The Innocent / El inocente (by Oriol Paulo, 2021) – Mateo had been ready to start afresh after serving his prison term for manslaughter, but his past soon comes back to haunt him.
Fans of mystery thrillers would be remiss to overlook the films of Oriol Paulo. His slate of brilliant thrillers, including The Invisible Guest and Mirage, has consistently impressed international audiences with their unmatched suspense and some unexpected twists.
These aren’t the cheap surprise endings that exist solely for a few seconds of shock. Rather, his stories unravel with poise and perfect pacing, allowing us to savour each graceful reveal that fits into the puzzle neatly – like a modern-day Agatha Christie read.
His track record stays unblemished with El inocente. Based on a Harlan Coben novel, the series begins with a harrowing crime, where young Mateo (Mario Casas) accidentally killed another man after a bar brawl. Nine years later, he has served his time and believed that he could leave it all behind him. But just as he settles into his new life with his wife Olivia (Aura Garrido), he soon realised that the past isn’t quite over.
Venturing into the limited series format for the first time, Oriol Paulo remains in his element. His mastery in suspense leaves one constantly eager for answers, especially when we learn what more there is to the characters beyond what we see. The 8-episode length lends the seasoned filmmaker more room for depth, such that we become sympathetic to the dilemmas of the individuals caught in the tangled web of ploys.
Every action has its consequence and it isn’t just Mateo’s in his reckless youth. Olivia has her own fair share of secrets, as do the others tied to the couple’s pasts and embroiled in the intricate case. Harlan Corben’s source material deserves equal credit for the endless intrigue of the story, in how he strings together the various threads of his characters, each dealing with their own traumas that they suffer in silence.
As a result of this dream Paulo/Corben collaboration, supported by a band of solid performances, the Netflix series never falters at mid-point as many others do. Anticipation for answers only grows with each episode, up till the final moment that cleverly shakes up our version of the truth for the last time.
Of unexpected turns and lasting tension, El inocente delivers everything a proper thriller should.
El inocente is now on Netflix.