Friday, 8 October 2021

TV review: Castle & Castle, season 2, Netflix (2021)

The firm’s office is different compared to season 1 and the writing is tighter. Now, in a more salubrious environment, the lawyers of my favourite Nigerian soap opera deal with a novel set of crises, and the brilliant actors are back again to entertain and instruct, but the gaps between signal events is smaller and this season feels less episodic. There’re only six episodes instead of 13, for a start. Episode 1 opens with Tega Castle (Richard Mofe-Damijo) teaching at university and his wife Oluremi (Dakore Akande) running the firm single-handed. 

While watching ‘Castle & Castle’ is a kind of lesson in humanity the presence of the first world is stronger in this season that it was in the first. Tega is asked by Mike Amenechi (Daniel Etim Effiong) to take on an extradition case. A man is being extradicted to the US, where he’d been involved in a BLM rally that had turned ugly. 

Other issues will have such singular importance in the eyes of developed-world audiences, such as the case Kwabena (Deyemi Okanlawon) and Doshima (Dorcas Shola Fapson) are given to manage, which involves a young woman who’s married a woman in South Africa but whose parents forbid the couple from using their (the parents’) surname as their married name. Doshima had felt sympathy for the child but her duty as a lawyer is to work in the best interests of the parents, as they’re the firm’s clients. For audiences this small drama is compelling because it highlights the ways in which law is so much more liberal outside Nigeria. It also shows how South Africa is a kind of Petrie dish where Western experiments are first tried before they can be exported to other African countries. The makers of ‘Castle & Castle’ evidently want viewers to sympathise with the daughter but as in most of the vignettes both sides of the coin are given equal prominence.

Once again ‘Castle & Castle’ shows that we need more news from countries, such as Nigeria, where human rights are not well served and where corruption in its various forms is common. It not only helps Nigerians by giving exposure to their problems, thus bringing pressure to bear on bad actors living and operating there, it also helps residents of such countries as Australia to better understand their own polities. If more Nigerian news stories were screened in the evenings in Australia it’d put our own problems in proper perspective, and save us time and energy by removing certain issues from prominence in public debate. Being more international in scope, the nightly Sydney news would be more useful by illustrating what’s good about life at home, and preventing subjects of marginal importance from taking up so much space in the community’s discussions with itself. People talk, they become invested personally in things, and they press for change – some of which is not required and will do more damage if implemented because, if it is, it will unnecessarily alienate a large part of the populace, making necessary change harder to implement. By watching more Nigerian stories at night when families are getting ready to eat or to have dinner everyone can benefit from a clearer view of the wide world we live in, and can better understand their own place in it.

But this is unlikely as a single jurisdiction, a unique national focus, is required to give matters piquancy, and to make them stick in people’s mind so they can concentrate on them with all of their passions and with their personal identity engaged. So just as the Pandora Papers – a trove of documents relating to offshore tax havens – cannot attract the interest of Sydneysiders as strongly at the resignation of the state premier, news from Nigeria or Pakistan – countries with many people living in dire poverty but where some rich people sequester their savings in places where they cannot be taxed – is hardly likely to grab the eyes of a reader of the Daily Telegraph. The space between the single man or woman and the collective is slim and nationalism is powerful (the 20th century taught us) precisely because it’s about the individual. 

The second season of the show does include an episode (4) which uses social media to progress the plot, as Tega is instructed in the art of using Twitter by his son Ben (Denola Grey). Conversely, Malik (Blossom Chukwujekwu) adds a distinctly local type of drama when his father dies and he must negotiate a settlement for his mother. Being Muslim the two must find a way to come to terms with customary law as practiced by her husband’s family. It’s rare to find a soap opera that so effectively marries such divergent strands, but ‘Castle & Castle’ manages the balance between cultures in a way that allows different stories to carry equal weight. 

This is a gem and it’s not only because of the quality of this show that it’ll get a third season: the ways in which the plot leaves the viewer hanging make it inevitable.

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