The One

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Hannah Ware in The One.
Hannah Ware in The One.
Photo: Robert Viglasky/Netflix

SHOW:

The One

WHERE TO WATCH:

Netflix

OUR RATING:

2/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

The One is a matchmaking service like no other. Using the latest DNA research, a group of DNA researchers led by Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) have created an algorithm that can pair a person up with the one person on Earth for whom they're most ideally suited – a biological soul mate, in other words. What does this mean, though, for love in this new world, and what terrible secret lies behind the creation of this scientific miracle?

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

I think I owe Soulmates on Amazon Prime a big apology. Not because it ripped off the central premise of John Marrs' novel, The One, but because for all of its many, many flaws, it did a much better job of capturing the themes of that novel than this so-called direct adaptation by Brit-TV veteran, Howard Overman (The Misfits, Merlin, War of the Worlds), does.

Don't get me wrong, Soulmates was still a badly wasted opportunity that only picked up with the final two episodes of its six-part debut season, but at least it finally found its way to making good on that utterly brilliant premise of what it would mean if science was able to figure out a person's true soul mate – if, admittedly, a bit too little, a bit too late. The One, however, takes eight episodes to much more severely waste that premise by turning the whole thing into a completely uninteresting and entirely unsurprising police-procedural thriller with a few soap-operatic romantic sub-plots sprinkled in for good measure.

This isn't to say that it's not put together with basic competence or isn't, basically, watchable – and if you're looking for something that's more a lower-grade Big Little Lies than Black Mirror, you may well enjoy it far more than I did – but who the hell thought that this was the story to tell with this premise?

The book itself has some issues, not least in its own thriller-type plot about the mistakes and crimes made by the creator of The One, but the stories built around the other characters – six couples in total, if I recall correctly – were largely really interesting and approached the central premise from very different angles. Also, while the Rebecca Web character's (she had a different name in the book for some reason) story in the novel was probably its least compelling, it was way more compelling and way more twisted than what we get here: which isn't so much a whodunit or even really a whydunit but a whatdidit (which we kind of know anyway).

I don't want to dwell too much on the source material, however, because though this is a lousy adaptation that alters things for no reason and leaves out most of its most compelling aspects, it's just not a very good piece of television in its own right.

Like the novel, the series does focus on a few different couples, and their lives do intersect at times – sometimes in passing, sometimes with much greater impact – but the biggest thread, by a country mile, has to do with Rebecca Webb and the shady beginnings of her company. Rebecca is painted with at least some depth, and Hannah Ware does a perfectly good job as an ice queen with raging passions lying just beneath the surface, but the plot around her and the way it unfolds, quite frankly, does nothing to deserve her. It's bland beyond words, but it's also befuddling that they treat the crime with this air of mystery but make it clear what happened, bar a couple of details, right from the off.   

Sadly, though the more relationship-centric, romantic subplots - including one that involves Rebecca and her true soul mate - are slightly more original and interesting than The One's rubbish crime story, they are still far from impressive.

The best of these, by far, revolves around the detective investigating Rebecca, Kate Saunders (a very solid Zoe Tapper) and her apparent soul mate, a Spanish woman named Sophia Rodriguez (Jana Perez), who falls into a coma after being hit by a car on her way to meeting Kate in person for the first time. While caring for her new love, Kate soon finds herself embroiled in Sophia's complicated family dynamic and soon finds herself falling for someone else in that dynamic even as her feelings for Sophia are tested by how little she really knows her.

This was the only part of the show that I was remotely invested in, but even here, some really bizarre flaws stop it from being enough to carry the series. First, it is, perhaps unavoidably, soapy and, like the rest of the series, is in desperate need of better dialogue and some actual humour. Still, there are other parts of the series that are far, far more guilty of both of these sins, and, really, the entire series suffers from a severe lack of wit, so why dwell on it here?

The biggest problem is that though it's pretty obvious that Kate will have her feelings confused by a certain member of Sophia's family, the one she ends up falling for is not the one with whom she is shown to have the most chemistry and with whom she spends the most amount of time. When the "twist" is finally revealed, then it just comes so far out of left field that one can't help but echo Arrested Development's classic refrain of "her?" (or, perhaps, "him?"). 

As for the series' other couple, Hannah (Lois Chimimba) and Mark (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) Bailey, their story has plenty of potential but is arguably a weak series' weakest aspect. The whole thing begins when an insecure Hannah takes the matchmakers test for Mark without his knowledge to find out if they're really meant to be, but when he is matched with someone else, Hannah can't help herself: she meets with the beautiful, charming Megan Chapman (Pallavi Sharda) who is entirely unaware she is matched with Mark.

This is by far the soapiest aspect of the series, but it also offers plenty of opportunities to really play with the central premise of what being scientifically matched with someone would actually mean to an already happily married couple, especially once the matched person becomes involved in their lives. Unfortunately, while it does play with these themes and much of it does actually work on paper, it is let down first by the fact that this entire story is almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the series (Mark, a journalist, has a fleeting encounter with Rebecca and, er, that's it) and second by dragging on for far too long. Most fatally, though, it is let down by the fact that Hannah is one of the most unbearably annoying characters to hit our screens in years.

I'm completely unfamiliar with Chimimba's past work (she may be brilliant elsewhere), but somewhere between her performance and the way Hannah is written, something went very, very wrong. It's not even that Hannah is clearly a manipulative dick who seems perfectly happy to ruin the lives of two other people – one of whom she apparently loves and one whom she becomes fast friends with – for the sake of her own insecurity, so much as the fact that this is all she is presented as. These are perfectly valid flaws to invest in a character, but only if that character is more than these flaws and Hannah, very simply, isn't. Mark is super bland, but the minute Megan shows up, it's impossible not to root for him to land up with her instead of his awful wife. 

This being, in intent at least, an open-ended series rather than a contained miniseries, all of these stories are left wide open for more seasons, but, honestly, unless Overman and his team can greatly overhaul its existing narrative threads and bring in some of the more memorable stuff from the novel, The One should live up to its name and spare viewers any more of this massively ill-conceived waste of a brilliant high-concept. 

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