Politics is a very sensible subject. Every person has a different opinion, and when they don’t align, bad things can happen. So, when a TV series goes into politics, it might lose or gain part of the audience in equal parts. Finding a perfect balance between opposite points of view has become a very difficult thing to do, and Justice Served, the new Netflix TV show from South Africa, doesn’t really manage to create that balance. Instead, it goes to promote a very precise type of view and stays there.
Justice Served is the newest South African production coming to Netflix. It really says something that just in the past couple of months we are seeing more and more African productions coming to the platform. This speaks volumes about the importance of Netflix as a global platform. People from around the world are able to see productions from countries they have never visited and in languages they have never heard, and still have a great time with them.
Justice Served stars a massive cast of great actors, which includes Hlomla Dandala, Pallance Dladla, Anton David Jehta, Alex McGregor, Lerato Mvelase, and Dineo Rasedile. The cast comprises both veterans and rookies, but all of them manage to bring their characters to life very well. Even the actors that are asked to go the extra mile, and end up falling into cartoon territory, manage to become believable and interesting to watch.
The series tells the story of Azania Maqoma, as he and his group of warriors, the muroon manage to slip into the court where a very important case is about to be decided. The killing of a black man at the hands of a white man, something that has been happening to black people for ages. The series frames the crime as pure racism and then gives Maqoma the chance to make something out of it. Maqoma kidnaps the building and while broadcasting to the entire nation is ready to take justice in his own hands.
Justice Served makes some very compelling arguments against the systematic problem of black people being killed by white people, and those not getting a proportionate punishment for their crimes. We mostly hear about things like this coming out of the USA, but in reality it is something that happens everywhere in the world. In South Africa, a country with such a heavy history with the subject, is just one more place on the list dealing with the problem.
The series starts presenting arguments left and right, and the conversations that occur during the six episodes of the show are quite interesting. However, towards the end, one side of the argument loses all legitimacy in order to set up a second season. It is quite strange to see a show fall on its face so hard, as Justice Served does at the end. We cannot tell if this creative decisions was worth it, at least not now. Maybe when season two begins, we will see if it was the right decision.
Outside of this massive stumble regarding the subject of the show, the production is quite solid. Sometimes it becomes awfully clear that this show was shot during the pandemic, as there are mostly scenes with groups of people that are very separated from each other. The sets are mostly locked with no windows, and there is a lot of use of the green screen. At many points, the background feels more like a wallpaper than anything else, and it might take some people out of the story.
Speaking again about that setup for the second season, most of the stories don’t have any sort of resolution. They are all left in the air to continue them in the next season, and that might also be something against the show. The ambition of the creators for that second season seems to be quite enormous, but those ambitions feel like they are coming at the expense of this season’s premise. There are still quite a number of fascinating moments in the show, but they feel wasted.
The show also feels somewhat not that original to begin with. While the subject of the show is quite compelling, the plot itself feels like an obvious mixture of too many other films. There are even similarities with films coming from Africa that have reached Netflix recently, and also, of course, Money Heist, which is one of the most successful international properties that Netflix has ever produced. This lack of an original setup for the story feels like another thing that might turn some people off the show.
However, it would be a lie to say that the show isn’t entertaining. It is, and it will keep most people watching from beginning to end, even if they might feel they have seen this before. The actors do a great job, and overall, the show is very well produced, even when COVID-19 measures interfered with how some scenes were shot. Despite all that, there is a lot of cool stuff here.