Savage Beauty (Season 1) is the latest revenge mystery drama to hit Netflix, which is a tale of a young common woman against a global beauty mogul. Based in Soweto, South Africa, the show is fast-paced, glamorous, and a guilty pleasure for all the thriller connoisseurs. However, it lacks originality and has cliche narrative tropes and multiple characters and plot contrivances. Highlighting pertinent themes like the need for skin-lightening, the show puts together multiple subplots and narratives to back the central theme of vengeance.
Spanning across six episodes of more than 50 minutes each, the story revolves around Bhengu Beauty- the global beauty empire and Zinhale- the face of the brand, who has come to avenge the Bhengu family. What begins as a straightforward revenge thriller driven by the protagonist Zinhale against the Bhengu mogul for his’ and his wife’s misdeeds in the past soon blows up into family drama, dirty feuds, sordid affairs, and dark secrets. Right from episode 1, Zinhale steers the wheel of the show- she has been selected as the face of Bhengu beauty and comes to live with the family. The first episode also sets the context right regarding what could have gone wrong and the motive for the revenge.
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The precipitous plot furthers with Zinhale carefully strategizing and making moves to ruin the family name instead of killing the monarch all at once. Like any other revenge thriller film, the hero doesn’t want the villains to die easily without suffering. No doubt the series hooks you on, and if you have a penchant for drama, glamor, and thrill, you will get hooked to it- but oftentimes, you will feel that the screenwriters have only tried to put together cliche thriller tropes to further the storyline- like the show coming full circle by connecting the cold open with the climax, or the idea of the cast-off daughter trying to prove herself, and more.
Savage Beauty is not a show that promises novelty. Even while watching it, you will think of innumerous other films and shows about how a single person comes back with a past vendetta against a family and avenges it. To name a few, we just saw a fabulous version of it in ‘Promising Young Women,’ also in ‘The Gift,’ ‘Succession,’ and many more. It borrows heavily from the western content, so much so that it begins to irk you at times – like a heart attack mid-extra-marital affair sex. There is also an extremely noticeable reference from ‘Game of Thrones: Jon Snow,’ but I will leave it hanging here and not spoil it for you.
Shot in a pulp fiction style, Savage Beauty is on-the-nose dramatic without any meaty content to support the characters’ actions. The only skeleton is the dreary theme that hangs in throughout. However, the show moves forward with the development of character arcs, and thankfully it does a decent job there. Each character has its own set of conflicts, sketched-out personality, and distinctive traits. But again, every single one of their personalities are either black or white- the show makers just do not believe in giving a gray shade to anyone. If only human behavior was so comprehensible and straightforward.
Having said that, the show does shed light on many pertinent issues. An essential issue that Savage Beauty vocalizes is the demand, production, and supply of skin-lightening creams. While it is a community-specific show, you will still start questioning the global culture and its standards associated with light skin. The other theme is polygamy, which is constant throughout, and if you are a new viewer of South African content, you will find yourself running to your friend google for help. But yes, the SA society sanctions polygamy, which has been showcased clearly and sensitively in the show.
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The six-episode series ends on an obligatory cliffhanger brought about by a forced series of events in the climax. It also comes with a twist: the war is not over, so you are drawn into the next season. But I am not sure if that will be the case as I found even this climax a drag. You can watch it if you are in the mood for watching a sub-standard form of ‘Kill Bill’ sprinkled with a little bit of ‘Sex and the City’ glamour.
Savage Beauty (Season 1) is now streaming on Netflix
Savage Beauty (Season 1) Links – IMDb
Savage Beauty (Season 1) Cast – Rosemary Zimu, Dumisani Mbebe, Nthati Moshesh, Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, Jesse Suntele, Oros Mampofu