Deborah has the baby to think about, so it’s better that she isn’t involved any further.
Ben, Kam, Sigrid & the Search for More Shapeshifters
Ben is dead and would seem to be out of the picture, but his influence will continue to be felt in season 2, and he could continue to appear in flashbacks. Given Runa’s dementia, her love for him, and the circumstances of his death, he could haunt her as a ghost.
Ben liked to think that he was the world expert on shapeshifters, but it seems clear that Kam knows more than him. She is a shifter herself, and she’s explored her talents thoroughly, rather than suppressing them. She’s lived in the world, testing her triggers and powers, rather than sequestering herself on a remote island. She’s researched shapeshifters throughout history, myth and legend, sorting through what relates to her bloodline and what doesn’t. She watches current reports for anyone who might be another shapeshifter, whereas Ben had only limited contact with the outside world.
Does Kam know about other currently living shapeshifters? Surely Ben was only finding the ones who weren’t able to learn to control their shifts on their own because of unusual circumstances, like Runa’s mental illness or Elena’s love trigger and general weakness in character. With shifting ability normally skipping a generation, each shifter would typically have a nonshifter mother to provide a stable childhood and a shifter grandmother to train them in shapeshifting skills when the time came. Each nonshifter generation should have a nonshifter grandmother to help provide stability if the shifter mother isn’t able to.
Sigrid described having a nonshifter mother, but we didn’t see or hear about any of the grandmothers, except for Runa’s mother. Since early-onset dementia has a life expectancy of 8-10 years, Runa’s mother has probably already passed. Maybe in season 2 we’ll learn more about the shifters extended families, and other shapeshifters who have better control of their abilities and stayed hidden from Ben.
I’d love for the characters to discover a hidden female dynasty that their ancestors somehow became separated from. Who doesn’t love a good lost princess story? Or maybe that will be season 3, after season 2 is spent saving the Penines 5, helping Runa and Freya repair their relationship, and helping Elena learn control.
Shapeshifter Physiology and Healing
We really know very little about shifter physiology and how it differs from regular humans. We don’t know if their life span is different, if they have different healing abilities, or how hard they are to kill. I did notice that Kam’s burns looked like they healed quickly, and June wasn’t stoned any more when she shifted out of Lil’s form.
Maybe Harry was on the right track when he told June to shift into him so that her injuries wouldn’t kill her. When she shifted back, she was still bloody, and looked pale, so I couldn’t tell if she was healed or not. Full healing of such serious wounds might require a longer shift. Something of the host goes to the shifter during the shift session. Maybe the shifter can draw from that to heal.
If so, then Ben was an even bigger fool than he seemed. All he would have needed to do to cure Runa’s dementia was encourage her to shift. It also suggests that a shifter’s body could go catatonic as a defense mechanism against death, until the opportunity to shift and heal presents itself. At the end of episode 8, Runa is shown holding Sigrid’s body. Will Sigrid shift into Runa and regain consciousness?
From there, you have to wonder if shifters can become functionally immortal by shifting in order to heal themselves and possibly draw life energy from hosts. Since we don’t know the story of any of the shifter grandmothers, we don’t know when or how they died, or if they’re alive, but have moved on to other regions to keep their long lives from being noticed.
Or shifters could have shortened lives. Their cells could wear out early from all of the wear and tear caused by shifting. They could typically develop dementia and lose their sense of themselves as they age, like Runa, due to mingling their minds with too many other minds.
We still don’t know exactly what happened to Steinar when Ben forced Kam to spend so much time using him as a host. His personality is changed and he’s possibly enthralled to her, but why? How?
Is there a possibility that a shifter can transfer healing energy back to the host? They give something back to the host with the shift back to themselves. Can they learn to control what’s sent? Could Kam and June learn to skim the surface of a shift, so that they can read the mind of a potential host, but not become them? Could they figure out how to decouple the host’s form from the life essence that they borrow from the host, so the host could stay conscious? The shapeshifter gene is in the process of evolving, so new abilities could appear at any time.
There’s also the unanswered questions of whether or not you can shift into a dead person, and what happens if the person you’ve shifted into dies while you’re still in their form? The story of the Berserkers would suggest that all you need is some DNA in order to be able to shift into a form, and that death doesn’t matter. That would also suggest that you don’t need the host nearby for the shift. You could use some of their hair. Or maybe it’s the skin that’s important. That could become an important point, when we start talking about things like shifting into someone else forever and taking over their life.
I love Sigrid as a character and I refuse to believe she’s dead. For once, can’t it be the male character who’s permanently fridged, and the woman who comes back? Sigrid had so much more back story to explore, and so much potential for the future. Ben’s only value was as a mad scientist, but he wasn’t a very good researcher. He was too afraid of his subjects. A potential for increased healing ability and functional immortality would allow her to live. It could be typical of shapeshifters, or it could be Sigrid’s own special version of the gift.
Cinematography and Boxes vs Open Spaces
There were so many windows, doors, and other square openings in this show, giving shots a second frame or highlighting particular parts of a shot. The cinematographers, David Procter and David Pawle, took every chance there was to box the characters inside some form of frame this season, sometimes inside multiple frames within the frame, especially at Sanctum.
They did some beautiful things with the frames, like the shot of Elana in one window and Runa in the window next to her, with their joined hands stretched out between them. Or the sequence with June on the outside of the window and Elena on the inside. Or all of the refections with glass and mirrors, with characters seeing themselves or someone else, what they wanted to see or didn’t.
Kam’s episode, Passionate Amateur, took the frames to Tribus, adding corridors, movement, and the feeling of being trapped within a maze of boxes that were supposed to signify freedom. All of that cosplay couldn’t disguise the dead look in the Tribus patrons’ eyes, as if they’d long since given up trying to find their way out of the maze. Harry was the only to see through it, and of course he was taken straight outside, no need to go through a long maze of corridors. The whole thing is just an illusion.
Then there was Ben using the square projection screen for slide images that tortured and oppressed the women into suppressing their shifting ability, images that only marginally reflected them, implying they were something other than human. He didn’t understand them at all in the end.
It was fitting that Kam/Steinar used the same screen to show just how far the torture had gone, finally waking Runa and Sigrid up to what he’d been doing, and how far he was willing to go. Live by the slide screen, die by the slide screen. Or the mini cassette recorder. Ben kept all of the shifters at a distance, even Runa, behind glass, like bugs in a jar or caged lab rats he was experimenting on, using moats of water, grass and words to keep them where he wanted them.
I don’t think Runa and Sigrid had time during the episode to make the connection between the more extreme torture of Kam and the way Ben tortured them into suppressing their abilities by making it such a negative experience. As a form of “therapy” he made them relive their worst shifts again and again until the thought of shifting was so abhorrent that it made them ill to contemplate doing it. It’s the same method of negative stimulation used in A Clockwork Orange, another work full of sharp angles (and a brilliant criticism of behavior modification techniques, among other things).
No ethical psychologist would ever use a negative stimulus these days. Here’s a hint- if you need to be tied down for the treatment, you should probably question it. Especially if the practitioner also insists on isolation and secrecy. Isolation and secrecy alone almost guarantee that there’s something wrong going on. Get out.
In contrast to the framing boxes at Sanctum, and, though I haven’t mentioned it before, at the McDaniel farm, we tended to see Harry and June together in open settings, especially outdoors, or in vehicles. They were free from the baggage of the adults, on the road and on the run, but thinking for themselves, without fear. Harry used love and encouragement to help June through her shifts. Consequently, with each shift, June learned a little more about her abilities and gained more confidence and skill each time. By the end of episode 8, she came back from an extreme emergency situation quickly, even though her worst fear, the fear of losing Harry, was in the process of being realized, by using memories of him instead of his physical presence and voice.
Season 1 Review
I actually don’t have a problem with the way the season ended, as long as The Innocents is renewed and they don’t take longer than an episode, two at most, to bring Harry back. Since Netflix gives almost every show a season two, I’m not too worried.
Next season can focus on finding the cure for the Penines 5. Their situation is a little different from Harry’s. Since he was so recently injured and the chain of injured people is smaller, Harry should be simpler to fix.
The entire cast deserves kudos for their performances this season and in this episode. Guy Pearce, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson and Ingunn Beate Øyen especially deserve special notice for their incredible performances during the office and observation room scenes in episode 8. The entire sequence with the cast at gunpoint in the barn was so powerful and emotionally intense. All three nailed their character’s complex moods and changes in emotion.
Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson has played four characters now, three of them women. They’ve all been different, and unlike his violent, rough base personality. He’s been one of the lynchpins of the season, connecting all of the groups, locations and time periods, while also being given important exposition in all four character modes. He’s so good in the role that you tend to forget that it’s the same actor portraying the characters and start to think that the other characters have really shifted into him. If he doesn’t get award nominations, it’s a crime.
The same with Ingunn Beate Øyen, who sells her dementia, despair, pride, jealousy, love, fury, and so on with impeccable strength and grace. We meet her in a breakdown, then see her as a leader, partner and mother. But her mind is disintegrating inside through the whole thing, and Øyen’s Runa holds her head up high while she descends into madness and confusion. She occasionally slips and lets the madness or hysteria out, making it all the more painful to watch, especially since her performance is always painted with a delicate touch, never pounded into us. Her partner, Ben (Guy Pearce) uses her dementia to gaslight her, which makes the scene when she shoots him that much more powerful. She still needs and loves him, but has realized that he’s the one who’s dangerously out of control, not her. Øyen conveys all of these complicated emotions, partnered with Pearce and Jóhannesson.
Guy Pearce gives the kind of performance that he can be relied on to give, which is to say, fantastic and chilling. He can’t be beat at playing the seemingly harmless, handsome, charming man who’s a little opportunistic, but turns out to be the worst kind of user and manipulator. Men who are practically vampires, sucking the women they’re involved with dry, one after the other. His performance in The Innocents is reminiscent of his turn as Monty Beragon in HBO’s Mildred Pierce.
Ben believes he loves Runa and wants to save her, but even from the start, his real focus is on what will benefit him the most. Pearce shows us a manipulator who starts out Runa and Steinar’s partner, in control of them and the situation. He’s still in control when the present day story begins, but Runa’s dementia is a variable he’s having trouble coping with. Runa is his prized possession, and to lose her would be to lose everything. The story of season 1 is largely the story of his attempts to keep his plans and cult intact.
He’s unable to, and Pearce masterfully depicts Ben’s slow descent into desperation. His eyes blaze with intensity, or chill us with their flat coldness, as his voice and movements portray the opposite emotions. A controlled manipulator can be very difficult for an actor to get right, because they walk such a fine line of emotions. Always calm, always calculating, emotions always churning under the surface, every word they speak filled with multiple meanings. Pearce does Ben justice, including his final scenes, when he refuses to stop trying to gaslight those around him, despite the odds against him, then finally realizes that Runa, his lover, is going to kill him. It’s hard to believe that the terror in Pearce’s eyes in that moment was faked, it’s was so real.
Sorcha Groundsell and Percelle Ascott as June and Harry are adorable, innocent bright spots in a story full of damaged, corrupt characters. They have amazing chemistry together, and the actors commitment to the roles and the relationship makes every declaration of emotion between them feel high stakes.
Sorcha Groundsell gives June an adventurous, intelligent, brave soul. She pulls off June’s quicksilver changes in emotion and physical form easily and believably. Percelle Ascott brings a warmth, romanticism and steadiness to Harry that you can absolutely believe would bring her back from the brink of anything.
They each give their characters complementary strengths, which put the couple on the road to invincibility. Ascott brings his velvety voice and an honesty and sincerity that makes you trust Harry implicitly. Groundsell brings her bright, alert spirit and eyes and a sense of endurance and determination.
Through the first half of the season, June was taking in everything around her with Groundsell’s luminous eyes. By the second half, she’d been beaten down and was struggling just to cope. You could sense that, much like Ben, she was determined to keep trying, no matter what. Groundsell had June settle into her body instead of being raised and alert, but didn’t have her go rigid or set her jaw. She was ready for the long haul, and wasn’t afraid of the work. While June frequently appeared exhausted on the outside, that amazing, subtle piece of body language told us what was actually happening inside her.
Abigail Hardingham, who plays Kam/Freya, also deserves a mention. She too portrayed her character in multiple phases: a tortured girl, a damaged young woman, and a desperate woman who’s trying to redeem herself. Kam could have been a sympathetic but boring character if the actor leaned too far into portraying her damage and despair. Instead, Hardingham made her fascinating and complex by keeping a sardonic half-smile on her lips and a slight twinkle in her eye, which carried over into the character’s shift into Steinar, an even better character beat.
I want so much more of Kam next season, now that she’s on the way to redeeming herself. A core Scooby gang consisting of Harry (not catatonic), June, Kam and Ryan would make me a very happy camper. It would be great if next season Kam and June have more of a chance to break out as characters, instead of being locked in Sanctum and guilt and Steinar’s body. I’d like to see more movement and adventure for them that doesn’t involve having their boyfriends tell them what to do or visiting a sex club. Let’s put them on the trail of Kam’s research, or finding a cure for the Penines 5.
Overall, I found The Innocents to be a fresh take on the supernatural genre, combining a teen monster romance with a grown up psychological thriller, and making both better. The sanctum portion was slow build psychological horror at its best, with a bait and switch monster, while June and Harry’s story gave them realistic problems to cope with in addition to the supernatural issues. Both sides of the story used supernatural elements to creatively illustrate real worst case scenarios: Lil’s simulated drug overdose brought on by June’s shift, June’s temporary teen pregnancy brought on by a shift, Runa’s increased dementia-related confusion because she’s not sure if she’s seeing the owner of the host body, a shifter using the form, or confusing them with a completely different person. Did she John in the yard and June wearing Freya’s dress, or did she really see Steinar, and recognize Kam’s mannerisms?
The characters were fully fleshed out, with layers and backstories still to be explored, plus intriguing plot set ups for the future. Everything about this show was well-done- costumes, sets/locations, music, writing/dialogue, casting, editing and effects. The grand finale effect where June changes from Harry to herself momentarily then to Christine was stunning and seamless. The music (music/sound design by Si Begg/ music composed by Carly Paradis) has also been a highlight for me. If they don’t put out a soundtrack album, I might have to cobble together one for myself. In the meantime, I found a Youtube playlist that’s linked below.
It’ll have to keep me occupied until season 2 arrives and June can get Harry out of his catatonic state.
Grade for Season 1: A
Youtube playlist of the soundtrack for season 1:
If you need cheering up, check out Percelle Ascott’s previous TV series, Wizards and Aliens, on Netflix. It’s from Russell Davies, creator of the new Dr Who, and is a cross between Harry Potter and the Doctor. Percelle is a sweet munchkin of 18 years old in the pilot.
Images courtesy of Netflix.