Now that we are back to work mode and our routine, I’m also catching up on shows that I missed in December.
One of those is Showmax’s “Trompoppie”, which was written and directed by Etienne Fourie (“Stiekyt” and “Die Windpomp” fame).
Following the release of its intriguing trailer, I made a mental note to add the Afrikaans whodunit, with English subtitles, to my binge-watch list.
Currently, there are six episodes available with the remaining four dropping in early February.
For context, this series gives a “Pretty Little Liars” meets “Mean Girls” feel.
Honestly, it was nothing like I expected. The series, underpinned by an incredible cast, is both engaging and frustrating.
By this, I mean that in every episode, there is always one character that riles the viewer. But you can’t stop watching as it’s too intriguing.
The series centres on Luna Verwey (Melissa Myburgh), a talented gymnast who is at a crossroads in life after recently losing her mom to cancer.
Her father Hugo (Stian Bam), having lost his job, has been selling off their possessions to make ends meet.
On the flip side, we meet the Patterson family. The matriarch Jill (Marion Holm), an actress, has lofty expectations for her adopted daughters, Zanne (Celeste Loots) and Elke (Luca Human), at Deacon College, a prestigious private school.
Her husband Fred (Albert Maritz) taps out by watching golf 24/7.
Jill wears her wealth on her sleeve and her snooty attitude rubs everyone the wrong way, especially the outgoing principal.
With the school going through a rocky patch with the upcoming drum majorettes national competition being a big deal for them, Jill decides to kill two birds with one stone when one of the members is injured during practice.
She pushes the easy-on-the-eye coach, Mr Hurley (Armand Aucamp), to add Luna, who she sponsors, to the team.
Jill isn’t just a force to be reckoned with, she is not one to accept no for an answer and sets about convincing Luna to accept the offer, too.
And she does so with the help of Zanne, who invites Lana to a gathering where she can meet everyone else from the team.
But things go pear-shaped when a hazing goes wrong and Zanne is found dead.
As such, the captain, Mindy (Elzet Nel), swears everyone, Luna included, to secrecy. While the rest of the drum majorettes - Chandré (Zandelle Meyer), Lanie (Lindzay Naidoo), Valerie Beukes (Jane de Wet) and Tracy (Maite Rakabe) - are shaken by the tragedy, they agree.
Of course, their best-laid plan goes astray when Detective Harry Herselman (Frank Opperman) is brought in to investigate Zanne’s disappearance. Later, Jill hires Madelyn van Staden (Daneel van der Walt), a retired cop turned crime author, to help find her daughter.
While the parallel investigation runs its course, the drum majorettes are forced to take drastic action to ensure they are not linked to the case.
They even plot to frame Zanne’s boyfriend, Tomas du Preez (Cantona James of “Spinners” fame), who is the captain of the cricket team and is known for his volatile temper.
But when they start receiving cryptic messages and the bodies start piling up, secrets start toppling out of the closet.
By episode six, Luna’s innocence comes into question as she starts embracing her upgraded life with the Petersons.
The script, while engaging, isn’t without flaws.
At the outset, I wondered why no one fact-checked the legal age for driving in SA. Zanne was 17 at the time of her disappearance and she was driving Luna to the party.
Now Holm is simply brilliant as a helicopter mother-cum-celebrity. Her chameleon-like personality gets confusing at times as her words don’t match her actions or emotional state where Zanne is concerned.
She’s more consumed with appearance rather than the truth. And this is evident in Elke’s school speech, which goes viral.
She berates her mother for ignoring her. And she exposes her dirty laundry.
Where the story does triumph, though, is in maintaining the suspense and throwing plenty of red herrings. And that is why I found it frustrating as well.
From a production and casting standpoint, it is hard to fault the series. It is top-notch.
Let’s hope the build-up to the ending lives up to expectations, though.
“Trompoppie” is an edge-of-your-seat whodunit, underpinned by betrayal, ambition and secrets.
∎ “Trompoppie” is streaming on Showmax.