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The Reyka season finale is here

The final episode of M-Net's psychological thriller airs this Sunday, but it begs some uncomfortable questions: can survivors of abuse ever find closure?
Thu, Sep 09, 2021

This is a spoiler-free preview of Reyka episode 8

Upon the capture of a criminal, do his victims ever find joy? Does it come guaranteed, immediately, like the next morning? Is it, perhaps, gradual, like the changing colour of leaves between summer and autumn, before suddenly dropping?

I grappled with these thoughts throughout M-Net's latest psychological thriller series, Reyka which concludes this Sunday.

The series follows the flawed but highly regarded criminal profiler, Reyka Gama (Kim Engelbrecht) who, having spent several years living and working in the UK, is seconded by Brigadier Hector Zwane (Hamilton Dhlamini) to work on an investigation into a string of brutal murders in the sugar cane fields of KwaZulu-Natal.

As the weeks went by and the pieces of the puzzle began to slot into place while watching Reyka, the question was less about whether she could crack the case (she does). Because of the genre, viewers had to witness how she did it, but for the specific character and her loved ones, of importance was how she would resolve the turmoil of her personal life.

It was about how she would rid herself of Angus Speelman (Iain Glen) who had had a hold over her since her preteen years.

Speelman abducted Reyka while her mother, Elsa (Anna-Mart van der Merwe), was working as a press photographer documenting the 1994 national elections. She spent the next three and a half years in the clutches of this man – even believing she had, at last, found someone to call a father.

As Speelman touched her inappropriately and made her do things no parent should ever make a child do, the boundary lines were blurred and the man got away with his despicable behaviour, and gaslit Reyka.

As a result, Reyka has harboured deep psychological trauma over the years, and this makes her tough to trust for viewers. In episode 3, during a rare tender moment, she tells her colleague, Nandi (Thando Thabethe) that it's tough to characterise her relationship with Speelman. "I guess you could say he was my first love," she admits tearily. Her concept of love is warped.

She is also incapable of showing affection and compassion towards her daughter, Thuli, and her mother. The latter is still wrecked by the guilt of letting her daughter out of her sight for a brief moment – a moment which had since defined their lives.

Repeatedly, she asks: "Reyka, I'm sorry. I turned my head for a moment. I'm sorry I let you down. I will never forgive myself for what happened that day. But I need you to tell me. I'm ready, okay? I can handle this. We can do this together, my lief. Did he rape you?"

She has troublesome romantic relationships with men, too.

This is what leaves me thinking at the end of the final episode: once so much hurt and fear has been passed down (and between) generations of women, is it possible for them to find joy – even trust – again?

What does that look like? Is it tenuous?

Reyka shows us that even with the knowledge that one's transgressor is behind bars, the doubt and the trauma that they have sowed endures, because abusers control and humiliate. They possess weapons and threaten to use them, and sometimes they do. They exhibit separation violence when they believe they are about to lose their victims.

Speelman certainly feels that way about Reyka, and about his wife, Portia. Later, when Portia has fashioned a life away from Speelman and refuses to reunite with him once he is paroled, he tells her: "Don't be like that, Portia. You can't choose your family."

As Portia shows us in the epic final scenes of the season, while you may not choose your family, you can certainly cut ties when the relationship no longer serves you.

For Reyka, can she finally form a safe and loving tribe with her daughter and mother, to find a remedy for their tattered relationships? Will they ever erase Speelman's footprint on their lives? When we talk about gender-based violence, its aftereffects on the victim are what we rarely consider.

Totally unrelated: well done to the make-up department on this show!

  • The finale of Reyka airs on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) on Sunday at 8pm. Watch previous episodes on DStv Catch Up.