By Joel Keller@joelkeller
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A few months ago, there was an AMC anthology calledSoulmates, which posed the the idea that you could find your true love via matching DNA. The people in the series destroyed happy relationships to follow that curiosity, showing that true love is not something that should be determined by science. So imagine a series about that premise, married to aBig Little Lies-style murder mystery?
THE ONE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A diver plunges into the Thames, and in a few minutes, he’s shocked at what he sees: A skeleton resting at the bottom.
The Gist: Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) is the CEO and face of The One, an app that promises to match you to the love of your life via DNA analysis. As she states in a TED-style talk, she was tired of mediocre dates and sex, and she thinks that matching via DNA is the absolute best way to ensure yourself a fantastic relationship. She has done it herself, trotting out her husband Ethan (Wilf Scolding) as proof.
The One has become a huge company extremely fast; it was a germ of an idea two years prior when Webb took advantage of research from her coworker and friend James Whiting (Dimitri Leonidas), who was studying why DNA in ants determines why they work in groups. The two of them were partners in the business, but a year prior, Whiting left and disappeared, as she tells reporter Mark Bailey (Eric Kofi-Abrefa).
Mark and his wife Hannah (Lois Chimimba) met the old-fashioned way, and they seem to be in an extremely happy relationship and have volcanic sex. But Hannah sees these ads for The One and wonders if there’s someone even more suited for her out there, despite being happy with Mark.
DCI Kate Saunders (Zoë Tapper), who with her partner, DS Nick Gedny (Gregg Chillin) have been investigating the case of the skeleton found in the Thames, has been using The One, and she got a match: A woman in Spain named Sophia Rodriguez (Jana Pérez). They have fantastic chemistry on their video calls but when Sophia comes to London to meet Kate and never makes their rendezvous, Kate finds out something horrible happened.
We flash back to two years prior; Rebecca has been in the “friend zone” with her flat mate Ben Naser (Amir El-Masry), a zone he wants to get out of. James is afraid that she’s going to break his heart, and Rebecca doesn’t disagree. But, two years later, she finds out that Ben, whom she filed a missing persons report on the year prior, is the skeleton that was found in the Thames, she doesn’t collapse in grief, she flashes back to the night he died. The first thing she does is get in touch with James.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The AMC anthologySoulmatescrossed withBig Little Lies.
Our Take: The One, written by Howard Overman based on a novel by John Marrs, is trying to be a lot of things at the same time. It’s a commentary on love and relationships, a treatise on how matching via DNA is creepy and weird and probably wrong, and aBLL-style murder mystery on top of it. It’s a bit of a sprawling mess, made worse by a first episode that bounces around its timeline and doesn’t take the time to really figure out why Rebecca turns from normal research scientist to Elon Musk.
The transformation of Rebecca in such a short period of time is remarkable. She’s a normal working stiff two years ago, speaking in a normal cadence, but as the face of The One, she wears suits and slaps on the makeup and has her hair in a tight bun as she slowly talks about how revolutionary her matching system is. The insistence on bouncing around, giving the viewer only bits and pieces of information, makes for a maddening effect instead of getting the viewer into the story.
Why? Because we want to root for 2019 Rebecca (sorta… How she keeps Ben in the friend zone is annoying, even though she talks about how lousy her own parents’ marriage is) but we never get a chance to because 2021 Rebecca seems like she’s such pure molten evil. What happened in those intervening two years? Did Ben’s death do something to transform her? We fear we won’t get any of that information until we’ve gone through the entire season, and there doesn’t seem to be enough to latch onto to prompt us to do that.
The other two storylines, Hannah/Mark and Kate/Sophia, feel like an attempt to show just how dangerous The One can be, but nothing more. Why is Hannah pining away for a DNA match when it seems like she and Mark get along like gangbusters? And we know that Sophia’s accident in London likely wasn’t an accident. But it feels like those stories will distract from the main one, which is what in the heck happened to Ben and why.
Here’s what we do know: James and Rebecca were involved, and soon after that James buggered off with a generous buyout. The three of them were buddies, so in the first year of The One’s existence, something seemed to happen to sour things. But, as we said, we’re afraid that’s only going to be titrated out to us over the 8 episodes of season one.
Oh, and there’s also the little matter of Rebecca’s lack of ethics; it seems that her main financier, Damien Brown (Stephen Campbell Moore), has a shady background, and is also afraid of financial blowback if the company’s use of DNA is found to be unethical. So we have yet another storyline to follow. How many threads can this show keep following before it loses one or two in the process?
Sex and Skin: Hannah and Mark have steamy sex in the shower.
Parting Shot: After we see Ben fall in the river, we see Hannah’s face, and a billboard behind her signifying one million users for The One, so this incident was after the app became a success.
Sleeper Star: Zoë Tapper shows that a female detective on TV can actually have notions of romance instead of just being so focused on work that she’s doomed to live a life without love.
Most Pilot-y Line: Hannah Ware speaks so slowly when talking to a politician she’s blackmailing that it feels like the director wanted her to “sound evil.” Considering how well Ware does when she’s just “regular Rebecca,” it’s off-putting.
Our Call: SKIP IT.The Oneis a show that needs focus to be interesting, and it just can’t figure out what kind of show — or what aspect of its story — it wants to focus on.
— Decider (@decider) March 15, 2021
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
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