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Friday, March 24, 2023

Complex British Sci-Fi That Does More Than Search For Soulmates

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The new British series, The One, is now available to stream or binge on Netflix. Produced by Urban Myth Films in association with Studiocanal for Netflix, The One is a murder mystery taking place in a near future where finding your soulmate is within reach, thanks to science. The series jumped to number 4 on Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.K. a day after its release, and number 6 of the Top 10 TV Shows in the U.S.

Set “five minutes in the future” as described by the official synopsis, The One, adapted by Misfits creator Howard Overman and very loosely based on a bestselling novel by John Marrs, is a sci-fi thriller about a dating agency that claims to be able to find everyone’s soulmate, or one true love, through the use of DNA matching. When a dead body is found by the police, Detective Inspector Kate is brought in to investigate, and soon finds a connection between the body and Rebecca, the CEO and founder of “The One”. Although the premise sounds pretty exciting, that excitement will dwindle with each passing episode due mainly to a confusing overlapping of storylines and flashbacks.

There are love intrigues, corporate fights for power, and a murder mystery in this eight-part series. The premise, finding one’s soulmate through DNA, recalls French series Osmosis, the AMC’s series Soulmates on Amazon Prime, or an episode of Black Mirror, but the resemblance ends there. The murder mystery in The One takes the story on another path. It quickly becomes a ruthless and frantic ride with an antagonistic leading character willing to do anything to keep her business a success.

The strength of this series lies in its concept, the possibility of finding one’s soulmate through DNA. The series first introduces the viewer to Rebecca Webb, played by Hannah Ware, the CEO and founder of “The One,” as she is delivering a speech to an audience about her company. “A single strand of hair,” she tells the audience, “all it takes to be matched with the one person that you are genetically guaranteed to fall in love with.” As proof that it works, Rebecca ends her presentation by parading her “true love” Ethan, played by Wilf Scolding.

Running parallel to Rebecca’s story, and how she co-created her company, is the storyline of couple Mark and Hannah, played by Eric Kofi-Abrefa and Lois Chimimba, a happily married couple. Hannah, perhaps too curious for her own good, wants to know if she is her husband’s match. She decides to send a strand of Mark’s hair to “The One” to find out without telling him.

A third storyline also involves Kate, played by Zoe Tapper, who has been matched with Sophia, who lives in Barcelona. Kate grapples with both her investigation and meeting her “one true love” for the first time as Sophia arrives to London.

These three storylines, which frankly should have been sufficient in describing how effective the DNA matching works (Mark and Hannah’s, by far the most interesting storyline, could easily have been a stand-alone series), are themselves overlapped with a series of other intrigues. The murder mystery, which opens the series, is investigated by police detective Kate, who suspects Rebecca may have had a connection to the body. At the same time, Damian, played by Stephen Campbell Moore, an investor in the DNA matching company is scheming to take it over and demote Rebecca from her CEO position.

The One is an intriguing series, but there is just too much going on. Too many storylines overlap each other, with on top of them a series of flashbacks showing how Rebecca and fellow researcher James, played by Dimitri Leonidas, created the DNA matching technology. This over-abundant use of different storylines and flashbacks renders the series at times confusing. 

Too much of the series is taken up building Rebecca’s character as this ruthless and arrogant anti-hero, instead of exploring whether the DNA matching does truly work, and if in the long run the couples matched do stay together, which the increase in divorce hinted at by the politician which Rebecca threatens at the beginning suggests that they do not.

The eight episodes end with a lot of loose ends, suggesting that a second season may be planned. The One is on Netflix since March 12.

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