3 reasons Housekeepers is so binge-worthy
** Minor spoilers ahead **
Set in an upmarket area in Joburg’s leafy Northern suburbs, it’s a South African thriller about Linda Ndlovu (played by Thando Thabethe) seeking justice for her mom.
Linda’s future as a promising lawyer gets derailed when her mother, Sister June Ndlovu, a nurse, gets framed for the murder of her patient. That patient (played by Nthati Moshesh) happens to be a high-powered construction mogul, Veronica Zwide.
Linda goes undercover as a housekeeper to find out what really happened. Her mission is riddled with obstacles, which leave her conscience wrestling between loving the law and being a law unto herself (especially when the law fails her and her family). She takes us on a bumpy ride into the thankless, tireless world of Shielas (housekeepers or as many call them, ‘helpers’) and the lavish lives of their powerful, rich and unscrupulous black madams and masters.
With short and sweet (mostly 20-minute) episodes laden with cliffhangers, the series is relentless, pulling you in from the very beginning. It then leaves you light-headed with serious withdrawals after a rollercoaster of incredibly written storylines and performances that make Devious Maids actresses seem like amateurs. Here’s why we’re binge-watching Housekeepers.
1 The love and hate relationship with Linda
Linda is smart, brave and determined. You find yourself cheering for her as she manages to wiggle her way into all kinds of tight corners in the Zwide home. She unravels her bosses’ lives as she applies pressure on their weak spots – in a way that would make any madam think twice before she underestimates her helper.
She gets so good at her bosses’ game – moving people around like chess pieces – that at times her conscience is left wanting. You often wonder if Linda hasn’t gone too far into the dark world: she even allows the kind-hearted gardener Max to take the fall for a terrible deed she did.
Her vulnerability (especially around her sickly brother and saintly boyfriend), as well as her heartbreak when she loses her mother, and then later another person close to her heart, is endearing.
2 The witch who set Twitter abuzz
While Linda is willing to go to great lengths to defend her mother’s honour, her employer Boniswa (played by Zikhona Sodlaka) will literally knock over anyone who comes in the way of her happiness – in other words, love and money. As Linda says in the series: “The devil works hard, but the Zwides work harder”.
Sodlaka really owns the role of the evil madam. She digs claws into her characters. She was last seen in the Mzansi series Igazi playing the ambitious witch Scotho who surrounded herself with darkness (and slithery creatures). She played that role so well that Twitter still refers to her as Scotho.
3 A bond stronger than hardship
If there’s anyone who knows our secrets, it’s our housekeepers. Yet, they’re often invisible to their employers and sometimes treated no differently to the trash they take out weekly.
The lives they leave behind, going for days without seeing their loved ones, makes them gravitate towards each other and form a bond.
The stories the housekeepers tell about their bosses, as well as the characters in their real lives (at home), bring them together to form a family of sorts. They take up each others’ battles and are there to support each other in hardship.
The delicacy with which showrunner and writer Portia Gumede treats this story is heart-warming and commendable. Housekeepers has truly won hearts across South Africa.