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“Savage Beauty” Review: Lebogang Mogashoa’s Series Fails to Honour its Important Plots

“Savage Beauty” Review: Lebogang Mogashoa’s Series Fails to Honour its Important Plots

Savage Beauty

It’s confusing and frustrating that the second season of Savage Beauty lacks the decency to honour the story it meticulously built from scratch in season one. 

By Seyi Lasisi 

Season one of Lebogang Mogashoa’s created Savage Beauty ended in an agitated mood. Zinhle (Rosemary Zimu), after years of pining for evidence, has secured a confession from Donovan Bhengu (Dumisani Mbebe.)  Some decades before, Don and Grace Bhengu (Nthati Moshesh), in creating their people–favourite Bhengu Beauty brand, illegally experimented with bleaching creams on kidnapped children, which Zinhle and Kolobe (Mpho Sebeng), her brother, are part of.

Now older and thirsting for revenge, Zinhle and Kolobe embedded themselves into the Bhengu Beauty company and the Bhengu family. Satisfactorily for Zinhle and me – as an audience – when season one of the show trailed to a halt,  Zinhle had Don’s recorded confession. One would naturally expect the new season to follow Zinhle’s quest for vengeance, and the Bhengu family’s attempts to escape conviction. This expectation is especially reasonable given the Bhengu’s vast connections, including Selekena (Tseko Monaheng), a police detective on Don’s payroll.

But, when the new season commences, it quickly becomes apparent the creator and writing team have alternative motives. It’s confusing and frustrating that the second season of Savage Beauty lacks the decency to honour the story it meticulously built from scratch in season one

 

Season two started with the Bhengu family in mourning. Ndumiso (Oros Mampofu), the family interloper and fashion photographer, is dead. Ndumiso, while breathing his last, placed a seemingly simple but essential task for Don, his father: holding the family together. Rather than strengthen their bond, Ndumiso’s death and accompanying events further weaken the family’s bond. Phila (Jesse Suntele), the family’s eldest male child, is thrown into an emotional and psychological introspection. Phila, concerned about being used by his parents and inspired by Charlie (Lebogang Fisher), who we will discover has ulterior motives, gradually distances himself from Grace’s domineering circle and Don’s abusive environment. 

Linda (Nambitha Ben–Mazwi), ostracised from the family for building a loving and consensual relationship with Thando (Angela Sithole), her father’s second wife, is still nursing her grievances against her father. Grace, suspicious of Don’s involvement in Ndumiso’s death and wanting sole control of the company, is launching a series of coordinated attacks on Don. Contrary to Ndumiso’s wish,  the family is seeping into disunity.  Further into the series, we realise the family’s conflict is motivated by internal and external influences. 

Jointly written by Lebogang Mogashoa, Nelisa Ngcobo, and Neo Sibiya, the new season introduced new plots and faces. Charlie and Richard Moloto (Tony Kgoroge),  who the series gradually reveals as having a vendetta against the Bhengu family, are primarily new faces. Through these characters, we infer that the Bhengu family’s crimes aren’t limited to kidnapping and experimenting on children. They also extend to assassinating journalists seeking to expose their illegal activities, with Debbie, Richard’s wife and Charlie’s mother, being one of their victims. This plotline conveniently shoves aside Zinhle’s revenge plot, causing the show to lose coherence.

Savage Beauty
Savage Beauty

Rather than following through with Zinhle’s revenge plot, which motivated the need for a new season, the series incoherently introduced distinct plots. Murdering Zinhle so early into the new series and shoving away the revenge plot shows a lack of respect for the audience’s expectations. Wiping off Zinhle from the series is reminiscent of something similar in Kenneth Gyang’s Oloture: The Journey, where an important character, Emeka (Blossom Chukwujekwu), and his subplot are conveniently pushed out of the three-part sequel. For Savage Beauty, we are left with crumbs from the previous season and the new convoluted plots introduced in the new season.

Here, Phila, tired of being a pawn in his parent’s game, is seeking a new path. Grace and Don, rather than mourning, are obsessed with gaining total control of the company. Passively propelled by Mutale (Abena Ayivor) and other board members of their company, the couple engaged in a fierce battle for the CEO position. Contrary to Ndumiso’s dying wish, the family bond weakens. A personal obsession with monopolising power and wealth over family bonds takes dominance of the family.  

As the six-episode series progresses, these questions: who is Debbie? And who are Richard and Charlie? keeps coming to mind. Painfully, when the series attempts to answer these questions, it does so in a flimsy and suspenseful–bereft manner. Understandably, the series needs to shroud Richard and Charlie’s motives for suspense. But, it does so shabbily. Rather than elicit interest, Richard and Charlie’s unclear actions motivate gradual disdain for the series. The disdain heightens when one realises the duo’s motive: seeking revenge and justice for their killed loved one, Debbie. 

For superficial thrills and suspense, the series suspended itself from articulating Richard and Charlie’s motives. Their coordinated efforts were, at first, disjointed. Richard befriends Grace and inspires her revolt against Don. Charlie, Richard’s daughter, befriends Linda and Phila. For an influential family that organises a car hijacking and invokes government officials against the Bhengu family, it’s laughable what Richard and Charlie do to secure this revenge. The series made the duo appear like two pathetic and unguided rich people who have the means to investigate their loved one’s death but decide to be illogical about it. Why can’t they, with their wealth, seek justice more decently and legally?

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Savage Beauty
Savage Beauty

What the series appears to get right is Mutale and the board members’ interest in securing their investment. Unfazed about the disunity in the family, the board members encourage Don and Grace to remedy their strained relationship solely for public perception. Their true interest lies not in the Bhengu family’s harmony, but in protecting their private interests. This becomes evident when the board envisages the challenge Don and Grace’s image presents, they quickly install Phila as the CEO. Thus, if anything, the series serves as a fitting commentary on the self-serving nature of board members intent on protecting their investments. 

As a Nigerian film writer obsessed with African productions streaming on Netflix, watching South African productions has always been my go-to for unwinding, especially after Nollywood productions repeatedly trample on my cinephile interests.

For the longest time, South Africa’s productions stood as a perfect example of how to make films and TV series that respect viewers. However, with recent productions like Heart of the Hunter and How to Ruin Love, the country’s film industry is gradually sliding into the same pitfalls as Nollywood. Mogashoa’s latest series is a disappointing addition to the growing folder of ill-conceived and poorly-executed productions.

Rating: 2/5

(Savage Beauty  is currently streaming on Netflix.)

Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian creative with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and apparent politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how they align with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: seyi.lasisi@afrocritik.com. 

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