You wait a lifetime for a TV series about the availability of an algorithm or DNA test that matches people up with their life partners to arrive, and suddenly two turn up within a fortnight. With the dust still settling on Amazon’s slick anthology series Soulmates, Netflix has debuted their eight-part series The One, loosely based on John Marrs’ novel. Where Soulmates was slick, measured, and thoughtful, The One – which deals broadly with very similar concepts regarding the morality of imposed predestination and the potential risks when humanity forfeits its right to choose – takes a more lurid and pulpy approach. Yet The One, for all its lack of subtlety, is no less enjoyable even if it’s more of a propulsive, fanciful thriller than an edgy and cautionary parable for our times.
Developed by the prolific Howard Overman, The One is set ‘five minutes into the future’ (although to be honest, visually it looks more like five seconds) where tech whizzes Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) and James Whiting (Dimitri Leonidas) have devised a DNA test (it involves some connection to ant pheromones, but we won’t worry about the details too much) that can identify an individual’s perfect mate, the one person in the world that they are designed (if not destined) to spend their lives with romantically. Rebecca has become the CEO of ‘The One’, the organisation that now provides the test, but she and James have drifted apart and fallen out. When a decomposed body is discovered in the Thames at the beginning of the first episode, we slowly begin to realise just what has driven a wedge between them and why Rebecca will stop at nothing to keep her position on the Board on The One despite the efforts of Damien Brown (Stephen Campbell Moore), who funded the original development of the procedure, to force her out. Meanwhile, the Police – particularly Kate Saunders (Zoë Tapper) – who has herself taken ‘the test’ with results she wasn’t expecting – and Nick Gedny (Greg Chillin) are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the recovered body. The corpse is identified as Rebecca’s former colleague Ben Naser (Amir El-Masry) – and the Police begin to realise that Rebecca - and perhaps James - is harbouring terrible secrets that could spell the end of the empire Rebecca has worked so ruthlessly to build.
The One is labyrinthine stuff, its storylines weaving in and out between several characters who have been ‘touched’ by the test and are trying to navigate their way around the emotional chaos the results can cause. Despite its lack of subtlety and nuance and a few slightly overplayed performances, The One is addictive stuff. Each episode ends with a revelation or a cliffhanger that compels the viewer to press on into the next episode. Indeed, the whole series leaves plenty of loose ends hanging to ensure that viewers hanker for more. Just remember, though, that if you’re after a more esoteric and philosophical study of concepts surrounding the idea of predestined life pairing, then you have the right to choose Soulmates. Still, if you’re in the mood for a shameless thriller with more twists and turns than the proverbial twisty-turny thing, then The One could be for you. It could be the one, you might say.
Where to watch: Netflix.
You can watch an interview with Zoë Tapper here.