A bit heavy on exposition though it might be, the opening episode of The Innocent raises some intriguing questions in this latest Harlan Coben adaptation.
This recap of The Innocent episode 1 contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
We’ve all done things we regret on nights out, but killing someone is a stretch even for me. This, though, is the predicament that Mateo Vidal (Mario Casas) finds himself in. It was a night like any other, really; a packed club, pounding techno, pretty girls, some dudes starting trouble for no good reason. The only difference this time is that Mat pushes one of the troublemakers, Dani (Eudald Font), and his head cracks nastily on a rock. Just like that, a life over, and another ruined. Talk about a hangover.
The Innocent episode 1 depicts this in an effective rotating camera shot, designed to emphasize the confusion of a drunken street fight. It’s intentionally hard to make sense of. We’ve all been there. Less elegant is the way the episode then begins to dispense exposition in a second-person narration cribbed from the book but that feels a bit ill-fitting in this context. The highlights include Mat being convicted to four years in prison, his parents dying in a car crash — suspicious! — and him meeting the love of his life, Olivia Costa (Aura Garrido), while on furlough. Life resumes, Mat does surprisingly well for himself, and they both find out that Olivia is pregnant. Can he really go back to normality after everything that has happened to him, and because of him? Of course not!
Dani’s father is a doctor in the hospital where Olivia finds out she’s pregnant, so there’s an obligatory tense staredown as he and Mat recognize each other from a distance. Classic. It’s also juxtaposed with the happiness and excitement of Mat and Olivia moving into a big new home, from the window of which Mat can see Eva (Olivia Castanho) and Hugo, both of whom started the fight that night. They live right across the street. Location, location, location!
Mat has secrets from Olivia. After dropping her off at the airport — she’s going to Berlin for work — he meets with Sonia (Ana Wagener), Dani’s mother, at an art gallery. They clearly have some kind of ongoing arrangement in which she pretends he’s Dani and he plays along, which is certainly a coping mechanism of a kind. The news that Olivia is pregnant, however, throws Sonia for a bit of a loop, but she’d rather deal with it in the context of the roleplay, like when your partner is annoyed with you and makes passive-aggressive remarks to the cat about it.
From Olivia’s number, Mat receives a creepy image of a man’s selfie, but when he asks what’s what he gets no response. He can’t get through to her on the phone, and when he tries calling her at the hotel, she isn’t there either. Never was. The next message is a little video showcasing the room number, a pair of heels, a wig. The next one shows Olivia asleep in her underwear, the same man naked next to her. When Mat calls again, the man answers to tell him he’s someone who knows his deepest, darkest secrets, and that Olivia can’t come to the phone. In the street outside, Mat is run over by a bald man who aims a silenced pistol at his face. This is a terrible day.
Following the accident Mat, given his record, doesn’t want to go through official police channels, so he instead turns to Zoe, a low-key private investigator he can trust. It seems obvious that Olivia is cheating on him, but why? What was with all the cagey phone calls he suddenly starts remembering she had? Why did she lock the bathroom door, lie about where she was staying? Is it something to do with the fact he has been meeting with Sonia, or something to do with some kind of brawl he had in prison, which we keep seeing flashbacks to? Questions!
Speaking of Sonia, Mat tells her about all this. Her husband, Jaime (Gonzalo de Castro), is also seeing someone; she pretends not to know since Jaime doesn’t know that she meets with Mat. Fair enough. She also works in a bank, so Mat tasks her with looking up Olivia’s credit card history. Sonia has apparently always found it weird that Olivia randomly found her way back into Mat’s life, and as she says, how many twists of fate can one person be subjected to without some alarm bells ringing?
The Innocent episode 1 quickly solidifies that Olivia is up to no good, even beyond the perceived affair. She calls Mat acting like everything is fine, claiming to be at the usual hotel and to not have sent him anything, but she’s adamant that he doesn’t fly out to see her, and when we cut to her in the hotel — dark, short hair this time, unlike the videos — she has a bag full of money on the bed behind her, and the man is with her. Hmm.
Zoe shows up outside Mara’s house — Mat is there watching the kids — to fill Mat in on the latest. The car that hit him was rented from the airport by Ibai Saez, a guy with a record of extortion and mutilation. Zoe shows Mat a picture of this guy, and it’s the dude from the video messages who’s currently with Olivia. That night, Sonia calls Mat to tell him that Olivia took a taxi from the airport after he dropped her off — she hasn’t used her card since, meaning she must still be local, and she recently withdrew 50,000 euros in cash from their savings (shouldn’t Mat have known about that transaction?).
The next call Mat gets is from Ibai himself, who tells him that in the next thirty seconds someone is going to knock on Mara’s door. If he mentions anything about any of this to her, Ibai insists he’ll cut out Olivia’s tongue and eat it, which is quite a threat. The caller slides a card under the door, though we don’t see the contents, and when Mat opens the door… the episode ends. Cliffhanger!