Nigeria’s film and TV industries — otherwise known as “Nollywood” — have gotten Netflix’s attention. They have released a few films that originate and take place from the African nation, and now they’ve produced a series there, a potboiler called Blood Sisters.
BLOOD SISTERS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Two women digging a hole by the side of the road, and rolling a body shrouded in a sheet into the hole.
The Gist: Kola Ademola (Deyemi Okanlawon) heads an influential pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, and right after he closes a big deal, he tells the people gathered that he’s off to his wedding. He’s getting married to Sarah Duru (Ini Dima Okojie) at a lavish hotel. Usually, the engagement party (part of a Nigerian wedding weekend) is paid for by the bride’s parents, something Sarah’s working-class dad Ifeyani (Keppy Ekpenyong-Bassey) is chagrined about, but her mom Olayinka (Kehinde Bankole) is ecstatic about joining such an influential family.
There is doubt about this pairing on both sides. Sarah’s best friend Kemi Sanya (Nancy Isime) still thinks Sarah holds a candle for her ex. And Kola’s brother Femi (Gabriel Afolayan) and mother Uduak (Kate Henshaw-Nuttal) aren’t exactly in Sarah’s camp, either. It also turns out that Kola is a controlling douchebag, demanding that Sarah wear go back up to her room and change her dress she was wearing to the rehearsal dinner.
When Sarah’s ex shows up at the rehearsal dinner unexpectedly, Kola confronts her privately and slugs her in the gut; while Kemi wants her to call the wedding off, Olayinka doesn’t want Sarah to throw away this influential connection over “1 slap.” Sarah decides to tell Kola that the wedding is off, on the day of the all-important engagement party. After fending off a hitman he has no doubt was hired by his brother Femi, he takes a gun from the attacker. Little does he know that the gun will be used later on.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? By the end of the episode, it feels like Blood Sisters has a very Ozark–ian feel to it, even if it’s a more melodramatic version of Ozark, like if it was combined with a telenovela like Jane The Virgin.
Our Take: One of the most interesting things about Netflix’s venture into Nollywood, which is Nigeria’s film and TV industry, is that the dramas that have come from that country are in (mostly) English, along with having themes that are relatable to audiences worldwide.
Yes, the details about the relationship between Sarah and Kola are in short supply, at least in the first episode. And the retrograde idea that Sarah’s parents want her to go ahead with her marriage to Kola despite the fact he was violent with her feels like something that hasn’t been able to fly in this country since at least the early aughts. But the family rivalry and positioning for power and wealth are spot on, and wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Succession.
Again, the writing and some of the acting borders on the melodramatic, but the idea that Sarah and Kemi will be on the run, almost as much from Uduak and her powerful family as they will be from law enforcement, will be interesting to watch. Will the show get more serious than we saw in the first episode, or will there be moments like the extended fight sequence between Kola and the hitman? We hope that some of the show’s kitchiness remains, just to keep it from being a depressing slog.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Back to the side of the road, Sarah and Kemi throw dirt on the body they rolled into the hole.
Sleeper Star: Genoveva Umeh plays Timyen, Kola’s younger sister, who has no problem telling everyone at the rehearsal dinner that she’s just coming back from rehab. She’ll be the wildcard in the family, one her mother can’t control.
Most Pilot-y Line: Without explanation, Kola tells Timyen, “If anything happens to me, look to our brother.” We’d have the puzzled look Timyen had, as well.
Our Call: STREAM IT. While Blood Sisters is a bit melodramatic, it has the potential to be an interesting thriller that goes into the evolution of gender roles vs tradition in Nigeria.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.