Review: Blood and Water 1×1-1×2 (Canada: Omni)

The first ever trilingual drama in the West?


In Canada: Sundays, 10pm, Omni

Everyone knows that Canada is a bilingual country: while most provinces are majority English-speakers, many have sizeable numbers of French-speakers and Quebec, of course, is 80% Francophone. What’s less well known is that Canada is a very diverse country – Toronto, Canada’s largest city at 2.7 million, is claimed by many to be the most ethnically diverse city in the world, with 50% of its population foreign-born; and of the country’s 35 million inhabitants, more than 1 million speak a Chinese language at home.

Not that you’d know that from the average Canadian TV show, of course. 

While the TV shows themselves fail to reflect that diversity on-screen, the country’s TV networks do their best to serve the community. The Omni network airs programmes in 20 languages to communities encompassing at least 20 cultures, ethnic programming comprises 60% of the Omni stations’ schedules. However, until now, this has largely been foreign acquisitions, sport and news.

But Omni’s now breaking out into original drama with Blood and Water, one of the first, if not the first trilingual dramas to grace Western TV screens. Shot with an almost entirely Chinese-Canadian cast in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, it’s a cop drama that sees Steph Song (Achar!, jPod and former FHM Asia #1 Sexiest Woman in the World) having to investigate the murder of a prominent billionaire’s junkie son, experiencing both political and cultural pressure from inside and outside the police force as she does so. She also has to cope with her recent diagnosis of uterine cancer, as well as the disrespect and different working methods of her more experienced white, male partner (Peter Outerbridge, who’s best known from ReGenesis but was also the original Murdoch of The Murdoch Mysteries). 

Despite being only eight episodes, neatly bundled into 25-minutes chunks, the show’s less compelling than you’d hope, almost fetishing its trilingualism, with there more drama in who’s choosing to speak which language when and to whom than there is in most other scenes. Song’s personal issues make you worry more about the quality of Canada’s much-vaunted healthcare system than they do about her, while her being the universal butt-end of both civilian and cop disrespect lacks anything by way of subtlety.

It is thoughtful, though, lovingly shot and the interrogation scenes do make you feel like you’re learning how police use psychology to get information from people. All the same, despite its virtues, I’m not sure the mystery, the characters or the politics are compelling enough to make me want to watch any more of it.




  • Mark Carroll

    At least this initial foray into drama already wasn't too bad. Maybe future ones will edge nearer being good.

  • Probably. And, of course, I'm approaching this as a 'general viewer', whereas there may be epic levels of cultural and linguistic nuance I'm missing out on by virtue of not being Chinese-Canadian. It's a show serving a very specific audience, and for all I know, it might be doing it very well.

    But for the general view, it's okay but meh.

  • Mark Carroll

    It sounds like it was laying it on so thickly and unimaginatively that the target audience may be more irritated than won over!

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