This was written over the past week, in snatches,in between lots of other commitments and with a heavy cold, so sorry if it’s a bit disjointed. I’ve really enjoyed writing it, though.

To start with, a bit of a preview, two days out from the first episode of the new season. For me in little old Aotearoa at the bottom of the world, three days out. The hype has been turned right up for the start of this second season. Publicity gurus have got us (me, actually!) worked up almost into a state of frenzy. Fragments and hints, conjecture and very short film clips, the new ‘tag’ flashed up again and again, mug shots of some very mean looking new nasties, the identity of the actor playing Cumali, even a crucifixion-like scene of a very battered looking Yamac have appeared over the last few days. And, of course, that driving, soul-stirring music. I wonder what the sounds for the new characters will be?

We have seen that Saadet and her baby have survived though how and in what condition is yet to be revealed. Vartolu is there and so are a couple of the wedding guests, though looking to be in less than optimum physical condition. I’m hanging out for Muhittin, I hope. But I AM anxious about Celasun. Kubilay Aka is one very talented and promising young actor and I hope his character will still be around.  But where is Sena?

We know, thank God, that Alico has survived and I anticipate that he will continue his invaluable role as the eyes and ears on the street as the new regime in Cukur takes shape and the power shifts. Paper will still need to be picked up, and from the few glimpses we have had so far, the environment has deteriorated rapidly since the Kocovalis left town. There’s lots of rubbish around and fires and general disarray. It looks like these new guys aren’t into urban renewal at all. Alico should be able to get around the place better than most others and his prodigious memory will be invaluable, I am thinking. I love Alico.

All this, is of course, just my take on what has been brewing in Cukur since we left Yamac and Vartolu at the end of Season 1, as they were making a decision to return to Cukur, which is not only a place but is everywhere.

Over this past weekend, I have re-watched ‘The Godfather” on Netflix. It opens, interestingly enough, during a wedding at which time we meet Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, the aging lion who is both like and different from Idris Kocovali in his heyday. The more significant parallel characters, at least at the early stages of both stories, are Michael Corleone and Yamac Kocovali, both of whom are forced reluctantly back into their respective families’ service because older brothers and former ‘heirs to the throne’ have been taken out of the running either through death or unsatisfactory performance.  Certainly, Michael’s integrity, peace of mind and an inherent moral code will be, over time, corrupted and he will become a cold-blooded killer, though family is always at the base of his being and actions. The Mafia code is, for Michael, insurmountable in the end. I wonder, at this stage of “CUKUR”, the story, whether Yamac’s future is one of inevitable tragedy. Will the brothers of Cukur, which is a kingdom and is everywhere, be able to able to repossess and reoccupy the place and the idea?  Let’s see, over the coming weeks.

But first I need to know who the hell is left from the wedding massacre!

Well, what a difference a day (or two or three) makes, because of our time differences on the World Clock. I sat up here till 5.00am this morning watching Nadeem’s excellent translation and he shot most of my theorizing clean out of the water.  That was an awesome watch, though please, Nadeem, could you translate at least a few of the more significant tags and graffiti? It’s really hard to ‘get’ the idiom and hidden meaning if you’re not a native speaker of Turkish.

So, the first part of the episode gave us information and some insight into the Black Lambs and the development of this huge family which is most definitely NOT a family in any sense that the Kocovalis are. I thought back to the end of last season where Idris was expounding on the importance of family, without which you are nothing. The difference with this new lot is that family has not been a part of the lives of the Black Lambs. The only similar relationship which is now available is that of Brotherhood and the rules of engagement and membership are pretty tight. Being homeless, having grown up on the streets, being hungry and lonely, these are entry criteria.

A uniform, including cool shoes and black beanies, is sourced from a veritable treasure trove of highly desirable threads, a camp meeting with a pep talk from the new BIG BROTHERS, who in true Orwell style, will be watching you. Not wanting to be seen as pussies, the newly birthed Black Lambs are branded with the company logo. I recall many old western movies where the new-born steers are branded to demonstrate lifetime ownership of the stock which will work tirelessly, and for life, for their new masters.

Nazi Germany provides the more famous example of a human resource logo, where the swastika denotes the masters and a sequential number easily seen on the lower arm is tattooed onto the working stock in concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Birkenau.  A brand burned into the flesh is even more defining and permanent than a family tattoo.

And the new recruits into Ceto’s army very rapidly acquire the essential fervor for the cause, hero worship for the leader and the willingness to do anything they are told. The Hitler Youth goose-stepped and made the straight-arm salute to the little man with the best uniform and the stirring oratory: these Black Lambs listen to the man in the impeccable white suit as if he were a demigod. He can do anything he likes with them now; they will run drugs, deliver vicious beatings, carry guns for arms suppliers.

As I watch the king-sized group circle hug which affirms the Black Lambs’ solidarity, my blood runs cold for two reasons. First, I have seen this ‘men in groups’ stuff before, often, in Rugby obsessed New Zealand my home country, where every Test match with the All Blacks is preceded by a ferocious war dance, the haka, designed to intimidate the opposition. A group circle often adds to the feverish build up as the battle begins. This is classical male bonding, adapted as a training tool for a new kind of Brotherhood, which is the only kind of family relationship now encouraged in the new Cukur.

And where are the girls? Are the hookers in their shiny satins and fake rhinestones all that is left of the beautiful girls with attitude who were the jewels of their families. Where have they gone? What is their role in Ceto’s and Mahsun’s new order? With the re-emergence of Sena from the shadows and Saadet’s new employment, we may have some hints about future directions for the women of Cukur.

So, if this Cukur story is really a human chess game as some have suggested, one side of the board is pretty much set up, What of the other? At the start of the episode, the situation seems fluid, and from my point of view, somewhat alarming. Have they all turned into a bunch of wimps and pussies, to use Italian Mafia ‘speak’, which may also be an influence in this story, a la The Godfather. It doesn’t take long to find out that the coup which overtook the Kocovali’s at the wedding was a long time in the planning. Effectively, they were broadsided and the family virtually wiped out…or is this strictly true? It has been clever thinking on Ceto’s part to keep the heat on those they know have survived. Making a living, having a place to sleep, finding your lost wife are what matters now. The old world is gone, in less than six months.

Even so, how come a decidedly dirty and unkempt Yamac is singing for his supper in a nightclub? Even Ceto thinks he’s got some talent!  And how did it ever come to pass that Vartolu is not only training staff to manufacture new super drugs, he thinks that Ceto will give him his wife back his wife as a reward once the task is done? It takes the returning Sena, to remind Vartolu that the need for his skills by that time will have run out, that his wife has a new job description and that he will be most useful dead. What happened to Vartolu’s wily and cunning head? Thank God he wakes up and is also able to set Sena on a new path by revealing details about her brother Emrah’s true intentions for her before he was killed. New alliances are forming.

Aha, the ground is stirring, the survivors are revealing themselves, some with long-term damage. Meke has nerve damage in his hands, a kind soul still and, it seems, a broken heart over his girl who has joined the hookers on the streets. Where is Muhittin, though? Did he not make it?  Pasa is minus an eye and his hope. He is back to his trade of butchery, only animals now, not people as in his last, tricky disposal job for Selim Kocovali.  We hear that Celasun is alive and running guns. Where and in what condition we’ll no doubt discover soon.

I am very partial to a good baddie and I think I’ve fallen in love with Cumali. I had thought that one of my true faves, Burak Oczivit, might be cast in this role. He would have been all wrong for it, let him get on with being Osman Gazi, with his charisma and sexy eyes. Necip, whom I hated in “Dolunay”, was magnificent in this first episode as the returning oldest surviving Kocovali brother.

His absolute passion for his family has led him to his life term in jail and he is very clear about his intent for vengeance. He is equally clear about his love for his wounded little brother and his tenderness with the battered Yamac is quite stunning, given his history of extreme violence. His escape from prison is one of the most twisted and funny things I have ever seen. We have a swan plant with monarch butterfly chrysalids unfurling in our garden at present and I am reminded of Cumali struggling to get out of his body bag every time a new butterfly ‘escapes’. Whoever wrote that sequence has an even more twisted sense of the bizarre and funny than I have. Death by toilet, indeed… But we also found out that the new order has penetrated far past Cukur into other scenarios and circumstances and that will give us pause for the future.

As Cumali emerged on the street, rage evident on his face and intent on revenge, the music shifted gears. Kocovali sounds picked up intensity, speed, and volume and I sensed a potential shifting of power back to the old order. The Cukur music, I have always thought of as a character in its own right. It might be two characters, however. The opening sequence of this episode hinted at that with its sudden “fracture” of the old theme and the incursion of the new. Instantly I was reminded of the power that Isilki’s music has as a storyteller in every major event in this series. He is a true master of his craft.

So much happened in this episode and I was left with a lot to mull over and to add to my anticipation for Episode 2.  I won’t talk about it here. Except for my favourite, which I have kept till near the end.

In the midst of the violence, hatreds, killings, confusions, one constant person stands out. That is Alico who inspires love in every member of his family. Most of all in Yamac, who. in the creation of the bottle tops trail, showed that he was on the way back to his own loving and powerful self. I admit to a loud fist pump and cheer when Alico caught on to what the bottle tops on the ground meant. I had felt the same warmth with the arrival of his soup and bread earlier on. The Alico’s of the world bring out the good in other people. The inability of the new regime to have any comprehension of such an idea could very well be a powerful element in Cukur’s new story.  Let him get back to his work soon…we need him on the streets.

The biggest ‘reveal” is kept till last, of course, to keep us twitching for next week. SELIM IS ALIVE! Who else might still be lurking in the shadows? Will they come out of hiding when they find out that the boys are back in town? All of them, except the dead one, Kamrahan and with the new recruit, Salih. How will that play out with Cumali? Can’t wait!!


Written By – Judith Kelleher


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