Netflix has released its first locally acquired South African series, Shadow. But is it any good? Rhodé Marshall takes a look.
Available on Netflix SA
Not too long ago, international streaming service Netflix announced that it would release a South African-produced show called Shadow.
Launched on Friday, Shadow is set and filmed in Joburg. Pallance Dladla (popularly known for his role of Jabulani Zungu in Isibaya) plays Shadow and Amanda Du Pont (she is known for roles on shows such as Skeem Saam and Generations) plays Ashley, his love interest.
After the brutal murder of his six-year-old daughter, Joburg detective and former task force member Shadrach “Shadow” Khumalo quits his job and emerges as a much-needed hero in Jozi.
Now without the badge he once held with pride, the vigilante who was struck by lightning as a child finds solace in pursuing justice for those who can’t get it for themselves.
Directed by Gareth Crocker (from Motion Story Productions), the series offers an interesting take on what happens when an ordinary guy with extraordinary abilities – kind of like Luke Cage – becomes a fixer for people who are being harassed, abused, stalked and, in the long run, failed by the justice system.
And so, with help from his former partner Max (played by Khathu Ramabulana), Shadow rips through the city’s underworld and takes full advantage of a rare condition that has affected his central nervous system – you see, Shadow cannot feel physical pain.
This series is probably a great turning point for Dladla and I reckon this is his strongest role yet. His acting is believable and tough – as required by the character – but he is also endearing enough to convince you that his newfound vigilante career, while troublesome at times, is needed in a problematic society.
Shadow is everyone’s guy, or at least the guy you wish you knew.
He tackles disastrous situations with his fists, guns and wit. Each of the eight episodes brings new tasks for Shadow, who is approached by people who hear about his skills or respond to his newspaper ad.
The crime/action and adventure series on Netflix almost always builds suspense, but, unfortunately, it’s rarely enough to get you hooked or excited about the next episode. Don’t expect the bountiful levels of tension that usually make you want to binge-watch a show.
Shadow was very clearly made for television, not streaming – it would be fine if you had to wait for the following week to watch the next episode. Perhaps local production companies still need to get used to the needs of streaming audiences. Although Shadow is watchable, it’s not all that memorable.
Overall, the acting (each episode introduces new characters) is underwhelming, and not haunting and robust enough if you’re making a show that has a hint of the Criminal Minds style.
A wonderful surprise is that the scenes that revolve around the crime of the week don’t depict the typical kinds of violent crime that we’re usually fed in Mzansi, but rather focus on situations like stalking, cyberbulling, bribery and extortion.
Du Pont is a sweet, gentle and sincere actress, but her character in Shadow isn’t challenging enough to convince me that she can play a role other than that of the predictable, boring and unnecessary damsel in distress who is needed to make the violent rebel with a cause charming and likeable among audiences.
Don’t get me wrong, Shadow isn’t the worst series I’ve seen, but it certainly isn’t the best crime and action TV show around. Maybe it’s the fact that several of the actors performed many of their own stunts and didn’t have the skills to convincingly execute the action scenes. They really should be taught how to use weapons persuasively in their scenes.
Ultimately, with the help of the people around him, Shadow will stop at nothing to hunt down the man who killed his daughter, so his journey is worth checking out.
But in the end, the show is just nice – like warm tea.