Netflix’s first African original series will challenge your preconceptions

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Netflix’s first African original series is a ripper that delivers action, espionage, insight and exotic locations, challenges assumptions about Africa, and places strong female characters front and centre at every turn. Our heroine is the eponymous Queen Sono (Pearl Thusi), a glamorous and deadly agent for a mysterious South African spy agency dedicated to fighting injustice across the continent. But, charming as it is in places, Queen Sono is no sunny wish-fulfilment fantasy. Its Africa is still a place of monumental corruption, foreign exploitation and militia atrocities, and the South African characters in particular speak in jaded and bitter tones about the undelivered promise of their country’s hard-won democracy.

Queen Sono (Pearl Thusi), a glamorous and deadly agent for a mysterious South African spy agency.
Queen Sono (Pearl Thusi), a glamorous and deadly agent for a mysterious South African spy agency.

It looks as though the Big Bad is going to be Ekaterina Grimova (Kate Liquorish), a murderous Russian business-criminal out to manipulate wars and insurrections across the continent to rake in cash via her mercenary business. Neither Queen nor Ekaterina are averse to a spot of bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat, but where Ekaterina’s wardrobe is mostly business and athletic wear, Queen’s is all about the most head-turning new fashions. You might think such colourful clobber would be a hindrance in the secret-agent caper, but in the show’s first big action sequence – a real kinetic one shot in the narrow streets and covered markets of faraway Zanzibar – shows how Queen can turn it to her advantage.

Other things, though, are a bit trickier for Queen to deal with. One of these is the legacy of her mother, a legendary freedom fighter – or notorious terrorist, depending on your view – who was assassinated in front of the five-year-old Queen. Another is Queen’s former lover and comrade, Simon (Tuks Tad Lungu), who has become so disillusioned by corruption that he has taken up arms in a seemingly futile rag-tag insurrection making hit-and-run strikes across several countries. There are lighter moments too, many of them involving Queen’s beloved grandmother (Abigail Kubeka).

Series creator and South African TV comedy veteran Kagiso Lediga achieves a fine balance of action, drama and reflection, and he organically presents socially conservative audiences with progressive perspectives on women, sexuality and religion. Viewers unfamiliar with Africa will find some preconceptions challenged (at one point the series juxtaposes a lowlife white family in a cramped, rundown house against black people living in the kind of luxury afforded by generously remunerated government office). Engrossing telly, and certainly never dull.

Source Brisbane Times.

Watch the trailer below:

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