AMC’s Soulmates: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
I’m always a sucker for a new anthology series and when I heard that AMC had another one up their sleeve in the form of Soulmates, it instantly went on my watchlist. AMC has already proven that they can create great anthology series with The Terror and the news that they were bringing on people that worked on Black Mirror, mainly writer/producer William Bridges, as well as an all-star cast, I was ready to see what it would be all about.
The one big aspect to Soulmates that instantly sets it apart, evokes its Black Mirror reminiscence, and makes it instantly intriguing is the “test” that creates all of the tension, mistrust, and insecurity within this premiere. Taking place fifteen years in the future, scientists discover a soul particle that allows people to discover who they’re soulmate is and soon there is a test that’s created in order to match people with their soulmates. It’s an incredibly interesting variable that not only has the potential to touch on unique stories about love, but also how willing people are to obtain it. Just within the premiere, the potential for this series is clear, but that’s really all there that’s there – potential.
The overall concept of the Soulmates test is incredibly intriguing as it’s really like Match.com on steroids and makes people question everything in their lives. It preys on the idea that people look for high-valued terms, like “soulmate,” and that people look for that one special bond that they’re destined to find. It’s basically the scientific answer for people who obsessed over astrological signs or fate. It can even cause those that have found their love the traditional way to question everything in their relationship and expose insecurities and mistrust. It’s honestly the perfect kind of story device that can cause chaos and division in a way that horrifically real and touches on the part of a relationship that most people dread – the end. However, while it creates possible “perfect matches,” it also creates this cynical view of love that takes away a lot of the realism of people using it.
Honestly, everyone that takes the test in this episode ends up coming out like a total asshole as they are just up and willing to drop everything and everyone around them the second they get their match. Basically, a lot of the matches that we see come from people unhappy marriages, take the test, and then just dump the relationship they had before with zero remorse or concern for the person/people they’re leaving behind. Even worse, they come off super pretentious with this attitude that they’re better than everyone else and this selfishness makes you instantly hate their guts and just find them annoying. There’s even a point where the premiere’s protagonist Nikki (Sarah Snook) is calling her friend Jennifer (Dolly Wells), who dropped her husband the instant that she could and is mad that he’s upset that their marriage has suddenly ended, out for being selfish and the series just makes her look like a jerk for doing so.
Overall, it’s just hard to aim at what the series is trying to say with the people who have taken the Soulmate test. Perhaps, the testers, as I’ll call them, are meant to represent how people just move to a new relationship trying not to carry any of the burden or baggage of their previous relationships. They could also be an example of the honeymoon phase in full effect since they’re sort of blinded by love and think they’re going to be together forever. Maybe they’re even meant to represent a desperation for love and to find that someone special. It’s even possible that they’re just simply meant to be a heightened example of online dating since the opening mimics the Match.com and other online dating site ads we’ve seen before. Truthfully, though, it’s pretty impossible to tell what they’re going for and while there’re plenty of interesting possibilities with their greater meaning, the testers are so unenjoyable that finding their meaning becomes meaningless.
It’s also a bit of a bummer that the testers play such a prevalent part of this episode’s main story of Nikki questioning her marriage with her husband Franklin (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Nikki and Franklin have a perfectly fine marriage with a perfectly healthy family. However, once the Soulmates test becomes incredibly popular and everyone starts doing it, including Nikki’s brother Peter (Darren Boyd), Nikki begins to feel insecure about the relationships around her and whether there’s something better waiting for her than Franklin. It’s honestly a great first story that works well in this premise, but Nikki’s feelings and insecurities feel unnecessarily forced because the testers play too much of role.
Nikki seeing and hearing things about testers and how much they are in love is the major driving force that makes her question things and, personally, I think the option of the test was all that was needed. While seeing is believing, just the idea of the Soulmate test offering something better could be enough to prey on Nikki’s insecurities and lackluster feelings about her marriage and created a stronger presence for the test as a whole. We’re constantly just told about the test, but never see the process of it – rather just the result. So, the test, itself, never really plays a big part in Nikki’s questioning, or really much of anything, and she’s instead influenced by the annoying presence of testers that just kind of force her insecurities to come out. Again, this could be an example of peer pressure that the series is trying to personify through the testers, but it never comes across that way and instead just puts its characters in a corner and sends them in the direction it wants to. If the test was the major driving force, Nikki’s insecurities would’ve felt more personal, relatable, and not tied to such an unlikable and ham-fisted part of this premiere.
Thankfully, though, the story itself is a solid start as it’s rife with tension and emotion in major part to Snook’s great performance. Snook is one of the only things about the premiere that comes off genuine as she makes all of Nikki’s questioning and worry that she’ll lose Franklin very compelling and relatable. It’s easy to see how rattled she is by the whole experience and is desperate to try to make things work with Franklin. This genuine effort is one of the things that makes her so likable and different from the other garbage testers around her and even the really good ending of the episode establishes this idea of lingering feelings that many viewers can relate to.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that this series is filmed very strangely and can be a little disorienting to watch. I’m not sure why, but the premiere almost looks as if it’s meant to be filmed like a documentary with how much the camera shakes and doesn’t look like it’s on a film set. The cinematography is very strange as it looks so much like a commercial that I actually had a tough time distinguishing when the show was back from commercial break. As a whole, it’s hard to figure out what the series is going for with it’s filming style and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things change with the future episodes.
AMC’s Soulmates shows that it has the potential to be a compelling anthology series that fits right alongside Black Mirror but misses the mark in establishing that in the premiere. If the series can put focus more on central character conflict rather than pretentious and cynical views of love that infect the viewing experience and better utilize its titular Soulmates test, AMC could have something special on their hands. Until then though, Soulmates is just a Black Mirror wannabe.