How could a citizen of CUKURNATION make such careless typos with people’s names as I did in last week’s review? My apologies, Kemal and Metin. And to my fellow citizens who will have read the review and thought “What the …?” I didn’t “click “until the review was already published, and I’m embarrassed …
This week much of the focus is on the people of ‘old’ Cukur as we are shown, often in painful and shocking detail, consequences of the wedding massacre. As we see the impact on the current living circumstances and morale throughout the district, I am struck by the darkness that prevails in Cukur. Life is now conducted mostly in the shadows and behind locked doors. In contrast to the former boundless energy and insistent beat of joyous aerial movement and messages shouted across the rooftops, stealth and extreme caution prevail as the inhabitants move through the narrowed and darkened streets, watchful and anxious. Bodies that were damaged in the wedding carnage hamper movement, limit choices, cause frustration. It seems everyone has a physical wound of some sort.
For all the darkness, pain and disruption to the ‘old’ Cukur lifestyle, we see in the early part of this episode that the code of ‘family’ as explained so carefully by Idris still applies for those who lived here before the invasion. In truth, it has never been more important. We see and experience all the tenderness of a big brother caring for his hurt sibling as the episode opens with Cumali gently attending to Yamac’s battered body, washing, wrapping, anointing, even stitching up his wounds. This is what you do for your brother if you are a Kocovali. That you are a self- confessed murderer driven by a code which demands intikam is beside the point, for as Idris taught him, without family, you are nothing. Cumali believes in the power of love, though I doubt he would ever acknowledge it out loud. He demonstrates love in his search for his missing sister in law and in his acknowledgement of her right to see Yamac or not. And there are still people who love the Kocovalis he believes; it may be that one of them delivered his wounded little brother to his doorstep.
Last week I thought I might be in love with this lean, tall perplexing Cukurian. I am pretty sure it’s a done deal now, I find him intriguing and incredibly sexy. There, I’ve said it. My mother always told me my taste in men, the pull to the dark side, would get me in trouble. She wasn’t wrong and quite a line-up of Cumalis featured in my misspent youth. I’m glad of that and here is another, though the only possibilities at this stage of my life are nostalgia and laugh out loud moments as I recognize the badassery of a truly badass boy.

Seriously, the development of Cumali’s character in this episode is intriguing. Comfortable in his own skin, fit and dangerous, he is frequently seen watching and waiting, taking on board information that he has missed out on during his eleven years inside. He has had to slow down, he tells Yamac, and couldn’t make himself known to his little brother until he understood the new rules for survival in a world from which he had been absent for eleven years. His ‘death’ he finds useful and his deadpan description of how he ‘died’ is a piece of delicious black humour to me. As Cumali takes his place in Cukur, and his reign of terror against the Black Lambs takes shape the Kocovali music amps up in volume, drive, insistence. I feel excitement and an understanding that we are really under way in the reclamation of Cukur. Darkness is his friend and he comes out of the shadows full of drive and determination, hell bent on revenge.
Cumali is about love and family, for sure, amongst a whole lot of other stuff. He’s a contradiction in terms. Hold that thought, though. There is at least one other man in town now who is equally perplexing and whose motivation is not so clear cut as Cumali’s. That is Mahsun and I’ll return to him shortly. From the Kocovali side we are shown other men living up to their family code under great duress and proving that love still exists in this God forsaken wasteland.

Celasun’s situation is heartbreaking. His little brothers are gone, all that is left of his family of origin is his mother who has reached a place where she is driven by rage alternating with periods where she says she doesn’t care, though the family photo albums say something else. Little Aksin, Celasun’s beloved wife has severe PTSD. Her mental state is dire and she lives more in the pre-massacre past than in the present. Celasun is strong for her, even during her worst terrors and the lucid periods when she tells him how much of a failure she feels as a wife, so much is she changed. When he locked his two women in their home for their own safety, took off his wedding ring to conceal Aksin’s existence, leaned against the wall and cried, I wept too. That he is able to handle his gun supply business, deal with the juvenile and dangerous behaviour of ” the barber’s son” and to take up a leadership role amongst the other young Cukur males speaks to Celasun’s potential as a man for the future. As well, he has become responsible for negotiating market share, communication and appeasement with the new management in town. All with a permanently impaired leg, courtesy of his new “masters”. An outstanding leader of the redeemed and reclaimed Cukur to come is emerging as Celasun juggles and manoeuvres his way through an unfamiliar minefield.

Kemal thinks of others before himself. On a rescue mission to return baby Kahraman to his mother, Kemal is prepared to sacrifice himself in an appeal to Mahsun for the child’s release even though he has been warned to mind his own business. Whilst Mahsun follows through his threats by further damaging Kemal’s nerve- damaged hands, an extraordinary outcome of Kemal’s plea for the baby’s release ensues when Feride answers her door to find Mahsun with her son in his arms. He will return the child provided she leaves town immediately for her parents’ obscure village, tells no one, never returns, disappears. In one sentence the validity of the new order is blown out of the water as Mahsun states that the child will never have a life in Cukur. He can only survive if he leaves. What then is the implication for the future of his Black Lambs?
How has Mahsun arrived in this place at this time? I’m wondering about his own back story as his parting instruction to Feride is to never leave her child alone again. He will be checking up on her and there will be no mercy if she doesn’t follow through. Who left Mahsun alone? Where is his mother? I’ve been aware that one of his eyes is not quite “right.” Has he been injured and, if so, what were the circumstances? Where has he come from?
Mahsun takes off his outer paraphernalia, that of the tough guy in town, leader of the pack, as he climbs the stairs to Sena’s flat. Without these props, except for his gun which he pats into place at his back of his waist, he seems just a handsome young man turning on the charm offensive, about to try the old borrowing some sugar routine on the pretty girl upstairs, not an assassin under orders from the boss. The gun stays exactly where he puts it, because Mahsun is totally blown away. The tall beautiful creature who opens the door is polite, pleasant and neighbourly and she knocks him sideways.

Instantly, he is in love and Sena has not a clue as she pleasantly sends him on his way, clutching a twist of sugar cubes and reeling from the impact of seeing her for the first time. In defiance of Celo’s instructions he leaves her building and even tells his Black Lamb informants that this girl is NOT Sena, that they have identified the wrong person. Where will lying to Celo lead?
(I admit to some cynicism at this turn of events. The man “falling love at first sight” routine is a standard Turkish drama cliché, perfected by old hands such as IBO, Kivanc, The Sultan and most notably Murat Yildirim. Think Asi, Yasemin, Selin? Could Murat Bey have been called in for some specialized coaching for this scene, given Mahsun’s excellent puppy dog eyes and expression of utter bewilderment at these foreign emotions? The “sacred sugar cubes” are too much and make me laugh out loud. Is this Cukur writer serious or is she just offering us some light relief?)
Whatever. I think we are in for interesting times with Sena, probably involving some rooster behavior and male power plays from Yamac and Mahsun. She has been watching out for Alico making his beloved soup, taking it to him daily and reminding him that he is loved by Yamac and others. Believing something untoward has happened to Alico, she alerts Yamac. The relationship between Sena and Yamac has been damaged by the events around Emrah and neither are sure how things can be. Yamac wants only for her to come with him for the time being and to see what happens.

I am pleasantly surprised at the strength of Dilan Cicek Deniz’ performance in this sequence: I have thought in the past that she was in the role rather more for her beauty queen looks than her acting skill, but this is better, more convincing. This stronger Sena who can express herself and more easily make independent choices is encouraging.
Not so for others of the Cukur womenfolk. We have seen what has happened in Celasun’s household. We see Yildiz being blackmailed into spying for Mahsun because there will be no food for her three children unless she agrees to do so. As the ultimate insult he forces himself on her in a kiss which is mocking and illustrates only power over her. This Mahsun ‘gets’ motherhood, enough to manipulate women through the vulnerability of their children. What HAS happened to his own mother? I’m sure we’ll find out in time.
Saadet looks ill. Close to delivering her own baby and forced to foster Kahraman, she is traumatised when the child is torn from her without any explanation or information about his future. Vartolu is not much in evidence this episode. How much either of them know of the other is unclear.
What will happen when Vartolu and Cumali meet? Revenge for his family is Cumali’s intention above all else and Vartolu killed the older Kahraman. Does Cumali have any understanding of the complications of the family now and will it make a difference? Can HE kill a brother?

Taking of the necessary revenge by this oldest Kocovali is already being acted out. Cumali has been to the old coffee shop and has touched the wall behind his father’s chair. He has restored that chair to its rightful place and has taken his seat there. The possibility that he is going to assume Idris’ role permanently is made stronger when he finds what he has really been looking for. He has known all along about the secret drawer and the hidden flick knife. Now that he has reached under and found this talisman, the invaders of Cukur and the murderers of his family will see what he is truly about.
A delivery of dead Black Lambs is made to Celo’s headquarters. Mahsun is terrified that the news of the ongoing assassinations will leak. It must be all covered up and the bossman appeased. Celo has an unnamed illness, which keeps him close to the wooden platform on which he sleeps. Much of his waking time is spent creating elaborate structures with what seem to be miniature Lego bricks. What this is about is for us to find out down the track, but I wonder if he is planning his ‘new’ Cukur. He is still capable of rants of Hitlerian proportions and Mahsun is very afraid of him. Why? What is the history of this unholy alliance?
For now it is clear that this is enough and the Kocovalis will be hunted down and killed. Every day that they are alive will mean the death of a random person, a process illustrated by Mahsun. He coldly executes a person at a public meeting called by the new order. They explain the new way of doing things related to the Kocovali family who he has now made collective Public Enemy Number 1.
While Cumali is ready for guerilla warfare, Yamac is finally attending to a piece of family business that he has avoided since he was a boy. Cumali has reminded Yamac of his historical resistance to wearing the Cukur tattoo. Now boyish wailing that he doesn’t like those will not do. How can be possibly be a Kokovali leader, particularly now, without it?
“Where is your tattoo, Yamac?”

In what is probably a Michael Corleone moment, Yamac answers by getting the tattoo applied prominently on his chest. He is making his final choice to become truly Kocovali, as Michael left behind, finally, the things of a boy and became Corleone.
We are again treated to the explanation of the symbol, to emphasize last week’s lesson. Once again, Emmi is present, teaching.
And, here he REALLY is, back in Cukur. Just as Medet, with his kindness and humility arrived back in town a little earlier and was taken under the wing of equally kind and humble Kemal, here is another of the good men returned. With his experience, wisdom and long history of relationship with the Kocovalis, perhaps he will able to moderate and channel the relentlessness with which Cumali will carry out his statement of intent to Yamac.
“I’m playing a game.
I’m cutting sheep’s ears
I take my families revenge”
As in the past, taking revenge is all.
So many questions in this review, so many more to be asked. So many answers to come. Quite a few answers, I suspect, will never be forthcoming.

I am in awe of the creators of this magnificent series. It touches my theatrical soul which grew strong on the works of Peter Schaeffer and Shakespeare, both of whom specialized in shocking and shaking up the complacency of their audiences. As I watched the younger actors in Cukur, I sense the guiding hand of their directors who can nurture the potential and raw talent of Kubilay Aka and the others.
I am so envious of the writing talent brought, week after week, to the script of Cukur. Not one word spoken in this week’s show was superfluous. Every word mattered. How I wish I could write like this.
And again, that music. How I love it, wish I understood the lyrics better.
Did anyone else notice the “Icerde” clickety click sound as Muhittin was mentioned here this week? Clever!



Written By – Judith Kelleher


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