'Blood & Water' Review: Netflix's South African teen drama is short but filled with intrigue and mystery
'Blood & Water' follows 16-year-old Puleng Khumalo as she engineers her transfer to the school to investigate the 17-year-old cold case of the abducted-at-birth older sister she's never met
Spoiler Alert for Season 1 of 'Blood & Water'
There are a few things to be thankful for and one of them is that Netflix continues to drop quality content that we can turn to during these turbulent times. This Wednesday, May 20, Netflix drops the first season of its second South African original, 'Blood & Water'. The trailer for the series gave us definite 'Gossip Girl' and 'Elite' vibes — of course, with more people of color. However, like Netflix's first South African original 'Queen Sono', 'Blood & Water' just has six episodes in the first season — and fans are sure to share similar sentiments about the teen drama, that it was too short.
The story is set in the surroundings of Parkhurst College, a prestigious inner-city school for elite scholars and academic overachievers. 'Blood & Water' follows 16-year-old Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata) as she engineers her transfer to the school to investigate the 17-year-old cold case of the abducted-at-birth older sister she's never met. Puleng meets beautiful, alluring Fikile "Fiks" Bhele (Khosi Ngema) from the nearby private school, who she believes is her sister. In her on-going search, Puleng finds an ally and assistant investigator in Wade Daniels (Dillon Windvogel), while also having to handle the opinionated Wendy Dlamini (Natasha Thahane), who is a questionable "woke" person.
She also meets Karabo "KB" Molapo (Thabang Molaba), Chris Ackerman (Arno Greeff), and Reece Van Rensburg (Greteli Fincham), who are Fikile's friends and form part of the school's popular circle, a group Wendy is envious of.
Over the course of the first season, we see Puleng and Wade navigate high school while trying to figure out the mystery behind her sister's disappearance and whether Fikile is really her sister. The secrets they find makes them aware of a larger mystery, one that involves Fikile's mother, Nwabisa Bhele (Xolile Tshabalala), KB's father, Matla Molapo (Sello Maake Ka-Ncube), and even Puleng's father, Julius Khumalo (Getmore Sithole).
As far as teen dramas go, 'Blood & Water' is remarkable for its diversity — which could be attributed to its setting being South Africa, a country that has done a lot to fend off the evils of apartheid. However, 'Blood & Water' also shows that inequality between communities is still a pervasive issue. While 'Blood & Water' showcases the lifestyles of the rich, it also shows that the young are aware of the disparities. Take Wendy, whose end goal is noble — helps her friend Tahira Khan (Mekaila Mathys) become the head girl, a race she knows will be won by Fikile because of the girl's wealth and popularity, the latter which stems from her swimming success which can again be attributed to her wealth.
Sure, Wendy goes about it in all the wrong ways and is more motivated by her own ego rather than actual injustice — and this could be because Wendy herself is privileged and therefore, while she presumes to fight for the voiceless, she is more interested in amplifying her own voice. Then there is the instance where Wade calls out Puleng's "Nguni privilege". The privileges of the English and Afrikaans population in South Africa is widely spoken about, but Wade's comments show there are other forms of disparities within South Africa's black community, one that perhaps the series will explore further so that international viewers can understand more.
As much as we loved 'Blood & Water', we certainly felt the first season was much too short. Perhaps it was a creative decision, but we hope the producers and writers consider bringing out a lengthier and meatier second season. All episodes of Season 1 of 'Blood & Water' are now streaming on Netflix.