Over a year since the South African teen drama’s first season cliffhanger and the whirlpool of questions it left. Finally, Blood & Water returns like a tide, ready to engulf you in great delight!
The new term begins as Fikile “Fiks” Bhele (Khosi Ngema) picks up the pieces of her life. Or what she’s suspecting of her life is a lie after uncovering a diary filled with evidence pointing that Fikile might be Phume Khumalo. A baby abducted from her birth family seventeen years ago, Fikile’s world is shattered. But, that is if the diary holds any truth. The person responsible for the diary is Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata). Whose been causing trauma and public humiliation ever since she stepped into Parkhurst High School. That girl has a reputation of being crazy. Fikile can try to stay away from Puleng, but she cannot stay away from the truth.
In defence of Puleng, it’s not craziness; it’s an obsession. And this season, she drives her obsession for the truth in a much higher gear. She is has a one-track, focused only on finding her sister Phume. She fails to see who she hurts in the process or the catastrophe she leaves behind. It’s both admirable and annoying, especially now when the stakes have been raised. Puleng has redirected her investigation; instead of trying to prove that Fikile is her abducted sister Phume. Instead, she is determined to find evidence that Fikile’s parents trafficked her as a baby.
This ensues a dangerous game against Point of Grace. The adoption agency funded by Fikile’s parents and her boyfriend KB’s father. If she can find substantial evidence, she could uncover an elite human trafficking ring. How can Puleng attempt to be an ordinary girl when she’s so close to something so scandalous? Refreshingly, she does. Through awkward Life Orientation assignments, a hilarious girl talks with her suburban best friend Zama (Cindy Mahlangu) and questions her feelings for Wade (Dillon Windvogel). In pulling the girls apart, we get to see Puleng’s personality when she’s not obsessively working the case just as much as we get to see Fikile’s personality when she’s not having an existential breakdown.
Blood & Water realized that as much as they can glamourize the Cape Town party scene and the hedonistic galore of rich kids, they are students first. This season elevates all the side characters. Fleshing them out beyond the cliché teen television archetypes into an enjoyable sub-plot. We get to see past the drugs and cool-girl-attitude of Reece Van Rensburg (Greteli Finchman), who cements this subplot with her naivety. Chris Ackerman (Arno Greeff) sheds his overly-sexual playboy façade to be firm support for his friends in need. Fikile’s vulnerability and softness in regaining whatever semblance of identity shine through this season.
For a moment, we can see how she held the “it girl” status at Parkhurst High before Puleng arrived to mess it all up. It makes it clearer to see how Reece, Chris and Fikile were once a tightknit trio who ruled the school not so long ago. Interestingly they cross paths with the overly opinionated teacher’s pet Wendy Dhamini (Natasha Thahane), who is on a mission to put on the best Matric Dance and host a fundraising event. Together they deliver stand-out performances, and their arcs were satisfying among the seriousness.
All the teen angst tropes hit just the right sweet spot, not to be considered rotten or poisonous. There’s a batch of new characters to keep an eye out for this season. But especially the school counsellor Janet Nkosana (Zikhona Sodlaka), who rises above them all. She is calm in her sessions with Fikile. She is collected in her approach to untangle the mess from the last term. And she is colluding with secrets she doesn’t plan on sharing.
This season of Blood & Water delves into the possibility of a human trafficking ring hiding right under the characters’ noses. It masks the ugly truth with beautiful production that emphasizes South African beauty. As always, the seamless mixture of English, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Tswana languages spoken in the dialogue is lovely to hear. Fikile’s grandmother visits for a braai (barbecue) and adorns the family in traditional Xhosa attire. There are many breathtaking landscape shots of Cape Town to pause and stare at. In addition, we get to explore the Mother City further. With a chase through the squatter camps (poverty-stricken areas where homes are made from zinc sheets and discarded materials) and meetings held at locally recognized places. This is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack of South African hip-hop, Amapiano, Kwaito and traditional songs that will surely be added to your playlist when the season ends.
Blood & Water returns with a great question of identity. It would have been so easy for the characters to drown in this season’s many themes. But instead, they swim against the current of clichés. With a script that honours the hilarity and emotional turmoil of being a student as much as the action of the investigation, this season exceeds most expectations. There are more jaw-dropping reveals and twists to debate if you saw coming. The South African teen drama refuses to get caught in the tide of most American teen mystery series we’ve watched over the past few years and instead leads you to treasure to watch over and over again.