Netflix and Charlie Brooker haven’t been churning out episodes of its twisty, sci-fi series lately, last giving us three less-than-stellar episodes in the summer of 2019. Brooker is currently working on a mockumentary of the year 2020 narrated by Hugh Grant, so don’t expect any new episodes anytime soon, either, although there have been a number of imitators to come along in the wake of Black Mirror’s success. There have been great ones (Years and Years on HBO), decent ones (Upload on Amazon Prime), and bad ones (Weird City on YouTube Premium). Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s uneven Twilight Zone feels more like a pale imitation of Black Mirror than it does the original Twilight Zone, to which Black Mirror owes a great deal of its own success.
The latest Black Mirror-esque show to come along, Soulmates, is not just one of the best of the bunch, but the one most similar in tone and spirit to Black Mirror. That’s, in part, because it comes from creator and writer Will Bridges, who wrote a couple of memorable episodes of Black Mirror, most notably USS Callister. Bridges’ writing partner and co-creator on Soulmates is Brett Goldstein, a writer on one of the best shows of 2020, Ted Lasso, on which Goldstein also plays aging soccer player Roy Kent.
The wrinkle in Soulmates, and what makes it different from Black Mirror is that it takes a futuristic concept, and instead of building one episode around it, the AMC series creates 6 different anthology episodes (with different characters) around the same premise. Set 15 years into the future, that premise entails an algorithm that can pair anyone with their “soulmate” with 100 percent accuracy. The idea sounds like something out of the “Hang the DJ” episode of Black Mirror, but Soulmates smartly comes at the premise from a number of different angles.
In the first episode, for instance, Nikki (Succession’s Sarah Snook) and Franklin (High Fidelity’s Kingsley Ben-Adir) are a happily married couple who seem to have it all, but can’t help but be tempted by the Soulmates algorithm. Paired with their soulmate, could their life be even better? Should they risk a great marriage for an even better one?
In “The Lovers,” Alison (Sonya Cassidy) takes advantage of the algorithm in order to trick the happily married David (David Costabile) into a torrid affair, but her motivations may not be pure. In “Layover,” Mateo (Bill Skarsgård) falls in love with Jonah (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) while he’s searching for his soulmate in an unfamiliar country; Charlie Heaton and Malin Akerman star in “Break on Through,” which is about a cult devoted to those whose “soulmates” are dead; and in “The Ballad of Caitlin Jones,” a character played by Betsy Brandt wonders why she’s been paired with a murderer. It turns out, however, that the algorithm knows her better than she does.
What’s interesting about Soulmates is that there is nothing faulty about the algorithm. The people who are matched are each others’ soulmates, but the series asks the simple question: Does being with the person that you love the most make you the happiest? The answers are usually surprising. The series, which has been renewed for a second season already, boasts a stellar cast, strong writing, and a tone that could easily be confused with Black Mirror. While Soulmates — like most anthology series — has some episodes that are better than others, of the first six episodes, there’s really only one less the stellar episode of that bunch (that’s “Little Adventures,” for those who might want to skip it). The series is definitely worth checking out.
‘Soulmates’ is available on AMC on Demand, AMC+ or AMC Premiere.