The South African series, Blood and Water, was just released on Netflix this week, and has already climbed to Netflix’s Top 10 chart across many countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and France. This new teen mystery is looking to be the next big streaming hit.
The new Netflix series only has six episodes, and ends on a cliffhanger, so logically, and hopefully for its fans, will have a second season.
The first episode opens as sixteen-year-old Puleng Khumalo’s family are celebrating the seventeenth birthday of her missing sister, Phumele, who was kidnapped as a baby, snatched from the hospital where she was born. Puleng’s parents, Thandeka (played by Gail Madalane) and Julius (played by Getmore Sithole) have celebrated their missing daughter’s birthday every year. It becomes clear in the opening sequence that both Puleng and her brother Siya (Odwa Gwanya) have grown wary of this.
Puleng (played by Ama Qamata) sneaks out of the celebration to go to a house party with her friend Zama (Cindy Mahlangu), who is dating a rich kid from another school. It is the birthday party of Fikile Bhele (played by Khosi Ngema), the popular swimming champion of the prestigious school for the elite of Cape Town, Parkhurst College. Puleng meets Wade (played by Dillon Windvogel) at the party who points out her resemblance with the birthday girl. Puleng suspects that Fikile may be Phumele. She decides to transfer schools to investigate herself the case of her abducted sister, after the police arrest her father on human trafficking that may have involved his own lost daughter.
At Parkhurst, Puleng soon befriends Wade, who is the principal’s son, and integrates the school’s magazine so that she can interview Fikile. Puleng is soon pulled into the school’s social politics, navigating between the popular rich kids and her furthering her own investigation. She tells no one of her suspicions, but is finally forced to reveal it to Wade, who ends up helping her.
Blood and Water contains similar tropes as other well-known teen series. The series takes place within a school for the very rich kids, there is a big mystery at the center of the series while the usual teenage melodramas unfold, and a lot of text messaging is involved. Blood and Water, however, differs from other shows in the very mystery of the story. It is tackling a big issue in South Africa, human trafficking.
What drew me to watch Blood and Water is its premise: the idea of finding a lost relative living just a few minutes away. While Puleng clearly has had enough that her lost sister still grabs all of her parents’ attention, she still drops everything when she thinks she has found her. She lacks in investigative skills, but still we, the viewers, are convinced with her that Fikile is her lost sister.
Fundamentally, the series seems more interested in the growth of Puleng and Fikile’s friendship. One minute they are like best friends, the next they hate each other. Both Ama Qamata and Cindy Mahlangu are convincing in playing this love/hate friendship.
If you take away all the teenage dramas, six episodes in we are still at the beginning of this story, leaving many questions unanswered. Is Fikile Puleng’s sister? Who was involved in her abduction? This first season therefore ends rather abruptly, as if we had been given access to only part one of the first season.
The show has flaws but it’s an intriguing story. Netflix’s second African original series Blood and Water is written and directed by Nosipho Dumisa, with Daryne Joshua and Travis Taute as co-directors and writers, and is produced by Gambit films.