I’ve been doing some background research on CUKUR this week because I am fascinated by the processes used to create the characters. I found out that over 1000 were auditioned initially to bring to the screen the ability to authentically portray injured people carrying scars from various traumas in their past. From the start of this remarkable show, I have admired – and envied- the skills that go into the writing of the scripts, week after week. In the reputable DRAMA QUARTERLY publication, scriptwriter Gokhan Horzum states his purpose:

‘I’ve tried to bring those who have wounds together with those who have misplaced them. Then I stepped into their shoes and tried to intervene as little as possible.”
From the start of this episode, this purpose is very clear. The meeting after the failure of Yamac and company to take the drug precursor material and the money is angry, basically self-centred and Cumali, in particular, needs to find someone to blame. Of course it is Vartolu. This is a bitter, angry battle of words which almost comes to blows and I have the impression that the two actors created the scene without too much input from either writer or director. They are two perfectly cast, highly skilled professionals who can be trusted to deliver. Cut from this scene with Kemal keeping the raging pair physically separate whilst we have a quick look at a new character turning up in Cukur. We have no information just yet about his identity as we are taken back to Yamac and Alico deciding that it is time to visit Idris. This turns out to be a clue that Alico, along with his prodigious photographic memory will feature this week. More of that later. His performance was stellar.

This quickfire pattern of screen “jumps” is explained in the same DQ article where Executive Director Yamac Ocun outlines what is necessary if one of the over 100 new dizis created in Turkey each year is to stand out, claim audience share in the ratings and survive. With “Cukur” he states that
“Our first aim is to attract the audience to the show and then to make them stay with it by having a fast rhythm and fast editing with lots of cuts.”

Speed is of the essence and there is an ACTION Director responsible for creating the choreographed scenes which whip and keep up the frantic pace at which “Cukur” often proceeds. Surprise, surprise, that person is Ugur Yildiran. He has a dual role as Kemal who has just kept the warring brothers from one another’s throats. I found out he is responsible for much of the pacing, movement and cutting of the high energy work in “Cukur” and created the iconic rooftop running opening sequence, the length of in each episode indicates just how well the natives are doing at that particular time. And he “manages” from the outside as part of the direction team as well as from the inside as part of the cast. Brilliant technical tactics!

Celalsun’s world is further contracted by the loss of his home in a fire lit by the traumatised and emotionally ill Aksin. There is no money, no hope of independent living and a risky auto theft operation ends in disaster. Karaca is hovering. Celasun warns her off with his demonstration of tenderness and loyalty towards Aksin. I love Celasun!

Her mother finds a willing backer in Ceto who approves, for his own purposes, her plans to open a beauty salon. He is intrigued by her plans, to begin with manicuring his hands for a start. His vanity is touched but of more value is having a Kocovali woman in his retinue.
We find out a lot more about Ceto’s team, the most startling being the proficiency and balletic grace with which Bilal, his little mute “butler” can destroy a roomful of enemies with the blades concealed in his sleeves. Ersoy, the legal man in his black-rimmed glasses is shown to be suspect and we see even more bizarre behaviour from Mahsun.

In one sequence, he becomes a Rambo, striding through the corpses he creates. This is, of course, mirrored by the Afghani massacre of Ceto’s nightclub guests at the end of the show.
Because the Afghanis are in town, led by the very business-like Reyzat Feyzullah who states his dislike of Turks and Turkey and the purpose of his visit in a rehearsed deadpan spiel every time he meets someone new. The failure of the drug supply deal gives him the excuse to take Cumali as a hostage, his release dependent on the carrying out of a contracted assassination.

This episode is notable for its black humour, one of the best examples being the interchange between the imprisoned Cumali who complains of being hungry and who is joined in those complaints by a broken drainage pipe which also expresses its need for food in a hollow voice, the owner of which we don’t find out until a bit later. Cumali, in one of the funniest lines in the show, expresses his perturbation at communicating directly with a drain pipe. And Cumali is very funny. He reminds me of a black daddy long legs and I can’t help cracking up at his style when he runs after his old enemy Reshat, capturing him with the help of a chain swinging Vartolu. The brothers can’t help point-scoring off one another and the old enemy runs away while they argue yet again.

The standout scenes for me this week involved Alico. He wants to see his uncle Idris, equally, he wants Yamac to visit his parents. I’ve been wondering for a long time about Alico’s origins. How did he come to be so close to the Kocovali’s in the first place? Did I miss something in the first season? How did the relationship between him and Yamac, in particular, become so close? What was Mrs Meliha’s true role? Who are his parents? And am I going too far in thinking he might be one of many children fathered by Idris, as Cumali claimed when dissing Vartolu’s claim to legitimacy? So is he truly Yamac’s brother? And Cumali’s? And Kamrahan’s? And Salih’s? And Selim’s?

No doubt about it, though, Alico has talismanic value for all the Kocovalis. He brings out the best in them and has the implicit trust of every one of them. Selim tells Alico why he survived his suicide attempt and pours out his heart in a scene which had me weeping. Again I wept as I watched Alico gently and lovingly follow Idris’ lead in spoon feeding soup to Sultan. A breakthrough into Sultan’s catatonia begins with Alico’s visit.

Soup is symbolic of nurturance in many cultures. “Chicken Soup for the soul” is well known. Here it is Tarhana for which everyone seems to know the recipe. Apart from that which Idris cooks here and insists that Sultan drink, Saadet has earlier cooked and fed it to the injured Black Lamb she has been nursing. The boy is grateful and comments that it was just like that which his mother used to make. Is this another hint about the secret grief that the lambs hide behind their group behaviour which is a substitute for more usual families?

As this episode draws to a close, I find myself thinking a lot about Idris’ role as a father. He has neglected two of his sons for years, grieved hard for the murdered one, caused the youngest to flee the family for fear that he may end up like his father, had another in goal for a long term. Clearly, his performance as a father has been less than perfect. He is far from the forgiving figure of the Prodigal Son story but Selim still loves him and needs his forgiveness. How will these questions about Idris as a father be answered?

Gokhan Horzum says that “Cukur” is based on the story of a father who is full of conflict himself and who has lived a violent past. The initial story concerns a lonely man planning revenge on someone who has abandoned him all his life. This is Vartolu and we have seen some of what happens when he found out that what he knew was mostly wrong. Will this happen for the other boys?

Ceto wasn’t counting on the Afghan response to the failure of the importation of drug precursors. He is the only survivor from a massacre which would have done any Mafia mob from the Prohibition era proud. That he was captured just like Cumali, that many of his “staff’ have been mowed down have shortened the odds with the Kocovali faction. The arrival of the Afghanis has thrown a hand grenade into the mix. The pin has not yet been pulled.

And then we find out that he, Ceto, is the hungry drainpipe. He was outraged at being taken in by the Afghanis He didn’t anticipate being called to account for the missing money and “goods”. Perhaps it this hubris which will lead to his ultimate downfall.

Again, some answers this week, but plenty more questions. We are several episodes into the new series now. I am mindful of last season were setting the scene took several episodes and seemed very slow. Not so this season. The pace is cracking along and I have noticed a new device at the end of the last two episodes, a visual cue to the next episode.
Last week, we had the three dots of the Kocovali tattoo overlaying the “Three Musketeers “ as they strode off to their new battle.

This week, the pieces of the Cukur puzzle are put in place on the screen. The odds have shortened, all four frames are equal, the power has shifted to a “perfect” balance. The symbols are positioned. But where are the Afghanis?

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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