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New South African series has heart but lacks structure

South African mythology has barely been explored, so Akin Omotoso introduces us to it for this latest Netflix supernatural project about the wonderful series The brave. The six-episode series premiered on September 16, 2022 and stars Sthandile Nkosi, Tony Kgoroge, Nomalanga Nkosi, Bonko Khoza and more in the fusion of multiple genres in the mix.

Focuses on struggling youth Ntsiki and distraught mother Ayanda, The brave lets us into the lives of the two women who live in completely opposite conditions and situations. Despite the disjointed nature of their lives, they have much in common, and it all relates to the supernatural lives of the ancient deities known as the Sages and the titular beings.

The official Netflix synopsis of the show reads:

Mystery, romance, corruption and magic intertwine in this captivating supernatural fiction series inspired by African mythology.

-The Brave Ones Review contains no spoilers-

When a project has well-rounded otherworldly characters, the writer must shape the narrative around their existence, which often enriches the quality of the content. However, sometimes when the story is more powerful than the characters featured in it, their presence can be overwhelming, regardless of the power they wield.

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The brave is a victim of that very design. The overall concept of the show is extremely ambitious. It is a big step in the right direction to initiate the conversation about South African lore when Greek and Norse mythologies have already positioned themselves as large-scale ideas. However, Omotoso’s latest work fails to give birth to the intimidating heroes in question.

The series could easily have slipped into darker territory to make it that much more enjoyable, but it takes very slow steps to get there. And before we know it, the six-part miniseries is over.

The Brave Review

However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything positive to offer. Although the series is overwhelmingly supernatural in its subject matter, it is grounded in the reality of socioeconomic hierarchy. Under the project run by Luthando (Tony Kgoroge) we witness a lot of corruption and this ties several subplots together.

In a way, the supernatural theme becomes a metaphorical approximation of a very real annihilation of a community and their country. The image of their country’s destruction is associated with the supernatural entity of the “Tree of Life,” as is their expulsion. Furthermore, since distressed modernity is used as a medium to listen to ancient myths and legends, one never knows what to expect, just as the people living in said land of Ilanga never know.

Those who are oppressed need a New Age hero who is well connected to their roots. Just like that, Ntsiki’s Brave One was born. Some may even compare them to sticky things‘ Eleven, but she’s more of a goddess than an experiment. Still, her majestic avatar doesn’t really come through, so her character arc doesn’t feel as strong and compelling.

It’s more the moments related to the family drama that drive the show. Sometimes the smallest and simplest gesture is enough to make waves, and that’s when Ayanda’s family dilemma plays into her emotional quotient to some extent, in contrast to the grand narrative of a goddess featured in the story. And so the human factors play a big role in running the show instead.

The Brave Review

The Brave: Worth seeing?

As you watch the series, you might get the sense that a lot happens in the season’s six episodes, but shortly after conclusion you’re pretty much lost in terms of the pantheon of characters featured. The pacing of certain episodes is quite jarring, and it’s not that we’re confused by the non-linearity of the narrative. Much of the mythological lore needs to be unlocked in order for us to understand the basis of each character.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen until the end. As you watch the episodes, you’re definitely caught up in what might be unfolding. The concept is brilliant, but it can never be realized to its absolute potential until the characters are well established. Whatever familial moments there are in the show, they all play well into the story build-up. However, it doesn’t quite deliver in terms of character building.

The brave

Long-awaited moments like Ntsiki finally embracing herself as the eponymous Brave One can’t survive the landing. In key moments like these, you don’t necessarily feel connected to the character. The ultimate goal of any show or movie is for the audience to root for the main character. While we understand the tragic origin story that pushes her to embrace her true identity, we can’t feel her poignancy and want more.

For a character meant to be a reincarnated goddess, Ntsiki falls short of her potential. On the other hand, the costume selection for the indigenous people is impeccable, but other aspects like the action sequences and the introduction of the lore and after that the greatness The brave‘ Forces could have been portrayed more effectively. When it comes to shows like this, audiences crave moments that would push them to the edge and send shivers down their spines. If the show is renewed for a second season, perhaps we can witness the work in its true grandeur, befitting its amazing subject matter.

The brave now streaming on Netflix.

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