Nikki (Sarah Snook) sits in a high tech waiting room fiddling unhappily with her wedding ring. She is about to take ‘The Test’ in Soulmates, a new series written and produced by William Bridges (Stranger Things, Black Mirror). Bridges’ writing partner and co-creator on the series is Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso).
The origin of Soulmates came from themes that were close to the heart of both writers. In an interview with Collider, Goldstein explained, “We both love writing about relationships. And at the time, we were at very different stages of our lives. Will was married, about to have a first baby and I was… probably dating the wrong person, is the best way of putting it. And we were talking about love and what it means, and we came up with this idea of what would happen if that were an actual test you could take. And we made a short film and then just sort of explored the idea… we showed AMC the film and they said, ‘we want to turn it into a TV show’, and we were like, ‘yes, please’, and here we are.”
In a not too distant future world, scientists have discovered a Soul particle which means you can be matched with your true soulmate. It seems too good to be true.
Other stories of utopian science like Brave New World or even The Matrix, generally have a thriller element where characters expose the corruption and manipulation of a science-controlled world. It’s a strength of Soulmates that the science is never questioned. The ‘Soul particle’ is presented as a legitimate discovery and this means the various story lines, with a unique cast of characters for each episode, can focus on the ethical and emotional ramifications of such a discovery.
From the brief waiting room scene that kicks off Episode One, we go to an immediate flashback one month prior where we see Nikki in her perfectly happy marriage to Franklin, played with sincere likeability by Kingsley Ben-Adir (High Fidelity). An attractive, successful couple, they’ve been together for 15 years, and enjoy a normal, messy life with their two young daughters.
Snook is always brilliant at presenting a complex inner life. Here, she’s spot-on as a woman struggling to believe in her own reality while being bombarded from every side by the question: what happens to existing couples when science can guarantee a perfect relationship match?
This is the cultural zeitgeist of the series, with social and mainstream media constantly referencing and discussing the phenomenon.
“I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t vote for this,” Nicky protests, yet she can’t help but be tormented by doubt.
When friend and neighbour Jennifer (Dolly Boyd) finds her soulmate and ditches her marriage of 15 years, the doubt becomes more pervasive.
“I see everyone living their best lives,” Jennifer tells Nikki, confessing the envy that led her to take The Test.
The tipping point occurs when Nicky’s own brother Peter (Darren Boyd), a hopelessly smug lothario, marries after 2 weeks of finding his match. Nicky’s cynicism seems borne out when he and the soulmate start fighting, but it’s seeing her brother break his old patterns to work at the relationship that really impresses his sister.
The series invites a great debate – do you trust science or your own instincts? Even if the test is foolproof, and the series never throws doubt on that, is the perfect partner going to guarantee perfect happiness?
As mentioned, each of the six episodes explores a different aspect of the theme and with a different cast. If your taste is towards investing in a great character and watching them evolve throughout a series, then you may be frustrated by the complete cast change in the standalone episodes. For example, Snook is a hard act to follow. But if you enjoy theme-based stories played out in different scenarios, as in The Black Mirror format, you’ll probably love this. The series boasts a stable of excellent actors, including some Bridges worked with on Stranger Things (Charlie Heaton) and Black Mirror (Anna Wilson-Jones), plus Bill Skarsgard and Malin Akerman.
Season 1 of Soulmates streams on Prime Video from February 8, 2021