Netflix’s latest commissioned South African series looks and feels great but is not an unqualified success.
Blood and Water is Netflix’s second commissioned South African series. The six-episode, high-school drama, directed by Nosipho Dumisa, shows the quality that South Africa has to offer when it come to clever camera movement and fresh characters. However, a few consistency errors and gaps in the plot undermine this quality to an extent.
Sixteen-year-old Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata) transfers to the prestigious fictional school Parkhurst College to find out if their swimming star, Fikile ‘Fiks’ Bhele (Khosi Ngema), is her long-lost sister who was abducted at birth.
The camera work is thoughtful and creative. As illustrated in the opening scene where Puleng is shown with the camera initially upside down and turned right side up. This seems to reflect the state of Puleng’s family when we first meet her. She and her family are gloomily celebrating the 17th birthday of her sister who was abducted at birth, and to top it off, her father, Julius, is later arrested for child trafficking.
The characters are refreshing South African adaptations of common teen drama archetypes. Puleng has a strong will and determination to solve the mystery of her kidnapped sister that may also uncover a child trafficking syndicate. She is much like other fictional female teen detectives like Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars who get wrapped up in high stakes crime cases.
Characters such as Fiks’s friend, Chris Ackerman (Arno Greeff), illustrate that the adaptation of archetypes is done in the name of representation. In any other teen drama, he’d be the attractive male lead who gets the girl in the end. That image is subverted in the very first episode when we find out he’s pansexual and not even as good a swimmer as Fiks.
The show is not without fault though. The blatant consistency errors detract from the professionalism of the work. For example, when Puleng’s love interest, Karabo ‘KB’ Molapo (Thabang Molaba), quotes rapper Nasty C. The rapper then appears as a different character later on in the show. In another scene, Puleng is talking to her friend Zama (Cindy Mahlangu) and Zama is holding a hockey stick. The stick magically changes colour from yellow to black and back to yellow in the middle of the scene.
The plot also leaves significant loose ends by the time we get to the end. Firstly we aren’t given conclusive enough evidence that Fiks is Puleng’s sister after Puleng spends a lot of time trying to conduct a DNA test but then the test is stolen in a house robbery. The ‘evidence’ offered at the end is based around a fraudulent birth certificate, however, the contradictory nature of the evidence undermines the solving of the mystery.
All in all, the show was enjoyable and refreshing but the plot got a little too ambitious at times and left holes in the end. This would be a great watch for South African teens because of how familiar it feels.
Vuvu Rating 6.5/10
FEATURED IMAGE: Netflix series Blood and Water premiered on May 20. Photo: Provided
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