by Osamudiamen Joseph
This episode opens on a conversation between Dapo Banjo and Mr. Nurudeen Gobir. The journalist had reached out to the newly appointed head of the NCCC in a bid to get some information from him about Eniola Salami and all her shady dealings. He meets a dead end as Mr. Gobir refuses to offer any help or take administrative action based on unverifiable intel. Mr. Banjo also engages in some moral blackmail which Mr. Gobir immediately shuts down: “No one has sacrificed more for this country than I have. It almost took my children…my job. It took my wife!” Superlatives aside, he’s right. From the last movie, we understand that this is a man whose moral compass always points North. Even at the climax, when he opts for a moral decision instead of a legal one, it only goes to show that Gobir isn’t some automaton who will blindly follow the orders of the state. Eniola is guilty as sin and he is aware of that, but where is the justice and humanity in pronouncing judgement on her outside of a court of law?
The above scene is really interesting because Gobir has been in Banjo’s shoes, he understands the frustration that comes with being let down by one’s superiors in the pursuit of truth. However, on this occasion, he cannot help the journalist. The reason again is because the entire investigation is underhanded and is probably being funded by Eniola’s enemies. Paul Sambo delivers a scene-stealing performance as expected. His portrayal of Gobir is so grounded that Efa Iwara’s Dapo Banjo pales in comparison. This seems to be a recurring problem in The Return of the King: a lot of characters are paper-thin. The building blocks of good characterization are all there, but somehow, they don’t come together well, unlike in the first movie where seemingly minor characters like Kemi and Kitan had motivations for every action they took. That movie was also very much Gobir’s story as much as it was Eniola’s.
Dapo Banjo has some backstory. His blind devotion to his job has made his marriage suffer. Also, like his boss mentions in one scene, his father used to be a journalist too. These elements still don’t make his character interesting enough. For one, this sequel, “The Return of the King”, does not fall within the genre of mystery. The audience is already aware of all the information Dapo Banjo is willing to sacrifice his life for; he’s the one playing catch up. There is a moment at the end of this episode where he makes a decision to take his son home instead of following the Intel from his anonymous source about the meeting of the Table. This decision is framed as a moment of character growth, as something really difficult he had to do, but there is no arc here, only a ghost of one.
Banjo’s character flatlines from start to finish. Watching him the entire time, I kept on thinking, ‘there is no reason for this character’s existence’. He takes up a lot of screen time, but all his actions are essentially null and void, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.
In this episode, it becomes really clear that this sequel should have just been a movie, or at least a 30-minute long, five-episode miniseries. This would have really improved the pacing as unnecessary scenes would have ended up on the floor of the cutting room.
Odogwu Malay, after suffering multiple losses at the hands of a phantom Makanaki, finally gets through to the King and she is pissed. Why? Heaven knows. She says it is because she cannot bear to sit down with traitors but that comes off as insincere. She has dealt with traitors before. Why won’t she do anything about them now? If her reason had been that she didn’t want to be seen with thugs and murderers because of her gubernatorial aspirations, that might have carried some weight. Some.
This is essentially the plot of the first movie all over again. She neglected the table due to her ministerial ambition and all hell broke loose because of it. Odogwu has had enough of her inaction and he decides to take matters into his own hands: ‘If she’s neglecting us now, what happens when she’s governor?” His concerns are legitimate, but the movie pitches its tent with Eniola instead. He calls a meeting with the elders of the Table and announces a truce; he is defecting from Eniola’s camp effective immediately. At the end of the episode, Eniola finally addresses the members of the Table, through a phone call. I guess pride is one hell of a drug.
Thrown into the mixture of plot beats for this episode is a seven minute-long (yes, seven whole minutes) scene with Makanaki and his witch doctor that looks strangely like something out of old Yoruba Nollywood, only with an Instagram filter over it and a bigger budget for props. A scene that should have dropped with a bang felt completely empty. In the first movie, when Makanaki, kneeling before the deities in the shrine, said, “Give me the crown,” again and again, I felt chills run down my spine. That scene was also crosscut with one where Eniola, decked in a white robe, was surrounded by prayer warriors, raining curses on Makanaki, at the beach no less. Those moments carried a lot of weight between them. The battle line was being drawn simultaneously by two rivals and only one could come out on top. The audience was teetering on the edge of their seats at that point. That was pure dramatic conflict on display. One person wants something, the other will stop at nothing to make sure they don’t get it. But in Return of the King, everything is muddled.
Apparently, Ade Tiger is being blackmailed. Or something. He meets with this lady in a graveyard (“this is what happens to anyone who comes remotely close to the Alhaja”) and their entire conversation spells out for us what is going on. Or does it? We’re informed that Ade Tiger did some work for Aare while Eniola was in exile and this is being held over his head. They want him to betray the Alhaja and come over to their side. We don’t see the lady he meets up with— only her mouth is framed. Why? Probably to lend an air of mystique to a scene heavy on the exposition. The decision ends up just being distracting. Wouldn’t the scene have been better if we could see the lady’s face? There might have been more opportunity for the actor to emote if we could see her face, her eyes?
The episode ends with Eniola on speakerphone. “Good evening, gentlemen,” she says to the members of the Table before a cut to black.
Two episodes left, approximately five hours spent, and yet it feels like nothing has happened.