'Soulmates' Episode 1 Review: Can Nikki and Franklin escape their fizzling marriage through science?
Spoilers for 'Soulmates' Episode 1 'Watershed'
When philosophers talked about the concept of soulmates, they professed an entity split into two — an atom or a "soul" if you will — that got divided into two people at the beginning of this universe and have since yearned to reconcile, reconnect and return to be one and the same. The idea of a soul has enchanted and entraced many, and even 15 years from now, it exists in the titular AMC show 'Soulmates'.
But as exciting, nerve-wracking and a little bit thrilling as the idea might be, what if you have lived a life and built a soulmate out of someone else? Would you still ache for that soulmate of yours? The sci-fi anthology thriller takes six couples from six individual, hour-long stories to estimate the significance of having a medically and scientifically certified soulmate for each.
And while they usually save the best for the last, the Sarah Snook and Kingsley Ben-Adir starrer 'Watershed' might just be the best pilot it could have opened with. As the grand opener of a concept that is pretty much 'Black Mirror' Season 4 Episode 4 'Hang the DJ', the first story of 'Soulmates' titled 'Watershed' sees Nikki (Snook) and Franklin's (Ben-Adir) marriage crumble under the weight of everybody else relying on a scientific test to find their soulmate.
Married with two kids, the two had met in college and stayed pretty much inseparable since. It's one of those romances that spark both awe and envy with people saying "Wow, you guys are still together?" A match made in heaven, if you will — the only last duo of soulmates who didn't have to rely on science to bring them together.
But that is also probably what makes their fizzling romance and mundane settling into the family life seem an uncharismatic relic compared to the budding attraction people seem to be enamored by with ther soulmates. Unlike the 'Black Mirror' episode where a dating app wound find the perfect match with an expiry date on the relationship, the idea of Soulmates' scienntific test 'SoulConnex' is to find the one person you can build your happily ever after with.
And although attending these increasingly frequent weddings thanks to the test makes Nikki evaluate whether she and Frankling have lost the spark, 'Watershed' for the most part, debates between whether science is the answer to the other side of happily ever afters.
When their neighbour and close friend Jen takes the test, watching her be so enthralled by meeting this stranger moving countries for her is a concept difficult to digest for Nikki. She is skeptical about her brother finding love at 50 and getting married within two weeks of meeting each other. But there's a bitterness in the ways she finds these people so "smug" and "cocky" about knowing this soulmate is the one for them now that it's scientifically established.
Instead of questing the existence of God 'soulmates' question whether science can fix the emotional problems of the heart and Nikki and Franklin's tragic story only speaks volumes about how some things are magical only when done sans the AI.
Nikki, somewhat jealous that their perfect romance and blissful marriage isn't the endgame for anyone, decides to be spontaneous in manners Franklin's stable nature finds too erratic. This spurs them into a pitfall where both topple over the edge of the heart and decide to rest their cases in the hands of science. The twist in the tale is predictable — Nikki, although the one to initiate the idea of taking the test, backs out at the last moment. But when he comes clean to Franklin with an admission of how great and treasured their life still is to her, he admits to have already taken the test and met his soulmate.
Almost as if a glaring reminder of careful what you wish for, this slap is beyond any dry spell in their relationship and it is in these final, heartbreaking moments of the episode that 'Watershed' shines the brightest. Snook's expertise has been an award season favourite for years, but Ben-Adir is refreshingly stoic and a treat to witness, relaying the nuances of a marriage falling into the traps of any other relationship.
If you're a sucker for open ended love stories where people go their separate ways even though feelings say intertwined, 'Watershed' is a good hour of hearty cry for you. Subtle moments of the spark fizzling out where Nikki and Franklin try to reconnect by going on a date night but end up coming home more disappointed than ever are enough to suggest the human pain of getting comfortable an forgetting to appreciate what you have. But is what's out there, no matter how scientifically proven, really worth leaving the home behind?
In the end of 'Watershed', both Nikki and Franklin are with their soulmates — co-parenting with misty eyes and sighs of despair every time they see each other. Their interest in their certified soulmates are already waning — Frankling even admits missing Nikki but they made their beds now they must lie in it, no matter how cold the other side gets.
'Soulmates' premieres on October 5 and will air on Mondays at 10 pm on AMC.