Skip to main content
opinion

Albano Jeronimo and Hannah Ware in Netflix's The One.Robert Viglasky/Netflix

The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh begins one of his great poems, The Hospital, with this: “A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward/Of a chest hospital …”

In love, he says, no less. Well now, love knows no reason, and that’s what keeps vast industries ticking along. From the mired-in-controversy Bachelor franchise to a thousand dating apps, the possibility of finding a soulmate without fuss or anguish is always a money-spinning enterprise.

But what if it was possible to use DNA to find that one person who was guaranteed to fall for you, and you were certain to love that person in return? Nobody would ever again ask, “How did you two meet?” Nobody in a relationship would wonder if there isn’t a better, truly suitable mate out there, somewhere.

Binge-watching guide: More than 30 series and specials to help you get through winter

The clunky series The One (new on Netflix) fiendishly posits the idea that you could indeed find your true love by matching DNA. In this fiction, the technical aspect of that matching trick is owned by a corporation that is, naturally, making a vast fortune. It’s called The One. How that company came into being and what nefarious acts were done, is the mystery strand of the eight-part series. That’s not the interesting part. The thread that makes it a passable, rather daft binge-watch is how characters behave when they discover that, for a fee, they can discover their true soulmate.

One character, Hannah (Lois Chimimba) seems in an ideal relationship with her partner Mark (Eric Kofi-Abrefa). So why is she intrigued by using The One? Turns out – and this is only giving a little bit away – she’s worried she is not Mark’s ideal mate. She sets out to find the woman Mark can be in love with, locates the woman, Megan, and makes friends with her, trying to figure out how to be more like Megan. This is foolish, dangerous and bespeaks an insecurity that, perhaps, some viewers find relatable.

Lois Chimimba plays a woman concerned her partner might not be her ideal match.James Pardon/Netflix

Then there is Kate (Zoë Tapper), a detective who happens to be investigating a death connected to the chief executive officer of The One. Kate uses the service and is matched with a lovely woman in Spain named Sophia (Jana Perez). Just from online video chats, Kate feels in love with Sophia and thinks The One has done her a great favour. Then, wouldn’t you know it, when Sophia comes to London to meet Kate, she’s involved in an accident and hospitalized with a grave injury. Can Kate’s attraction to Sophia survive this twist? Can she love a possibly brain-damaged figure who is comatose in a hospital bed?

Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious figure who keeps turning up, stalking the founder of The One, holding a placard that reads, “A match made in hell.” His point, one assumes, is DNA and algorithms have no role in matching people with other people. What about the children of couples who split because mom or dad has found a perfect match elsewhere? Yep, get your head around that, you heathens.

On the surface there’s the mystery story. You see, the CEO of The One is a horrible, horrible woman named Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware). We know from flashbacks that Rebecca stole a DNA database from a fella named Ben in order to test her initial work on matching people together. What happened to Ben? Why, he ended up dead, his body found at the bottom of a river.

The One works best as a speculative, what-if treatment of the idea that love is something science can solve.Netflix

Rebecca struts around being rich, famous and callous, accompanied often by her chap, the handsome Ethan (Wilf Scolding), who follows her around like a poodle. But then, get this, we learn from more flashbacks that Ethan isn’t her ideal match. That would be a laidback guy in Spain named Matheus (Albano Jeronimo), a surf instructor and bartender who Rebecca tracked down and indeed she fell heavily for him. But he’s not in the romance picture now. Go figure. Wait, actually what you can figure out is that this British production has more than one Spain-set storyline so everyone involved could escape grey, dreary England for some sun and fun in Spain.

Big-time clunky is what the series is, especially the overheated, long-winded murder mystery. Yet it has some appeal as speculative, what-if treatment of the idea that love is something science can solve. As such, it’s silly fun because love is a great mystery and, as Kavanagh also wrote in that poem: “But nothing whatever is by love debarred/The common and banal her heat can know.”

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.