Zenzi (Gail Mabalane) is a simple cleaning lady desperately trying to make ends meet, holding out for the day her husband is finally released from prison. But when the day arrives, he mysteriously vanishes. Now, with no one to turn to, and no one to trust, Zenzi puts everything she has into finding out the truth behind where he is and the crime that got him put away in the first place. But when her search brings her face-to-face with some of Cape Town’s most dangerous criminals, the situation quickly escalates to a place that forces Zenzi to become something she never thought she could be in Unseen.
Like every good mystery, Unseen does a fantastic job of keeping the audience guessing who did what and how it will all turn out till the last episode. This is largely due to the fantastic variety of personalities that come to participate in Zenzi’s journey. Who is bad, who is good, and who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time are all brought to life through a realistically written script that never forces any of its characters into feeling like over-the-top archetypes. How people respond to the events of the series drives the compelling story into oftentimes unforeseen directions that keep the narrative interesting and engaging. But while the larger world is intriguing in and of itself, at the end of the day, this show’s greatest draw is Zenzi herself.
Mabalane portrays the series’ protagonist in a way that never lets her lose the compassion and understanding of the audience. Even as she gets drawn into darker situations that force her to make dark choices, she never ceases to feel like the victim in Unseen‘s tale. How the character grapples with her situation as it spirals out of control around her feels authentic and genuine. Mabalane’s every tear, panic attack, and violent outburst lands with skillfulness as the actor manages to balance the raw power of her character’s emotions with a reservedness that keeps her from feeling unrealistically animated.
While Zenzi owns the series, she is nonetheless surrounded by some strong performances from her supporting cast, chief among these is Mothusi Magano‘s portrayal of crime novelist/journalist Lufuno. While the character doesn’t have the greatest impact on the series as a whole, some of his discussions with Zenzi are highlights of the series’ six episodes. Magano’s calm, measured presence in the show helps ground the drama, even in the later episodes as everything begins to melt down.
While the show’s acting delivers strong performances, the rest of Unseen‘s production falls solidly in the good category. While things like lighting, camera work, and other technical aspects never felt bad, there were no shots that ever really popped out at me either. The camera mostly plays it safe, which gets the story across fine, but could’ve done more to amplify the emotions in some of the show’s most crucial moments.
Unseen ultimately delivers an engaging and interesting mystery that centers itself around a strong protagonist that is relatable and sympathetic. With a roughly four-and-a-half-hour run time, there are few reasons not to give this strong series a try if you are looking for a good mystery.
Unseen is streaming now on Netflix.
Unseen ultimately delivers an engaging and interesting mystery that centers itself around a strong protagonist that is relatable and sympathetic.