“Queen Sono” opens in the beautiful city of Zanzibar with amazing camerawork that will captivate any viewer.
The titular “Queen Sono” portrayed by Pearl Thusi is a spy for the Special Operations Group (SOG). The SOG is a South African covet operation on a mission to improve the lives of Africans all around the continent.
In episode 1, “I Am Queen Sono,” Queen is trying to track down information on arms deals to various militant groups across the continent. Unfortunately, the notion of South Africa playing “big brother” to the rest of the continent is unbelievable. So, this continent-trotting spy is unfamiliar. As such, “Queen Sono” seemed to be missing some authenticity at the beginning. That leaves one longing for something “Shadow” had. The South African parlance and nuances.
However, by episode 4 titled “Rookie,” that changed. The story becomes believable and comes full circle. It becomes clear that “Queen Sono” is the story of a post-apartheid and independent South Africa that is still fighting for its freedom. It is at this point that one is able to truly connect with the storyline as it captures themes such as terrorism, corruption and xenophobia. The complexities between different South African ethnicities as well as the relationship between South Africans and immigrants from other parts of the continent are aptly portrayed.
There is also the heartwarming relationship between Queen and her grandmother, Mazet, portrayed by Abigail Kubeka. As for Ms Thusi, she gives a balanced performance of the fierce and vulnerable character she portrays. The character is complex but relatable. A rebel “with” a cause. The daughter of Safiya Sono, a deceased anti-apartheid revolutionary leader and freedom fighter. She struggles with her mother’s death and wants to haunt down her killers. On the other hand, she is trying to fill Safiya’s big shoes her own way. Her relationships are complicated. A lover, Shandu Magwaza (Vuyo Dabula), who is making wrong choices because he feels betrayed. And a bestie, William Chakela (Khathu Ramabulana), from whom she must hide her true identity.
It is very refreshing to have an African story told without the usual stereotypes. For once, we do not hear the generic African accent that features in a great many Hollywood films such as “Black Panther” and “Concussion” which try to portray Africans. Loyiso Madinga plays Frederique Kazadi, an SOG field technician who works closely with Queen. The Frederique character is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and his accent stands out. The dialogue in the South African languages add to the authenticity of the Netflix original. It is typical of South Africans to start off a conversation in English switch to their dialect and perhaps conclude in English.
With enough entertainment value and decent fight choreography, the series creator Kagiso Lediga and co-writers Karabo Lediga, Camilo Saloojee, Christopher Steenkamp and Muzi Dlamini have told an African story the way it ought to be told.