South Africa is a beautiful, diverse country. Visually, Blood and Water absolutely nails that aesthetic and feel as the sweeping shots switch between tight neon club spots and sweeping, majestic views of the beaches. Consumed within this heady cocktail of tropical delights lies our protagonist, Puleng. Overshadowed and frustrated by the disappearance of her sister Phume, in her quest for a good time Puleng stumbles upon a secret that threatens to uproot her entire life.
Episode 1 of Blood and Water begins in the heart of South Africa as Puleng messages her friend Zama and invites her over but she decides against that. Instead, she heads downstairs and puts on a brave face as her family celebrate her sister Phume’s birthday. Having mysteriously disappeared as a baby 17 years ago, Puleng has enough and confronts her Mother, eventually deciding to leave and heading to a party with Zama.
Once there, Zama heads off to sleep with a guy leaving Puleng all on her own. As she sits on a sofa, she finds a phone belonging to a boy named Wade and the two start to get to know each other. It turns out one of the girls there, Fikile, has the same birthday as Phume and it gets her thinking that this may be her sister.
After a fight with her Mother that evening, Puleng starts to feel the pressure at school after a bad game of hockey and a fight with teammate Nate. Even worse, a news headline begins spreading that Puleng’s father Julius could be involved in the disappearance of her sister all those years ago. Unfortunately Puleng ends up with a disciplinary hearing for her behaviour.
Back home she gets texting with Wade but upon looking at his pictures, she stumbles across images of Fikile and wonders whether she’s her missing sister. In the morning, Puleng visits Wade at Parkhurst and sees Fikile at the gala. Consumed by her own investigation, she loses track of time and Puleng hurries out and races to her disciplinary hearing. Only, she ends up late to attend but as she leaves, police arrive and grab Julius, arresting him on suspicion of human trafficking.
Back home the family contemplate how to move forward after this shocking incident. Puleng decides to pursue her leads and tells her Mother she wants to enroll at Filike’s school, Parkhurst High, which is where the episode ends.
With lots of phone screens edited into the picture and a decent soundtrack interwoven through the series, the gorgeous visuals are let down somewhat by some stifled acting and forced plotting. There’s certainly potential here for a compelling mystery but whether Blood and Water can capitalize on its locale and set pieces going forward remains to be seen. For now though, the show does relatively well to set the scene but compared to other series like Elite and Riverdale, there simply aren’t enough elements that stand out beyond mediocrity right now.