The world’s first African Superhero TV Show is here, and it’s a good start. Jongo is a love letter to African superhero and Sci-fi fans. It’s made of good ideas but the terrible acting keeps it from being great. Here’s our article on why we think YOU should be talking about it.
At the site of his father’s murder, Eli King discovers a mysterious crystal which imbues him with an array of special powers. As he tries to deal with the death of his father and find the men responsible, Eli must also grapple with the powers of the crystal and how it will indelibly alter the course of his life. What Eli doesn’t know is that the men he is hunting have crystals of their own and need Eli’s stone to fulfil an ancient and devastating prophecy which will threaten the lives of millions. And caught up in the middle of everything is Eli’s best friend, Kay, and the love of his life, Maya.
This is a story heavy show, so the action sequences are few and far between. In fact, the first act is too slow. They spend it introducing the characters and setting up the plot, like any first act should, but the terrible acting make it almost unbearable. The acting is the single biggest flaw in Jongo. That’s strange because the production values are high, the cinematography is the best I’ve seen in any show produced in Africa and the special effects are well done. It may have something to do with the fact that most of the lead roles were played by people who suit the roles on paper, but have little to no experience in acting. Pacou Motombo who plays the large dancer Eli King, is one of South Africa’s biggest hip hop dancers in real life. Ryan Davies who plays Ziv, an ex-member of the Israeli special forces, runs his own Krav Maga gym in real life.
The writer used the musings of certain characters to project his views on superhero culture and art in general. Eli’s best friend Kay comments on superhero cliches and the villain, Benjamin Abaddon, comments on imagination and dreams. At the start of the show, I thought Kay would be that best friend who talks too much and always needs saving, but as the show developed, I realized he was as much a lead character as Eli. A better one in fact. Eli is a weak lead character. He’s the strong, silent type, so in conversations with third parties, Kay does most of the talking. As the show progresses, almost all the characters evolve, bad guys and good guys, all except Eli. That’s the only other real complaint I have with Jongo. At least he improved in his mastery of his powers.
Let’s talk about the powers bestowed by the crystals. Without giving out more than the trailers show, Eli’s blue crystal enhances his physical abilities like speed and strength, the green crystal allows Ziv become invisible and the red one gives Abaddon an array of psychic powers. I like that the powers have rules and limitations. The crystals are not magic crystals. They are a piece of technology that mankind doesn’t understand yet. They can be detected or inhibited by physical and scientific means. This means the crystals aren’t overpowered, and they don’t give the wielders an automatic win in a crisis. The crystal is only as good as the wielder.
Jongo is the brainchild of Gareth Crocker (we interviewed him and even talked about this review), a white South African author. He wrote and produced the show. People who have only seen the first one or two episodes complain about seeing more white characters than black characters, but if you actually watch the show, you won’t have this complaint. While the extras and side characters are mainly white, the actual main characters are black, apart from the villains. Even among the villains, there’s national diversity. Just take a look at the characters page on Jongo’s official website. Five black characters, five white characters and that includes an Israeli and a German national.
Also, not a single woman in the show was treated as a two-dimensional female just there to be ogled or act as a love interest. I was initially disappointed when one lady was abducted, because the damsel in distress role has gotten old, but they only used that to show how she could take care of herself in a dangerous situation, and not helplessly wait for a knight in shining armor.
Gareth Crocker did a great job of avoiding any accusations of white supremacy storytelling. Strike force stealthily taking out the guards in a secure area? The strike force is black and the guards are white. Nick Fury-like character giving the heroes intel and mission objectives? He’s black too. One civilian rescuing another from captivity and certain death? Guess which one of them is black? I think he actually went out of his way because of the vocal community of black geeks who may watch this show.
This is the very first time we’ve had a Sci-fi superhero TV series made by Africans and set in Africa, and thankfully, it didn’t start us off on the wrong foot. Real stunts, real locations and real skills were favored over CGI and special effects, and those were only added where necessary. The plot was not unnecessarily convoluted nor was it drawn out with fillers. Including the commercial breaks taken by the TV stations, the whole season is done in eight hours, and the final act was nice. The story was decent and left me genuinely interested in watching the second season. It better not have a slow start. We’ve already been introduced to the characters. The returning actors best step up their game for the next season, and the new characters should be played by actual actors, because I can’t wait to talk about how season 2 is a great show.
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