Review: The One 2021 By Hannah Ware, Dimitri Leonidas, Diarmaid Murtagh
I wouldn’t dare suggest that I’m smarter than Netflix’s all-knowing algorithms. I’m confident they calculated the optimum bingeability quotient for the streamer’s latest slightly sci-fi suspense series, “The One.”
That noted, what were those robots thinking?
Although it certainly possesses the gotta-keep-watching thing Netflix infuses into its hits, “The One” seems like eight episodes of missed opportunities, regardless of how well the formula takes hold.
The basic concept of the series, which begins streaming Friday, March 12, is that sometime in the near future, a simple DNA test is developed that can match every individual with their true soul mate. Of course, it’s instantly monetized into the One, a sort of biology-driven Tinder that you only have to use once to live happily ever after.
Imagine the myriad emotional, comic and human-interest complications that can arise from that premise. How about the idea of a Mark Zuckerberg type controlling the love lives of everyone on the planet? Then make it British, as this show is, and you could have the “Black Mirror” of romantic anthologies.
“The One,” which was adapted from John Marrs’ novel by writer-producer Howard Overman, does some of the above, now and then. But most of this first season is devoted to a murder investigation — a very drawn-out, repetitive and not at all mysterious murder investigation. It’s all dramatized and acted competently enough to hold your attention, but jeez, shouldn’t machine-enabled love be the focus here?
There are three running plotlines. The main one’s centered on Rebecca (Hannah Ware of “Betrayal”), the One’s CEO, who developed its can’t-miss technology with a geneticist friend. She’s one of those cold, ruthless English super-competents whose key humanizing weakness is in the love department, as we’ve seen in a number of recent series such as “Bodyguard” and “Killing Eve.”
Rebecca is incredibly rich after her company has made millions of matches, is involved in a “Succession”-like corporate power struggle, and knows how to shut up politicians who decry the collateral damage her operation does to less-than-perfect relationships and families, not to mention singles bars. When her jealous former roommate’s corpse is dragged out of the Thames a year after he disappeared, Rebecca becomes a prime suspect for police Inspector Kate (Zoe Tapper from “Mr. Selfridge”). The bisexual detective has just been matched with a woman from Barcelona, by the way, and the Spanish beauty’s arrival in London is wrought with extended complications, most of which are more interesting than Kate’s criminal case.
The third narrative wheel spins around married couple Mark (Eric Kofi-Abrefa of “Harlots”) and Hannah (Lois Chimimba). Mark is a journalist reporting on/used by Rebecca, and Hannah is a worried wife who secretly sends strands of her husband’s hair in to the One, just to see if there might be someone she should keep him away from out there. This is the only story line that finds a little humor in the situation.
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Marrs’ book is generally filed in the thriller genre, so that may be an unavoidable excuse for how the series plays out. I’ll admit I haven’t read through it, but a quick glance indicates that there are more individual, anecdotal stories in the novel than there are in the script for the series.
The initial season of the series properly wraps up what it needs to by the end, while leaving enough subplots dangling to tease that matters may become more intriguingly human than scientifically calculated if there are future encounters. This first date with “The One,” however, is nothing you want to take to heart.