Netflix’s second African original premiered this week and after just two days, Blood & Water seems to have won over a large chunk of the South African audience.
While there are no actual viewership stats to back this claim – because Netflix just isn’t in the business of sharing that information – the numbers on the YouTube channel seem pretty impressive.
At the time of writing, the first episode of Blood & Water, which is currently available on YouTube had amassed 194,175 views and much like the running commentary on social media surrounding the show, most of the people who had watched the show loved it.
The show was directed by Nosipho Dumisa and it follows 16-year-old Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata) – an intelligent, proactive and impulsive teen on a mission to find her long-lost sister.
Her mission leads her to a prestigious school for elite scholars and academic overachievers, Parkhurst College, where she navigates re-inventing her identity while cosying up to the popular, beautiful and alluring Fikile “Fiks” Bhele (Khosi Ngema), who just might be her missing sister.
What we love about Netflix’s Blood & Water
The show has been likened to other popular teen dramas such as Gossip Girl, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Euphoria as a means to downplay it. However, while the world publicly claims to be over teen dramas, they secretly lap them up when no one is watching.
As pedestrian as teen dramas may seem to the rest of the world, it is a refreshing change to have a South African drama that features teenagers and isn’t a public service announcement about HIV and Aids, alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and all the other societal ills the collective loves to moan about.
Additionally, pop culture has boomed among young South Africans. Younger generations want to see drama, intrigue, fashion, sex and scandal that isn’t punctuated with scenes of violence, witchcraft and other tropes tied to African culture.
When last did South African television give us a story where a group of curious teens armed with some cellphones and an internet connection cracked a 17-year-old cold case that the police couldn’t? I’ll wait…
Blood & Water also makes an effort to feature a gay character without centring that character’s story on the overt and sometimes latent homophobia they experience on a daily basis.
This is an important step in the right direction – a direction that sees members of the South African LGBTIQ+ community portrayed in a multitude of ways. Not just as the struggling gay kid who eventually finds heartwarming acceptance from a parent who briefly struggles with their homophobia.
Dillon Windvogel deserves a special mention for playing the hell out of his role and providing some much needed comedic relief in the form of a character every South African should know.
Kudos to the writers for not turning his story into the “nice guys finish last” trope when his romantic overtures are rebuffed and choosing instead, to model what a normal man should do when his romantic interest is not reciprocated; accept and respect the other party’s wishes before moving on to someone else who feels the same way without throwing a tantrum.
Speaking of talent, the mix of seasoned and upcoming talent is a nice change in a country where calls to open up a small and struggling industry trend every week.
Ama Qamata pulls off her role as the young, headstrong protagonist while embodying that somewhat eager, naive positivity that all teen leads seem to have.
Natasha Tahane, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired in her role as Wendy. Perhaps it is the overacting or a simple case of casting an actress in the wrong role but something just is not clicking about Tahane as Wendy Dlamini.
Lastly, for viewers of a certain age, it is nice to watch a series set in Cape Town for a change – much like the now-iconic eTV soapie of yesteryear, Backstage.
You can watch the first episode of Blood & Water on Youtube and finish the rest of the season on Netflix.