In Netflix’s ‘One Day,’ Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew become the center of a story that spans a couple of decades and explores the meaning of love and friendship. Every episode returns to one day in their lives, July 15 of each year for twenty years, and focuses on the highs and lows in their lives, especially their complicated relationship. So much happens in the show that, at times, it becomes hard to keep track of what happened when with respect to the show’s timeline. If one were to dissect Emma and Dexter’s relationship, it could be divided into three phases. SPOILERS AHEAD
Emma and Dexter Almost Hook Up and Become Friends (1988-1993)
Emma and Dexter had seen each other around at Edinburgh University, but they aren’t actually introduced to each other until the final day of college on July 15, 1988. Emma had always liked Dexter from afar and while he notices her for the first time, he cannot take his eyes off of her. They have a brief fling that stops short of sex and end up spending a lot more time with each other than either had expected. At the end of the day, they part ways, exchanging information to keep in touch.
For the next few years, Emma and Dexter revolve in each other’s orbit, but they never cross the platonic line that develops between them. While Dexter explores the world, entirely clueless about what he wants to do, Emma tries to find a career in theatre and ends up working at a restaurant. They both end up in London, where Dexter finds immediate success working in television. It takes Emma some time to get her bearings, but she goes steady. In the meantime, they both have flings and brief relationships (Dexter more than Emma).
At one point, Dexter suggests they have a brief fling while they are on vacation in Greece, but Emma is hurt by his casualness and decides not to take things any further. Further, Dexter falls into the cycle of drugs and alcohol, which only gets worse after his mother’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death. As he gets worse, Emma starts to do better, having a relationship with Ian and getting back to writing.
The Dent in Emma and Dexter’s Friendship and Reunion (1994-1998)
Their diverging careers and lifestyles push Emma and Dexter away from each other. During a dinner in 1994, which happens after multiple cancellations and reschedules, Dexter is at his worst and Emma decides that she’s had enough of him. On previous occasions, she’d ignored and forgiven his rudeness and his habit of taking her for granted, but this time, it’s too much to bear. Dexter later realizes that he acted like a jerk, but that doesn’t make things better between them.
For the next two years, Emma and Dexter don’t speak to each other. During this time, Emma breaks up with Ian, has a fling with her married boss, and authors a book that is accepted by a publisher. Dexter also starts doing better as he stays away from drugs and alcohol while trying to get his TV career back on track. He also meets and gets engaged to Sylvie, with whom he later has a daughter.
Emma and Dexter reunite in 1997 at their common friend Tilly’s wedding. By now, both of them have moved past their grievances from 1994 and are quick to forgive each other. This reunion is also bittersweet for them, especially for Emma, because Dexter tells her that he is not only getting married in the next few weeks but is also going to become a father. From this point, they are back in each other’s life, their friendship rekindled to what it used to be before they’d fallen out.
Emma and Dexter Get Their Happily Ever After, Briefly (1999-2007)
After a decade of knowing each other and secretly pining for each other, Emma and Dexter finally get together in 1999. Dexter’s two-year-long strenuous marriage with Sylvie comes to an end after it is revealed that Sylvie cheated on him with his friend and boss, Callum. Shortly after they separate, Dexter and Emma sleep with each other, but before they can discuss anything, Emma leaves for France to work on her new book. A few months later, Dexter goes to France to meet Emma, mainly because he wants to address what happened and come clean about his feelings.
Dexter thinks he has missed his chance when Emma reveals that she is dating someone else. However, when he confesses his feelings, she decides to give their relationship a shot, and they get together. A year later, they move in with each other, and in the next year, they get married and start thinking about having kids. After trying for one year, they still don’t have kids, which becomes a reason for despair for Emma, but then, something worse happens.
In 2002, Emma dies after getting hit by a car. Dexter is inconsolable, especially on the first anniversary of her death, but by the next year, he starts to get better with the help of his friends and loved ones. Over the next few years, he starts getting back to his life, and the show leaves him in 2007, when he returns to Edinburgh, tracing the path he and Emma took in 1988, the day they first met and their story began.