Review by C.J. Bunce
In our youths everyone at some point wonders if there is only the one person in the world that is the best match for each of us. “The one” is the subject of a new Netflix series from the UK now streaming called The One, a seriously good series that might sound like just another show about relationships and matchmaking. It’s certainly the hook, but what it delivers is actually a top-notch police procedural mixed with just enough science fiction and a great cast, the kind that could draw some comparisons to BBC’s Luther. Hannah Ware (Hitman: Agent 47, Oldboy) plays Rebecca Webb, one of the two discovers of technology using your DNA that can find the one person on earth that is guaranteed to be your best match. She becomes the CEO of the company that introduces it to the world. She’s driven, ambitious, intelligent, savvy, and ruthless. She’s also the series’ villain, and sure to be one of the best villains you’ll find on television this year.
Don’t confuse this with the AMC series Soulmates, but like that series The One, based on a novel by John Marrs, only begins with the premise of a scientific method existing for matching compatible people with their true partner, but it uses the idea as a setting to dig into the human condition. The science fiction aspect is quickly but believably explained as far more nuanced than what millions have found with 21st century dating websites. “The One” is the name a company brands a scientific finding adapted into a lucrative, successive corporate asset, inspired by the pheromone-like ability ants have that allow the most compatible ants to work together to complete tasks. Using a stolen database filled with millions of humans’ DNA, two researchers are able to conduct the research and find the part of the DNA that shows a similar compatibility in humans. Just sign up and you, too, can find the name and location of your ideal mate–no guessing required, no dating needed, no questionnaire necessary, as The One is biologically proven to find the best person for you. If you’re married… well that’s where one of the many potential story conflicts occurs, only one of many threads that could be worked if the series makes its way into multiple seasons.
The key theme of the first eight-episode season is the question: Can a good match be better, or at least enough, compared to your best match, and any other relationship continue if you know your best match is out there somewhere waiting for you?
Rebecca’s DNA research partner and best friend is James Whiting, played by Dimitri Leonidas (Doctor Who, The Monuments Men). But the tight friendship is actually a trio, which includes Amir El-Masry (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) as Ben Nasir, who has the misfortune of working for the government and being the person who has access clearance to the DNA database his two friends steal by accessing his laptop. He ends up dead. Which leads to the point-of-view character for much of the story and the leader of the police procedural plot. Zoë Tapper (Mr. Selfridge, Zen, Hex) is Kate Saunders, the cop leading the investigation into Ben’s death. She also has recently been matched to a woman from Spain (Cinderella’s Jana Pérez) who arrives only to get hit by a bicycle and knocked into a coma. As Kate struggles to deal with a match who she may never be able to get to know (and her match’s father, brother, and current wife), she also becomes progressively fixated on The One’s CEO as her key suspect.
Hannah Ware’s Rebecca is the kind of great CEO that takes no prisoners, Gordon Gecko of Wall Street collided with the twisted determination of Meredith Johnson in Michael Crichton’s Disclosure. Which means as much as the viewer can’t help but want to see her pay for her villainy–from interpersonal betrayals with her friends to much bigger breaches of ethics and law–were she a man everyone also might be cheering her on up the ladder of career success. Ware’s steely resolve for her character is perfectly managed. Her bundle of emotions as she meets her own match (Viking’s Albano Jerónimo), frustration as she goes to every effort to conceal her missteps (like masterminding a way to outwit a corporate investor played by The Bank Job and Ashes to Ashes’ Stephen Campbell Moore), and her reserved reactions of despair along the way might not be the endearing stuff of Anya Taylor-Joy in last year’s The Queen’s Gambit, but it’s definitely worthy of similar acting accolades.
One of Rebecca’s methods of damage control includes leaking information to a local journalist, Mark Bailey, played by Eric Kofi-Abrefa (Sherlock, Humans, Law & Order: UK). Through Mark’s relationship with his wife Hannah, played by Lois Chimimba (Doctor Who, A Discovery of Witches), viewers really learn the price to relationships and intimacy The One is causing across the globe. Frazzled, frenetic, and frenzied, Hannah is so real because she is her own worst enemy. In excruciating scenes she contacts and befriends Mark’s match (Lion’s Pallavi Sharda) solely so she may use what she can learn from her to try to keep Mark interested in their marriage. Her friend advises her this will backfire, and it does, but not how you might think. It’s the different paths writer/series creator Howard Overman takes with these characters that makes it refreshing in an era where every network seems to be jumping on the matchmaker series bandwagon.
Aside from a clunky set-up in the first episode, the series also looks good. This is the future, but it may as well be right now. The camera work, the art direction, and sets revisit that neo-futurist outlook of the 1990s. Just as the season finale nicely wraps up the key plot threads, it invents some intriguing new ones. A key theme queued up for season two? Is there really only one ideal match for each of us?
The best part? This is not a boring relationship drama. This is a great British police procedural with a stunning diverse cast, creative cinematography, and a smart if light use of science fiction to set the stage. Highly recommended, check out The One, streaming now on Netflix.