Developed for television by Howard Overman
Based on the novel by John Marrs
Release Date: 12th March, 2021
Streaming Service: Netflix
There appears to be a trend amongst certain current television shows that really want to go to town with stories involving dating apps with an Orwellian twist. Unsurprisingly Black Mirror delivered a version on this idea in ‘Hang the DJ’, but in the last few years we have also had the K-drama Love Alarm, the AMC anthology series Soulmates and now Netflix’s The One. Interestingly, Netflix also produced Love Alarm and Black Mirror so it almost feels as if the streaming service, one that pairs your viewing choices based on an algorithm, have a vested interest in exploring genre material related to dating with a similar sense of matching.
‘Matching’ is a term you will hear a lot during The One. Based on the novel by John Marrs, the book comes to the screen under the eye of showrunner Howard Overmann (Misfits, Crazyhead) with several episodes directed by Catherine Morshead and a cast including Hannah Ware and Zoe Tapper. It’s a series that’s very much driven by its female leads and which combines an expansive thriller plot with subplots centred on character and drama as opposed to relying on thrills.
Interestingly, it’s the more grounded character moments where The One excels compared to its thriller elements. The thriller stuff works fine, excelling at the genre stuff in the later episodes more than it does at the beginning, but like Soulmates or Love Alarm, Overmann’s scripts are at their very best when dealing with character, dark humour and the more philosophical and ethical elements of its story.
Your patience with the series might also vary on how you feel about its non-linear style of narrative, jumping around its time line as it establishes how the technology at its centre comes into being (treachery and murder are all involved) with copious amounts of ‘three years earlier’ and ‘four months earlier’ sequences throughout.
It’s been met with somewhat mixed reviews but truthfully, I rather enjoyed it. At eight episodes, none running any longer than forty-five minutes, there is a purely enjoyable televisual feel to it that feels refreshing in this day and age of streaming shows that play merry hell with their running times.
Even better, while there is a global reach to ‘The One’, the company that is the ultimate matchmaking service, its London setting means that it has a very British feel, which makes it a lovely change from seeing this type of story told on an American canvas (the Korean setting also made Love Alarm feel so much different to how its YA story might have played had that been American too. I guess if you want the American version, there’s AMC’s Soulmates).
There is an abundance of incident here and while it’s central murder mystery yields little-to-no surprises (it honestly feels as if the flashbacks pretty much give everything away in the run up to its big reveal in the finale), it manages to function well thanks to the writing of Overmann and the performances of both Hannah Ware and Zoe Tapper.
In fact, as the series continues, it becomes clear that not only are the best elements of the series the ones that deal with the emotional and moral fallouts of such a company like ‘The One’ existing, but it’s in fashioning Ware’s character increasingly into an anti-hero that really gives the thriller elements considerable weight and juiciness to dig into.
Given that a female anti-hero is all too rare in a century that has given us the likes of Don Draper, Vic Mackey, Walter White and Tony Soprano, there is a lovely novelty to watching Hannah Ware’s performance as Rebecca go from making those compromising decisions bit by bit in the flashbacks to committing murder and pretty much putting herself front and centre as a dark master of fate when it comes to pretty much the relationship status of anyone who uses her website, and that means a large portion of the population.
In some respects, as a television anti-hero, she has managed to go one step further than her male counterparts. Not only is she arch and Machiavellian, but her plan and business isn’t just one that’s giving her massive riches, it’s also making her someone with considerable say in the direction of the world itself.
The series distils itself down to her adversarial relationship with Tapper’s character Kate Saunders, the detective investigating the death of Rebecca’s friend Ben, and who is dealing with her own set of dramas involving having been matched. By the time the series ends, the two are on collision courses against each other, both delivering not so subtle threats as a cliff-hanger ending looms and the stage is set for a second season.
As is always the case with Netflix, whether a second season will be made is a question up in the air. The series was on the Netflix Top Ten, at least in the UK, for a few weeks, but even that isn’t a guarantee of renewal. It would be a shame because this is slickly entertaining stuff. It’s not the greatest television series ever made by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a dark slice of slick fun that hints at intriguing future directions for its story and honestly, I’d be interested to see where it goes.