As you are reading this, I am probably asleep because I spent the entire night watching Netflix’s second African original just in the name of an opinion otherwise known as a review – Some might agree with it and some may not for a couple of reasons in this review.
Spoiler Alert!!! Please read another article if you haven’t watched the show yet.
Earlier in 2019, Netflix ordered Queen Sono which became Netflix’s first African Original and along with it came to the newest arrival called Blood and Water.
‘Blood and Water’ follows a 16-year-old teen named Puleng Khumalo, an intelligent played by the amazing Ama Qamata who is on a mission to solve an old case about her sister who was kidnapped over 17 years ago.
The first episode starts with a 17th birthday celebration for Puleng’s long lost sister which her mom celebrates every year with a morbid party where they end up having a fight that leads Puleng to another birthday party where she meets a girl named Fikile Bhele (Khosi Ngema) who she swears is her long lost sister.
Fikile is a swimming star at an elite prep school in Cape Town, and Puleng transfers there to get closer to her maybe-sister. From there, we get all the things we’ve come to know and love from this genre: steamy make-outs, cute school uniforms, the obligatory slap across the face, and lots of shots of sexy students getting up to trouble. It’s a good thing, according to Puleng’s best friend, that “rich people can’t be dodgy.” We’ll see about that.
The series is full of different types of skirmishes and confrontations because it revolves around revealing fallouts and drama between family and/or friends. However, all these types of melodramas are captured in a cut-and-dried way which is so unfortunate as this doesn’t ensure emotional clarity within the almost one-hour 6 episodes season. It almost feels like a confused girlfriend as it doesn’t know what it wants to be.
For anyone who has experience with African television, ‘Blood and Water’ might be unsatisfyingly non-committal as mild attempt to mimic Western types of dramas. That was the same problem I had with,’ Queen Sono’ which tried to look more of westernized action drama shot in Africa by Africans.
As much as the teen drama has a good cast, the younger actors and actresses struggle to deliver solid performances like the more veterans as some of the performances are a little chunky in a way that diminishes how much of a drama it is supposed to be. If the show had followed the dark themed road it was trying to take, it would have worked more as a thriller than a drama.
However, aside from the juicy drama and almost-solid performances this series delivers, it’s a refreshing addition to Netflix’s ever-growing roster of teen content. It’s no secret that the streaming service has had a colourism problem. In almost every YA show it produces (13 Reasons Why, On My Block, Trinkets, Outer Banks, I Am Not Okay With This, I could go on…), the only Black female characters are lighter-skinned actresses who eerily fit into a certain mould of Black girl that this industry has deemed worthy. As Zendaya put it in 2018 while acknowledging her privilege, “I am Hollywood’s acceptable version of a Black girl and that has to change.” I hope Blood & Water is Netflix’s first signal of change.
Viewers, especially from South Africa, might decide to turn a blind eye towards the show and create a hype due to the fact that it’s a second Netflix African Original. This might create a future problem for the show and force them to change direction so that the show survives other markets, not just Africa.
Ama Qamata (‘My Perfect Family’, ‘Rhythm City’) plays Puleng Khumalo, while Fikile “Fiks’’ Bhele is played by Khosi Ngema starring in her debut role. Wade is played by Dillon Windvogel (‘Arendsvlei’) and Wendy is portrayed by Natasha Thahane (‘Skeem Saam’, ‘The Queen’, ‘Lockdown’). Thabang Molaba plays Karabo ‘KB’ Molapo.
The show also stars Gail Mabalane, Arno Greeff, Ryle De Morny, Greteli Fincham, and Getmore Sithole.
Blood and Water is directed by Nosipho Dumisa, one of South Africa’s most recognizable black female directors who won the Best Director Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival for ‘Number 37’.