A Look At The First Episode Of Showmax’s Faithless. 

The new showmax crime drama ‘Faithless‘ has quite the plot. A robbery follows a church service. A civil conversation by a suburban family follows crude language by gangsters in a seedy bar. A conservatively dressed pastor appears in the same episode as a bunch of ruffians with shaggy hair and pierced ears. Whatever the case, the first episode of Showmax’s original series ‘Faithless’ is full of juxtapositions as it attempts to introduce viewers to the characters and establish the rules of the universe in which the story takes place.

Harsh are those rules, as the episode ends with the murder of two gangsters who stole a bag of money from a ruthless crime lord. One of the dead gangsters is a brother to the character Esther, played by Rosemary Waweru. Esther alongside Hope, played by Fatma Mohammed; Faith, played by Beatrice Mwai; and Deborah, played by Avril Nyambura are the show’s lead characters.

Faithless

The ‘Faithless’ Plot

The plot of the ‘Faithless’ pilot is rather slow paced-understandably so. However, it allows us to meet the main characters for the first time. Esther gets the most screen time. Her story begins with her attending a church service with her friends who encourage her to ask for a raise at work despite her hesitations. Later that afternoon she interacts with her shady brother who comes around the house with an equally shady friend. The brother stashes a bag of cash in her house but she is oblivious.

The next day she goes to see her manager after finishing a frustrating shift to discuss a pay raise. She ends up quitting when the ultimatum that she has to sleep for the job is out on the table. She goes to see the pastor’s wife to vent. 

As for the other three characters, we do not get to see them beyond the church setting. This could be deliberate, the show using an episode to help us understand each of its main characters. We get to see supporting characters that will play a main role in the show, however. An eager detective has been assigned to follow the robbery that occurred in the very first scene. He later goes on to pay a visit to Cain, a dangerous crime lord, who despite being stolen from had not officially reported the matter to the police. We also learn that the hit on the cash-carrying van was organized by Cain’s son. There is a pastor – Musa. Seeing as the show is based on four religious women, he will play a huge role in plot development.

Character Development 

While the episode does well to make us understand the dangerousness of the universe this story is set in, it denies the main characters the opportunity to make a memorable first impression. The sharpest contrast in the execution of the plot is that the exciting parts are those in which we see the gangsters. On the other hand, the slow parts are those in which we see the ladies.

This is suicidal for the story when the supporting cast is out in scenes that outshine the main characters. The plot also tries to tell us too much about the characters in a way that seems redundant. For example, when we meet the detective, he is a divorcee with a pestering ex-wife. We follow him as he reports to the scene of the crime to determine what we already saw in the first scene. The only instance when the screen time given to the detective is justified is when he visits the crime lord, Cain, thereby introducing watchers to a new character.  

Main Characters

The other thing is that the episode waits until toward the end to set up a high-stakes situation for the main character. When we meet Esther, she is a humble church girl, who would rather earn less than lose her job altogether. The ‘Faithless’ script tells us she is struggling, but we do not get to see the extent of her financial struggle. Thus, we do not get to understand that when she chooses to quit her job she is making a sacrifice. It does not feel like a sacrifice – merely a moralistic inclination of the writer put on paper.

Faithless

To take the sting out of the decision further, when she goes to see the pastor’s wife, she ends up sleeping because apparently, she’s had a long day. The sleeping shows a lack of being affected by her new situation at best. At worst, it does not further the plot. It just slows down the pacing of the show thus putting the main character in a passive situation.

The episode sets up tropes that feel a bit too obvious. In a way that may be irredeemable down the line. Leading on the viewers just to subvert expectations has also become an obvious trope. The pastor is shown to be secretive in a scene where he is talking to a parishioner, perhaps setting up a doubtful seed in the viewer’s minds. He may become a villain of some sort down the line. But introducing it this early is not subversive or if the writer is doing it to mislead the viewer, then it must surely further the plot we wait to see.

Gangster Vs Detective

The detective being a lovelorn divorcee is a trope so common it has lost its sting. However, it is understandable that the writer was going for a funny moment, by contrasting how the detective receives a call from his ex-wife and a few moments later receives another call from his bosses. Without checking who the caller is the second time, he answers rudely only to change his tone when he realizes it is a different person.

Faithless

Some tropes make sense. The gangsters are shown to have a soft side when they interact with their families-humanizing them. This is a trope, one can really not get mad at. There are very few ways in which you can write a character who benefits from crime without giving them a motive. Esther’s brother particularly is shown to be gentle with his niece, a rational thinker, and a pacifier. His death may yet prove to be catastrophic to Esther and her child. We also learn that he chips in to provide for them.

Cinematography

 The cinematography of ‘Faithless’ for the most part is superb. The opening scene, when the robbery takes place has some shots that stand out. The photography in open places is stunning. The Nairobi skyline- the town buildings and suburban neighborhoods as well as roads are framed tastefully. The scene at the club and the parking lot where the robbers operate is also well shot. The videography struggles with other closed spaces like the pastor’s house and the hotel where Esther works at. The choice to make them feel cramped may have been deliberate and makes narrative sense. But compared to the other shots, it defies consistency.

All in all ‘Faithless’ is a good show. The premise of church girls being involved in a heist is solid, offering a world of possibilities in terms of conflict(s), subplots, and narratives. The show is a crime drama, therefore do not expect it to offer much in terms of satire aimed at criminality or Christianity, although it might show up as a theme. Despite the slow start, it still feels promising. The lines have been drawn in the sand, and all we as viewers have to do is derive pleasure from watching the characters cross them. Catch new episodes every Thursday on Showmax.