The Innocent review – another twisty-turny Harlan Coben adaptation

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 30, 2021 (Last updated: December 8, 2023)
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The Innocent review - another twisty-turny Harlan Coben adaptation


The Innocent has all the hallmarks of a Harlan Coben story, with twists and turns aplenty, bolstered by capable performances and direction. The ideal binge.

This review of The Innocent is spoiler-free.

The success of Safe on Netflix prompted the streaming giant to sign an exclusive five-year deal with author Harlan Coben, eager to adapt 14 of his novels into original TV series and films. You can see why. Coben’s a maestro of the twisty thriller genre, and if The StrangerThe Woods, and now The Innocent are anything to go by, they play just as well outside of their Stateside settings. Here, Coben teams up with Oriol Paulo (late of Mirage, also on Netflix) for a Spanish adaptation of his same-titled 2005 bestseller about a man who accidentally kills someone in a bar brawl and finds his life spiralling out of control even after his sentence is served.

The sturdy Mario Casas plays Mateo Vidal, a law student who is drawn into a scrap while defending his brother, Isma (Jordi Coll), and serves four years for negligent homicide. While he’s incarcerated he toughens up, gets a haircut, and clearly finds himself embroiled in some dramas that he’d prefer to keep quiet about (cue hazy flashbacks, as always). He also enjoys some brief furlough time during which he meets Olivia Costa (Aura Garrido), the love of his life who he nonetheless fails to tell about his impending return to jail. By the time he’s eventually released, he’s able to secure a job at the family law firm with Isma and rekindles his romance with Olivia after another chance encounter, but before long his entire family are all dead as a result of tragic accidents, and he’s receiving very worrying calls and messages from Olivia’s phone while she’s away on business.

To say much more would be telling, and The Innocent is the kind of thriller that relies on twists and turns to keep the audience engaged. While there’s no shortage of clunky exposition, this is as pacey as any of Coben’s other thrillers, and it’s an ideal binge proposition for how reliably the story keeps turning on its head. Excellent performances lend the soapy material some real gravitas, and capable direction makes for great suspense. Genre fans will be well-served here, and while eight episodes seem like one or two too many, the time will fly by and The Innocent will almost certainly be another hit.

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