(CNN)“Soulmates” is an especially savvy concept, and among the best anthology series to come along in a while amid a flurry of mostly mediocre ones. At its core is the idea of better living through science — what would you do if there was a test to identify your soulmate? — and the consequences, often unintended, such a prospect could yield.
Set in the near future, the development of “the test” instantly raises a host of questions, explored over the course of the six-episode run: What if you were with someone when such a test became available, and they’re not your ideal match? What if your soulmate exposes a side of you that you didn’t recognize, or fully understand? What if your soulmate dies?
Created by Will Bridges — whose credits include “Black Mirror” and “Stranger Things” — and actor-writer Brett Goldstein (“Ted Lasso”), the series is especially effective in varying its tone from episode to episode, ranging from straight romantic drama to a more comedic excursion to Mexico to an hour with tinges of horror.
The premiere nicely lays out the format, with “Succession’s” Sarah Snook enjoying a seemingly idyllic life with her husband (Kingsley Ben-Adir), only to have that unsettled by seeing the impact of the test, marketed by a company called Soul Connex, on those around her. Even happiness might not be enough when the prospect of a scientifically ordained “soulmate” is possible.
At its core “Soulmates” explores some extremely profound issues, beginning with the notion of ceding our independence and free will over to technological or scientific solutions. It’s not that great a leap, after all, from “the test” to an existing dating/romance ecosystem that already promises computer-blessed matches, only here the concept is put on steroids.
The producers have assembled an excellent roster of actors, with subsequent episodes featuring a pair with “Breaking Bad” pedigrees — Betsy Brandt and David Costabile — as well as Charlie Heaton, Malin Akerman and Bill Skarsgard.
The show also looks better, generally, compared to the recent wave of anthologies — that is, programs featuring self-contained episodes built around specific theme — including Hulu’s uninspired “Monsterland” and Amazon’s “Modern Love” and “The Romanoffs,” with Netflix’s “Social Distance” to premiere later this month. Apple TV+’s “Little America” would be another welcome exception.
“Soulmates” has already been picked up for a second season in advance of its debut, which can sometimes be written off as irrational exuberance on a network’s part. In this case, though, the six-episode run makes clear that the format offers a vast array of storytelling possibilities, built around the tantalizing promise of better dating through science, with all the cautionary warnings that entails.
“Soulmates” premieres Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.