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Top 10 Best South African TV & Streaming Dramas in 2021

From thrilling action to spooky mysteries and feminist manifestos.

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You’ve come to the right place for the best South African drama and television and streaming series. This list, which reviews the shows based on the quality of storytelling, performances and overall production, rather than popularity and ratings, consists of titles that premiered between 2020 and 2021. Dig in!

10. THE STATION

South African acting heavyweights Sello Maake Ka Ncube and Lerato Mvelase lead a fresh cast on new Mzansi Magic TV drama The Station. They portray the roles of husband and wife on the show, in which four employees suddenly become shareholders in the business.

The Station TV Series South Africa cast image

When Don leaves the joint to the staff, a lot of scheming and backstabbing comes into play. Now they all attempt to gain control of the station. Soon, a clash of personalities threatens to destroy the legacy left by Don. The strife and tensions might undermine Don’s work in the community, now replaced by self serving agendas.

In addition to the great cast and the interesting way in which this story unfolds, you might also appreciate the warm colour grading that creates that 90’s kasi nostalgia for the show.

9. DAM

Dam is a story of a family in a town of dark secrets. Shot on location in the Eastern Cape, the small-town psychological thriller that likely to absorb you into its paranormal undercurrent. It’s spooky.

Things start off with a man plunging to his death. From here on out, everything unravels in back to back  scenes that contain a haunted atmosphere. It leads up a shocking end. Lea Vivier stars as Yola Fischer, who returns from Chile to the Eastern Cape to bury her father, only to be tormented by spirits in the farmhouse she has inherited.

With her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola has to wonder if the spirits are real or just in her head? Pallance Dladla co-stars as her love interest Themba.

8. SKEMERDANS

Skemerdans revolves around the Fortune family, whose eldest son Glenn owns The Oasis with his wife, Shireen. The series is set at the Oasis jazz club, the centre of a power struggle between two brothers, a scorned widow and an organised crime syndicate.

Other members of the Fortune family are played by Brendon Daniels, Vinette Ebrahim,  Carmen Maarman,  rising star Trudy van Rooy and Ceagan Arendse, who tragically passed away earlier this year. All 13 episodes of the Cape Flats murder mystery, are now available to binge on Showmax. The show is also a balanced mix of both Afrikaans and English and is worth watching through the subtitles for parts you don’t understand.

7. KINGS OF JOBURG

Kings of Joburg marked a massive pivot for the Fergusons as they stepped out of their own multiverse on DStv to partner up with Netflix. The result is a crime thriller that arrived on the 4th of December in 2020. The series focuses on loyalties being put on the test under the gritty, crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg. Laced with a layer of dark fantasy, the action drama found the Fergs challenging themselves to execute some epic action stunts packed with magic and African occult

The late and dearly loved Shona Ferguson portrays the character of Simon  Masire, a member of the KOJ brotherhood and the eldest of the Masire siblings. He’s in charge of the family business. One of the standout performances on the show for me is definitely Zolisa Xaluva, who portrays the role of Mogomotsi “Mo” Masire. He is Simon’s younger brother and an ex-convict who must choose between his crime family legacy, and the life that got him in jail.

The only serious critiques we have about this show is that it’s too close to The Queen, currently airing on Mzansi Magic. The recycling of the same actors makes for stale outcomes.

6. LOCKDOWN

It’s a cold and crazy world that’s raging outside. But inside the max security prison in which a group of women reveal layers to their souls, survival comes at a price. The Mzansi Magic drama, now on its 5th season, has consistently delivered tough and edgy storylines through the years.

 

Set in a fictional prison, this Black Brain production brings maximum drama through a group of fascinating characters. Their mind-blowing backstories will have you all the way hooked in as the characters start to reveal the paths that led them behind lock-up. The  crew of Lockdown’s female inmates is led by the tough Ma Z (Dawn Thandeka King), a leader who wants nothing more than to gain her freedom so that she can go home to Der daughter. She’s manipulative and cunning, so she uses those around her to achieve end goal.

One of those people happens to be the beautiful and talented Monde, a young woman who left the cocoon of her small town life to pursue fame and fortune in the dazzling lights of Joburg. Instead, what she got was a ghetto scam that led her to prison.

And so the rest of the show is based inside the correctional facility, showcasing the complex realities of these women as they live to see another day behind unforgiving walls. Through the 5 seasons of this brilliant drama series, the layers of their humanity unravel as the characters evolve. The cast is a force with no weak links. All those awards are deserved.

5. ABOMAMA

Abomama tells the tale of four church women who find themselves sucked into the criminal underworld. It happens when their stokvel transitions into a money laundering scheme. The women’s lives intersect in the church.  It is here the pursuit of salvation is undermined by the sinister world in which these women now dabble.

Season one begins with the group of ordinary women taking it upon themselves to turn a tragedy into a blessing. The prayer group comes together, haunted by darks pasts and confronted by moral dilemmas.  These women are navigating a tough reality in the fiercely patriarchal world that awaits them outside the church everyday.

Although the first season, which premiered on 8 April 2018, was met with generally positive reviews, the second season really takes the show to the next level. The cast has delivered some of the most captivating performances this season, as the ladies attempt to wash off the blood on their hands with holy waters.

They must repent, however, as what lurks in the dark continues to haunt and undermine their holy display. Khabonina Qubeka replaces Khanyi Mbau as the new Tshidi, while Busisiwe Mtshali has now been recast as the new Lumka. The cast changes have not interrupted what this group of women is bringing to our screens.

4. HOUSEKEEPERS

Revenge is best served cold, and Linda Ndlovu is out for blood on Housekeepers. On the hard hitting crime drama, Thando Thabethe takes on the role of a Linda Ndlovu. We meet a young lawyer who goes undercover as a housekeeper for the wealthy Zwide family in order to bring them to justice for framing her mother of a murder.

 

It happened when her mother, a helper in the mansion at the time, become a witness to a murder. The madam gets the bright idea to pin in on her, sending her to jail for something she didn’t do. So dirty. Now Linda has taken up a job to clean the house, knowing she’ll be cleaning up in more ways than one.

And of course, no one would know the sins of the Zwides more than the women cleaning up their mess everyday. Season 2 marked a departure however, as Linda sets on taking a whole new family to the slaughter.

3. NQOBILE

Nqobile is a fascinating document of a woman who navigates a toxic, abusive environment as she defiantly moves up the ranks of a dynasty. Her reign comes with a mission to liberate women who don’t have a voice. Led by the outstanding Nqobile Khumalo, whose name means victory, the show delivers a moving melodrama layered with themes of gender based violence, toxic masculinity, feminist overtones as well as empowerment.

The Mzansi Magic series is based on the story of a woman who is married to the Nkosi family and their business empire. She manages to outsmart her entitled, abusive husband Simo Nkosi and take over the family empire. She becomes the head honcho of the family company at the request of her father in law, George Nkosi, who dies in a crossfire between a criminal unit and his bratty son.

The message on the show is important. The cast is strong, with Kagiso Modupe nailing the role of the husband dribbled by a fragile masculinity.

2. BLOOD & WATER

Blood & Water is the most popular South African series on Netflix.  Now with a second season on the way, the show centres around Puleng Khumalo. She’s a 16-year-old who manoeuvred her way into the prestigious Parkhurst College to investigate the cold case of the abducted-at-birth older sister she’s never met. Shot on location mostly in Cape Town, the teen mystery is directed by an outstanding black female director,  Nosipho Dumisa. The show is a hit and we love this for her.

The first season premiered on May 20th in 2020 with a perfect mix of newcomers and some established names. With Ama Qamata leading the diverse ensemble, the official trailer for season 2 has given us riveting glimpses of what could be their best season yet.

1. INCONCIEVABLE

Here’s a scenario; your best friend is going through some heart wrenching grief. Because of it, she does something pretty messed up. You understand the magnitude of their trauma and sympathise with them for a while, but what they’ve done is unethical, criminal, dark and disturbing. Would you remain loyal or do the right thing to save a family affected by their actions?

Marieke, a qualified gynaecologist, finds herself running out of time to expose a dark truth about her best friend Rachel. When the pair find out during an ultra sound scan that Rachel has suffered a miscarriage nine months into her pregnancy, Rachel struggles to come to terms with the truth. Instead of telling her husband, she asks Marieke to help her deliver the stillborn baby in secret.

That’s when she gets the bright idea to switch babies with a woman who’s given birth in the next room. What comes next pure drama as Marieke finds herself caught between gently making her friend give the baby to its rightful parents, and the legal implications of her keeping quiet for so long.

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Squid Game Ending Explained; We’ve Been Scammed

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We’ve been had, and Squid Game is here to prove it.

When the end of the South Korean horror drama arrives on the ninth episode, the winner finds himself harrowed by what the coveted prize has cost his soul. In the rat race for survival, along with a better life that hinges on the never ending hustle, there’s no time to stop and see the horror our lives become. By the end, we see how the winner has sold his soul for a crappy deal that came with a few toys, and a happy meal.

A group of 456 players are mysteriously invited to take part in a set of children’s games for a grand prize of $38 million, which will be enough to give the winner the financial freedom they desperately need. The players are selected from different walks of life, with the burden of excessive debt being their biggest motivation to give the Game a go.

The first of deepening terrors comes during the first game, when the players discover that penalties for losing in the challenges will be death. DEATH. Horrified, the players initially vote to leave and return to their lives.

This noble departure doesn’t last long; their material realities as fugitives on the run from debt collectors only highlights the glow of the precious promise they’ve now left behind. When they return for the second time, they now consent to their highly probable deaths.

Led by Lee Jung-jae, who plays Seong Gi-hun, a taxi driver with a gambling addiction, the South Korean series has become somewhat of a global phenomenon. Now the most streamed Korean series of all time, Squid Game is also said to be on pace to dethrone Bridgerton as the most streamed series in the history of Netflix. And it’s with good reason. Squid Game is a trip.

Survival is the drive. The blues of a broke life pile up for Seong Gi-hun, who’s daughter is being taken away to the US by her mother and step father. His mother is battling deteriorating diabetes and even in her frail condition, is still working hard to make ends meet. It’s during the peak of his frustrations that Gi-hun is randomly invited to take part in the Game.

After accepting the offer, he finds himself in a discreet location along with 455 players, who are also drowning in debt. The players are kept under an authoritarian system of surveillance. Masked guards in pink suits keep the scene under control under the supervision of the Front Man. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, as a the most strategic way to survive the bloody challenges.

Amongst those that end up in this team is player 001, a frail old man who who became his “gganbu”. Sae-byeok, who was also in the team, was killed by Sang-woo, Gi-hun’s childhood friend, team member and flip-flopping ally. Several other team members had to be killed by their team mates, which revealed the wickedness of the games.

In the end, Gi-hun’s victory came without an apology. He had to defeat a close ally in the games, the old and frail player 001. They’d bonded throughout their time, but in the end he had to advance himself against those he’d built alliances. As the games progressed, the players found themselves having to face tough calls. Someone else has to die for you to make it another day.

After a series of brutal games, it comes down to childhood friends Gi-hun and Cho Sang-woo. They’d played different games, with Sang-woo having played hard and stopping at nothing to win. Gi-hun is mad at Sang-woo for a series of betrayals, including him stabbing Sae-byeok to her death. In the end, Gi-hun wins when Sang-woo apologised and kills himself.

Yet despite emerging a winner, Gi-hun finds that the cost of becoming an overnight billionaire has bankrupted his soul. For a year following the day his bank account was loaded with a nine zero figure, he didn’t touch the money. After all, he returned to find his mother dead on the floor. One of his motivations was getting the money to get her medical help over her advancing diabetes.

THE ENDING

Gi-hun is clearly troubled by the bodies upon which his new wealth rests. A year passes and he hasn’t touched the money – even oddly reverting to old patterns of asking for loans to get by. It might be late to be so concerned about the moral questions surrounding the games now – the long and short of it is he won and his life has changed.

Later, he is shocked to find out that the “gganbu” who had to be killed after losing to him in a game of marbles, was never really killed.

In a shocking plot twist that changes everything – he also finds out that the old man is in fact the creator of the games! Finding him in a medical bed after receiving a mysterious invite to the location, Gi-hun discovers that the man’s real name is Oh Il-nam, an obscenely rich fella who created the games in 1988 (the same year Korea hosted the Olympics for the first time) purely for their entertainment. We already know by now that ‘the VIPs’ are a bunch of morally bankrupt elites who find pleasure in watching the poor masses slaughtering each other for money in a broken system. Where have we heard that before?

Although his participation in the games as player 001 was a farce, what he told Gi-hun back then, that he had a brain tumour, had been true. And of course, he challenged him to another sick game. A man had been freezing to death on a street pavement, and Oh Il-nam challenged Gi-hun to guess to bet on the odds that someone who help him when the clock strikes 00:00 at midnight. As Gi-hun wins, Oh Il-nam dies.

We assume this marks the end of the games. However later in the episode, Gi-hun sees the man who recruited him doing it to someone else. He runs to stop what is happening, but arrives at the exact scene late, the train has already taken off. Later on the way to boarding a flight, he turns and calls a number. “I can’t forgive you for everything you’re doing,” he tells ta man we assume to be In-ho. He turns back, clearly about to begin his new mission.

What we know now, is that Oh Il-nam created the games to tickle the sick tastes of his sick rich network. But he is now dead. Who is now behind the games? This, and Gi-hun’s passionate manifesto, are strong indications that next season of the series is already shaping up to a different arc. It’s his final transformation, and he is ready to take down the operation and those behind it. He won’t allow people to be “horses” for the entertainment of wealthy elites.

We know that In-ho shot Jun-ho in a bid to stop him from alerting the police about the games. The signal was bad, delaying the delivering of the evidence Jun-ho had been trying to send in several texts, right up to the moment the moment he plunged from a cliff and hit the water. What we don’t know is whether the messages were really not delivered. There’s also no conclusive evidence that Jun-ho is dead.

Potentially, the biggest lesson from season one is that our relentless pursuit for material success in a punishing money system kills us.

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First Look at HBO’s Game of Thrones Spin-Off ‘House of The Dragon’

DRACARYS!

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Things look promising for HBO’s upcoming drama series, The House of Dragon. The highly buzzed Games of Thrones prequel’s first visual teaser has been met with much fanfare, raking in more than 8,6 million views on Youtube within two days of its arrival.

The House of Dragon

Photo Credit: HBO via Twitter

First reactions and buzz around the epic teaser have been strong indications that the series, slated to premiere in 2022, is off to a good start despite the infamous final season slump suffered by G.O.T. And it could mean that maybe, just maybe,  the world ready to let old baggage go.

The House of Dragon, created by an entire different team, will arrive about three years since the cold winter. The cast includes Matt Smith, Paddy Considine and Sonoya Mizuno who will be bringing to life a different era of Westeros.

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Midnight Mass is Creepy With A Dark Subtext and You Need To See it

‘God’s angel’ had sinister plans for the town.

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The reign of terror plunges a small and quiet town to ashes when the arrival of a charismatic yet mysterious priest coincides with the return of a disgraced young man who has just been released from prison.

While Riley (Zach Gilford) initially finds that Crockett Island and its 127 residents – along with his childhood sweetheart Erin (Kate Siegel) – still conduct a mundane existence, Pastor Paul (Hamish Linklater) soon changes that.

Midnight Mass

“The LORD’s angel”‘s life giving blood comes scams locals into horrible mistakes on Midnight Mass.

When the island’s much loved Roman Catholic senior priest takes a trip to the pilgrimage and never comes back, an energetic new priest takes his place at the Holy Land church. And while his arrival brings with it a new wave of spiritual revival amongst the island community, something sinister begins to haunt the town.

With each episode, the esoteric occult that powers Paul’s ability to perform astounding miracles and mesmerise the islanders, slowly gains dominion over the unsuspecting community. Instead, they begin taking up a renewed interest in the church as word of mouth spreads about the signs and wonders. Much like Jesus Christ was able to draw crowds wherever he went, the appearance of Paul’s supernatural power is able to attract even those who’d remained sceptics their lives.

It’s the blending of the sacred and the sinister. The taking of communion that has been contaminated with demonic blood, which functions as the miracle drug promising eternal life.

We soon find out the miracles come at an unthinkable cost.

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