If you are young at heart and always up for a good teen TV show or drama, then you will like “Blood and Water.” The teen series is the second Netflix Original Series from South Africa. Pearl Thusi, Hlomla Dandala, Mampho Brescia and such actors who fans from the rest of Africa are familiar with do not feature. However, the largely young cast is fresh, they entertain and deliver on their roles.
One can draw parallels between “Blood and Water” and another Netflix teen series, “Sex Education.” Not in the underlying messages but in the setting. The shows are also important in the sense that they help parents appreciate what teenagers get up to nowadays. Both rated 18+, Language, Sex and Substance – “Sex Education” adds nudity – but the characters are sixteen and seventeen-year olds.
“Blood and Water’s” Fikile Bhele (Khosi Ngema) of Parkhurst College and Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling), head boy at Moordale Secondary in “Sex Education” are both swimming champions. Fikile and Jackson are conflicted characters. They are unsure if they really like swimming or do it because of the pressure from their parents. Fikile’s troubles are however far more complicated. She is beautiful but insecure and so, makes some bad choices. Still, she was managing just fine until she befriended Parkhurst newcomer, Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata).
“Blood and Water” follows the story of the Khumalo family. Thandeka (Gail Mabalane) and Julius (Getmore Sithole) Khumalo’s first child, Phumele “Pume” was kidnapped at birth. Puleng never met her sister but for 16 years, she has lived with painful memories. Every year, the family marks Pume’s birthday. Puleng wishes that she and her brother Siya would be enough. She craves for her mother’s attention. Sadly, Thandeka is too consumed by the investigation of her missing daughter.
Tired of living in her ‘possibly dead’ sister’s shadow, Puleng decides to begin an investigation of her own. The big question is whether Puleng will be able to handle the truths she could discover. Puleng is a very confident 16-year old. She finds an ally in school principal’s son Wade Daniels (Dillon Windvogel) and a lover in Karabo “KB” Molapo (Thabang Molaba). KB is the son of a defence lawyer (Sello Maake Ka-Ncube – star of South Africa’s long running soap opera Generation). The KB character is a plus for “Blood and Water.” A rich teenager with character. And what an admirable friendship he shares with his dad?
Bullying, social class and frivolity are regular themes which feature in teen movies or series. “Blood and Water” is no different. At Parkhurst, it is a survival of the fittest. But Wendy Dlamini (Natasha Thahane) will not take it. Usually, characters such as Wendy who do not belong to the cool clique are underdogs. They are shy or timid.
It is pleasing to see how strong Wendy is. She is the editor of Parkhurst’s school magazine. She is against injustice and even challenges the choices of her history teacher, although sometimes her passion does border on obstinacy. However, it soon becomes clear why Wendy has guts. The apple does not fall far from the tree. She is just like her mother. A strong woman can only beget a strong daughter. Sadly, Wendy’s last move in season one was in poor taste. She clearly has her insecurities too. And the bravado is a camouflage. Still, Wendy is one character fans will be watching out for. Looking forward to her walls crumbling.
The first season of “Blood and Water” is six-episodes long and it is binge-worthy.