“Watershed” introduces AMC’s new anthology with a crushing tale fronted by Sarah Snook and Kingsley Ben-Adir.
This recap of Soulmates season 1, episode 1, “Watershed”, contains spoilers.
The key question raised by AMC’s Soulmates is this: What if technology could find you your perfect romantic match? It’s a compelling idea, and feels like the logical near-future next step up from speculative shows that ask questions about how most of our dating lives are conducted through apps and screens now – and blimey, we’ve had enough of those lately. In its first episode, “Watershed”, Soulmates takes the question a bit further, to 2023, when scientists have identified a so-called “soul particle” and the awfully-titled company Soul Connex is promising to use it in order to match you up with your soulmate.
I’ve written the word “soul” so many times already that it’s meaningless to me now, but hopefully not for the characters in this six-parter. The headliner here in “Watershed” is Sarah Snook as Nikki, a character similar enough to her role of Shiv Roy in HBO’s Succession that I had some difficulty separating the two. Nikki isn’t the best at relationships either. She’s in an ostensibly good one with her husband Franklin (Kingsley Ben-Adir), but the episode’s opening finds her in the Soul Connex waiting room before cycling backward to a month earlier. Uh-oh.
Nikki and Franklin aren’t just married – they have two kids. But the allure of Soul Connex is obviously prompting a lot of dissatisfied couples to re-examine their love lives, including Nikki’s friend Jennifer, who raises that the pair of them might have both married young and married wrong. Marrying wrong is something that runs in Nikki’s family, it seems. Her brother, Peter, is getting hitched to a woman named Rose that he only met two weeks prior. How did he meet her, dear reader? If you voted through Soul Connex, give yourself a pat on the back.
Nikki’s relationship with Peter is the most interesting part of “Watershed”. They’re obviously close, but when they’re together they seem to be time-locked in their respective childhoods, with neither able to take the other entirely seriously. When Nikki, later in the episode, attempts to be earnest with him, he more or less blows her off – the implication is that sometimes the people who know you best are the least capable of giving you good advice. Peter doesn’t see Nikki as an adult woman having a serious crisis, but as his little sister nagging. She’s left to ponder whether she and Franklin are truly happy on her own.
That pondering leads her to experimentation, a lot of it sexual and decidedly unsuccessful. The irony is that Nikki’s attempts to spice up her marriage only make it worse when perhaps it was fine, to begin with. That’s certainly how Franklin sees it. He’s truly oblivious to what Nikki is feeling, and one gets the sense that it isn’t entirely because he’s ignorant. There’s a lot throughout this premiere episode that implies it’s the idea of Soul Connex, and the attitudes of people like Jennifer who buy into it unflinchingly and people like Peter and Rose who seem to be happy as a result of it, that leads Nikki down a path that ultimately destroys her marriage.
Only, it doesn’t destroy it in the way you think. See, when we join Nikki again about to take the Soul Connex test, we subsequently learn that she didn’t take it after all, because the thought of doing so prompted her to reflect on her marriage with Franklin, all their ups and downs, and take some pride in the fact that he was her choice. Their relationship wasn’t determined by an algorithm, but by their own feelings, shaped by their own shared experiences. It’d be a romantic, fitting ending if Franklin, fearing he was about to lose his wife to this test, didn’t take it himself. But he did. And found his soulmate.
It makes for a pretty crushing ending to “Watershed”, as Nikki, with a new man, picks up the kids from Franklin’s place, where he lives with his supposed soulmate. When they’re alone, he confesses to missing Nikki, to missing “us”. I guess the grass isn’t always greener. And there’s no test that can see over the fence.
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