12 January 2023
Donkerbos episode 7 recap: The Dogs
The discovery of seven dead children at an abandoned farm continues to mystify the townsfolk of Donkerbos, along with the detectives working the case who are chasing any lead they can find. Here is everything that happened in episode 7 of the chilling Showmax Original thriller, Donkerbos.
Spoiler alert! Don’t read on if you haven’t watched this episode of Donkerbos, because it’s a big one!
We are still trying to catch our breath after the revelation at the end of episode 6 that the killer of the seven children – the monster that detective Fanie Van Wyk (Erica Wessels) has been trying to track and put behind bars – is none other than meek school teacher Braam Pieterse (Edwin van der Walt), the brother of detective Sybrand Pieterse (Wilhelm van der Walt), Fanie’s lover. A million questions have plagued our thoughts, but the main one is: why?
The tone of the series shifts at the start of episode 7 as the story breaks away from the present to tell us Braam’s story.
We are transported to an aquarium where we meet a small boy in a yellow jacket. He is holding his mum’s hand, we never see her face, but she has long hair. She takes him right up to the glass wall of the floor-to-ceiling tank, where he looks at all the fish. She stands close to him and as he touches the glass, she squeezes his shoulders then steps back from him, quietly leaves and disappears into the crowd. The boy is left alone . . . abandoned.
Later a woman (played by Roeline Daneel) [possibly a child psychologist] plays with this same boy. She uses stuffed animals to recreate the moment in which he was abandoned by his mother, in an attempt to get the boy to tell her his name or that of his mother, but he remains silent as he plays with his toy cars. She gets up and phones another woman named Helga (Leanna Dreyer). She admits she is not making any progress with the boy, and asks whether she can bring him to her.
The scene cuts to a group of boys of all ages playing soccer in a courtyard of a big building, where the psychologist arrives with the boy. A woman (Rolanda Marais) with short hair and a kind face crouches down to greet him saying, “Hello little one”
“Hello, little one”
The building is an orphanage and this new woman seems set to adopt or foster the boy. As she fills in the paperwork, she glances back at him, smiling warmly. The two drive off in her car, and she urges him to get some sleep, as they are far from home. A peculiar song plays as they drive and their journey takes them into a wild, densely forested area. The car finally comes to a stop at a building we recognise as Braam and Sybrand’s present-day house.
“You can’t save the whole world”
Inside, we see a young girl with blonde hair, Lucy (Estella Nel), as the woman tells her to come to greet her new brother. While Lucy seems unhappy to see him and she runs away, the lady tells the boy not to worry because he and Lucy will be playing together in no time.
Lucy’s not the only one put out by the boy’s arrival. Out on the stoep as the boy waits inside, the woman’s (whose name is Renata) husband Deon (Albert Pretorius) quarrels with her over what a big responsibility it is to raise another child, as he asks her how she could bring the boy into their home without telling him. Deon rails at Renata, “How many strays are you going to bring home? You can’t save the whole world!” But Renata stands firm that the boy will stay, no matter what Deon says.
The scene cuts to the boy in his new bed, still in his yellow jacket, which he is refusing to take off even to bathe. After Deon leaves, Renata tells the boy this is his new home and, starting to trust her, the boy tells her his name: Braam.
“This is my house”
Following the title sequence, we return to Renata and Braam, as Braam is finally ready to take a bath. A crescent moon hangs in the sky as Deon plays his bugle on the stoep. Later Lucy slips into Braam’s room as he sleeps, climbs onto his bed and in a hushed tone she hisses at him that this is her house, and that her dad is going to kill him! (is she jealous and territorial – or could this be a real warning about Deon?)
We watch Braam’s (or Braampie as Renata calls him) life in his new home. At the dinner table we find out that Deon plays his bugle every Sunday night, and that the instrument is his pride and joy, inherited from his grandfather, who brought it from Germany after he fought in World War II. “Do you know what war is, son?” asks Deon. “It’s hell.” It seems Deon might be warming up to Braam.
Braam and Renata’s connection strengthens as we see him pick out a book for her to read to him, and he chooses Der Mutterbaum (The Mother Tree, the manifesto/bible used by the killer of the seven children). As she reads to him, Renata tells Braam she has always wanted a boy, and now they can be a real family – unaware of Lucy standing nearby, eavesdropping.
Braam wanders the grounds of his new home with his book in hand. He calls Renata Mommy, then ventures to an abandoned building on the property, where we see him painting eyes on rocks (like those found on the bodies of the seven children and on the rocks that were found near their bodies). Lucy pesters and bullies Braam, but Renata is always there to save and protect him – until the night of his first birthday with the family. The celebration is ruined when a huge fight erupts between Renata and Deon over Lucy’s recent spate of bedwetting, which Deon blames on Braam’s unsettling arrival.
As Renata changes Lucy’s bedding, Lucy slyly tries to get at Braam’s book, which he hides behind a cabinet in the house. Thwarted, she takes her father’s bugle from the mantle, throws it to the ground and, maliciously, kicks the broken pieces in Braam’s direction, framing him. Deon sees red, and just like that Braam is shipped back to the orphanage, even though it shatters Renata’s heart.
“Are you scared of dogs?”
The next phase of the story takes us into Braam’s life as a teenager at the orphanage. He is being punished, cleaning the floor with a toothbrush, when Helga calls him. Helga tells him to get into a minivan with a man, and that if he is good and does as he’s told, Helga will give him some sweets when he gets back. The man asks Braam whether he’s scared of dogs and they drive to a strange place where the man has Braam help him euthanize dogs by holding them still as he gives them injections (just like the killer did with the seven children – chilling!)
In the next scene, we see Braam sketch eyes around a dead pigeon and place rocks around it (again, just as he did with the dead children). His little ritual is disrupted by the arrival of a newcomer to the orphanage . . . the “infamous Pieterse boy”, as Helga calls him – the young Sybrand. As Braam and Sybrand lock eyes, it’s clear there’s an instant connection between them. And just after Sybrand gets a stern talking-to and haircut from Helga, he saves Braam from an older boy named Tinus (Eloff Snyman) who forces Braam into a bathroom stall intending to beat or molest him, or both. Sybrand kicks down the stall door, asks Braam if he is okay, and brawls with Tinus. Sybrand tells Tinus to stop what he is doing, as he smashes Tinus’s head into a mirror. And Braam adds a new element to his ritual – the mirror pieces (that he uses to form a crown around his victims’ heads)
After Sybrand saves Braam, they pinkie-swear to look out for each other and be brothers. The final 15 minutes of the episode show us the adult Braam and Sybrand back at Renata’s house, which she has left to Braam in her will, since Lucy and Deon died in a car crash. It’s her final gesture to show Braam she always loved him, the son she found and lost. In the dusty, run-down house, we see Braam find Deon’s broken bugle and, still behind the cabinet, his copy of Der Mutterbaum.
Coming closer to the present, we see Thomas (the boy with the long hair who was running in the forest) daydreaming in Braam’s maths class. Braam later finds Thomas in the bathroom, crying, and as he washes his hands, Braam notices the bruises on the boy’s arms (Thomas is being abused. . .just like the seven children).
Braam keeps a close eye on Thomas and we see him try to help and comfort the boy, even giving him his cellphone number. Sybrand also tries to help, but there is a lot of red tape, and Braam doesn’t want Thomas to end up in an orphanage (like they did) if he reports the abuse.
Finally, we learn why Thomas was running for his life shouting “no” to the man chasing him. Thomas runs away from his parents and phones Braam, who finds him at the side of the road. When Braam tells Thomas he will have to take Thomas back to his parents, Thomas freaks out, takes the knife he’s carrying, and slits his own wrist, then runs into the bush. Braam picks up the knife and runs after Thomas. But the boy stumbles and falls onto a branch that pierces his abdomen. That’s when he says to Braam with his dying breath, “Why are you doing this . . . I trusted you, you, you…”
The final episode of Donkerbos will air on Tuesday 17 January and while we now have a clearer idea of why Braam did what he did, we don’t know what to expect next. We’re not quite out of the woods with this one!