Finally, we’re getting a little backstory on the good Dr. Halvorson and how his Norwegian Shape-Shifting Colony, apologies, new family came to be. We definitely need more info on Sanctum but “Deborah” at least offers some hints to how this whole thing got off the ground.
It all starts with our favorite maniacal syringe aficionado, Steinar. Except this Steinar doesn’t look like a maniacal syringe aficionado — not yet. He is well-groomed! At a cozy bar! WEARING A NICE SWEATER. He is also very, very sad. We’ll learn that Steinar’s parents died and things got very bleak — later, he tells Alf that he tried to kill himself — but it was Dr. Ben Halvorson who saved him. So when Ben walks through the door of that cozy bar and tells him an insane story about a patient he just met who was diagnosed a schizophrenic but then literally changed into another person before his very eyes, Steinar tries his best to be polite.
When Ben goes on and on about becoming partners and working together to uncover the Greatest Medical Discovery of All Time — oh, and also, by the way, no big deal, but could he use Steinar’s parents’ remote Norwegian farm? — Steinar seems intrigued by the idea of a new, exciting life, but he’s also wary of how ridiculous this all sounds. So Ben has him come out to the car to show him one last thing: It’s the real Ben in that familiar eyes-vibrating coma — Steinar’s been talking to Runa the entire time. Dr. Halvorson knew Steinar would need to see it to believe it. And the rest, as they say, is shape-shifting history.
This flashback also shows us the beginning of Ben and Runa’s relationship. He found her, saved her, and together they built Sanctum as he worked to “re-center” her. No wonder present-day Runa is in a tizzy over Elena staying at Sanctum with June indefinitely. And by “in a tizzy,” I of course mean experiencing uncontrollable rage that undoes all of her “re-centering” and sends her back into shift state. Runa’s dementia is getting worse and she fears that Ben’s simply trading her in for a younger, less-ill model. “I’m a puzzle you have solved,” she yells. He’s moved on to a bigger challenge. But Ben tells her she’s wrong, that he loves her, and then he sticks a syringe in her neck to sedate her. That’s love at Sanctum, I guess.
Ben’s sincerity toward the women he’s “helping” is always questionable, but if he is covering up his true excitement over getting his latex-gloved hands on a mother-daughter shape-shifting duo, he’s really going to have a tough time keeping his cool when he learns just how strong June’s powers are. June shifts for a third time and things get weird — even for this show.
Last we left our teenage soul mates, Harry and June were, well, basically in the middle of an existential crisis. June is dealing with the ramifications of her new abilities and Harry is struggling with both loving his girlfriend and having absolutely no clue how to handle what’s happening to her. Finally, they decide they need some help.
Normally, I’d praise two scared teenagers for going to an adult, but we already know that no one in this hospital is going to be able to fix June and it’s all going to go very badly. Which is exactly what happens.
A very nice, very pregnant nurse named Deborah (Clare Calbraith) is checking June out, but once Harry starts talking about how dangerous June is, our little shape-shifter starts doing her thing. And when Deborah brings out a needle, well, June has flashbacks of Steinar and goes into full-blown shifting mode. Harry can only watch in horror (the tears in his eyes, you guys!) as his girlfriend turns into Deborah, pregnancy and all. They grab the nurse’s car keys and attempt a quick exit.
There are several things happening outside of the hospital that might make that difficult. As soon as June checks herself into the hospital, Chris gets notified and lets John and Ryan know where the kids are. Which means that now Steinar and Alf, who are still trailing the McDaniels, know exactly where June is. Harry and June are able to dodge John and Ryan in the hospital — although June is completely floored that Ryan is actually outside — and they find Deborah’s car. As confusing as it is to Alf, who sees Harry with Deborah, Steinar knows he’s found June again.
Things really go wrong once Harry and June make it to Deborah’s house, hoping to regroup a little. Something strange is happening to June in this shift: She can feel the baby, she has access to all of Deborah’s memories, and she can do things that Deborah can — like perfectly stitch up Harry’s hand when he cuts himself with a knife. She feels attached to this woman, her baby, her home. When she starts suggesting that they could just stay here, with June as Deborah, and they’d be safe, Harry starts to worry. This is not what he signed up for. He wants June. Only June. But, saddest of all, June’s tired of being herself — she’s a monster — and she’d much prefer not existing at all.
By the time June’s holding up a picture of the ultrasound and declaring that the baby looks like her uncle, Harry’s had enough. He grabs some of Deborah’s money, goes looking for some supplies, and will return to get June and get out. His departure gives Steinar an opportunity to grab June.
Alf was questioning what his old pal is really up to before, but this, attacking a pregnant woman, is where he draws the line. As Steinar is breaking out the syringe, Alf runs into the house and physically stops his friend, leaving June with enough time to run. Steinar’s not finished yet — although after getting choked out, Alf is officially done with this madness — and June runs into Harry in the alley, and the two hide out in a nearby garage.
We’ve seen this pattern several times now: June gets scared, she shifts, and Harry has to talk her back into her own body with swoony words of love. Still, it doesn’t get old. This time is especially swoony, what with all the talk of June’s eyes and freckles and how her little finger loops around his — seriously, Percelle Ascott should be in all the things. This is a big moment for more than just the romance (you guys, he says “You’re my one and I am yours,” and I am sweating it), in this moment June has to remember and fully accept who she is in order to shift back. We’re all new to this shape-shifting stuff, but it feels like this is a big deal.
Now with Steinar scared off by some cops, June decides it is time to finally call her dad. She agrees with Harry; John must know more about what’s going on and it’s time she confronted him. This is some real growth for our June!
They meet at a very public restaurant. As you may have guessed, judging from John’s general demeanor (angry, mostly), this meeting does not go well. Even though Ryan pleads with John to be completely honest with June, since this is their one chance to bring her home, John remains vague and gruff in all his “answers” to June’s questions about her mom. Even after she shows John and Ryan the video on Steinar’s phone, he refuses to say much more than “she was dangerous.” When things escalate and June starts shifting, John pulls Ryan away and it’s clear John knows exactly what’s up.
The meeting is a failure, and Harry and June grab the bags John and Ryan brought them and make a run for it. With a little money, the teens can afford better than that grody motel. They are safe, even if just for a little. But their big day isn’t over (aren’t they exhausted?). June has begun accepting who she is, all of it, and now she’s ready for Harry to really see her. Harry and June have sex for the first time and it is all very sweet and if only they could stay in this little bubble for all time. But they can’t. This is The Innocents.
The show reminds us exactly what it is by, um, shifting from this very hopeful note to an extremely ominous one. A mysterious man in a swanky apartment is doing some late-night YouTube scrolling and comes across a video from a very familiar nightclub: It’s a video of June after she shifted into Lil. Commenters are going crazy, trying to figure out if it’s a trick of the camera, but our mysterious man leaves his own message: “I KNOW WHAT THIS IS. I CAN HELP.” So yeah, real ominous.
• Oh you guys, what a bounty of beautiful sweaters we are gifted with in this episode. Even Steinar sports one. A truly blessed time! Although Runa’s hooded sweater from the insane asylum, Elena’s sky-blue V-neck, and Chris’s chic, gray “I might kiss Doug while Lewis is in the other room” knit were all in the running, the winner is Sigrid’s chunky number seen above. She did pass her final test, get the all-clear to leave Sanctum, and receive an actual hug from Ben, after all. Of course, we learn that her shifting is tied to being abandoned by her father, which explains her jealousy of Elena, and I generally fear for little Siggy’s well-being around Ben. But goddamn, did she pick an excellent sweater for her big day.