You’re correct, Yamac, it IS complicated…very! As he attempts, towards the end of this episode, to explain his connection with Vartolu and Medet to a stranger, Yamac sums up what has been happening to key people under the new order. This week’s instalment of the Cukur story is largely about relationships and how individual characters have been changing as they adjust to and accommodate, or not, life in Black Lambland, which is also morphing with the arrival of the Afghanis. Sounds tangled and twisted? It is, it really is, but by the end of this rapid-fire episode, I think we have more clarity about one group of people, namely the brothers Kocovali and their immediate “extended” family. There are other important things going down, more of that later.

Cumali is still locked up in a dilapidated warehouse holding extended conversations with a broken drainpipe. He’s developed a cordial working relationship with said drainpipe and the two parties are strategizing escape plans. The notions of mistaken or concealed identity, disguise, hiding places and voices coming out of the ether are dramatic devices that have been around ever since stories have been told or acted out. They are, for example, staples of British comedy from last century, from the “Carry On” series, through Mr Bean and “Fawlty Towers”. Shakespeare loved the same techniques and often conspired in concealment “games” with his audiences in the mosh pits of the Globe Theatre. An example is the famous scene in “Hamlet” where busybody Polonius hides behind the drapes and listens in to conversations that are none of his business. As in the case of the nosy and ultimately unfortunate Polonius who is accidentally run through with a sword as he hides behind the long heavy drapes, this Cukur scene ends with mayhem as Cumali and Ceto discover each other’s identity. We have been led, the watchers in the mosh pits of our own lounges, in a game of “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink” by the very clever Kerem Catay and his team. The comic aspect of this scene, I think, acts as a counterfoil to the horror and dramatic shock of the cruelties and violence to come.

I am constantly reminded as I watch “Cukur” of the traditional and classical foundations laid down by its brilliant backstage team and the time honoured techniques enhanced by their innovation and technological skill.

We do learn that there are serious gaps in Cumali’s working knowledge of the world as one result of his eleven years of imprisonment Technology causes him problems and Yamac is aware how limiting that can be for Cumali, putting him in danger and slowing down the action to the point of being dangerous for others. If you are looking for an address and you are the only player who doesn’t have a phone with a Maps app and you have no idea what that means, anyway, you have to be on the back foot. What you do have, in spades, is eleven years’ worth of cunning, inventiveness and survivor skills to compensate.

Cumali is becoming a great character thanks to the skill, dry humour and deadpan delivery of Necip Memili, here, I think much more convincing than in “Dolunay”. This is a more complex, challenging role for him and allows him to demonstrate his true class as an actor. Plus, he has some of the funniest one-liners in the series.

“Cukur” respects our humanity and our intelligence. The dialogue is spare and clean and, as I have commented before, not a word is wasted. I believe that is true of the action too. We are asked to make connections for ourselves and are trusted to hold on for the second or third parts of a connecting theme to emerge. We are urged to wait to understand fully. Sometimes the gap can be for several episodes, or as in the case of the story of Alico’s parents we need to revisit and remember from the last series before we can pick up the trail again now. We are shown most often that something important is happening, not directly told and we are asked to deduce meaning or to wait. Often we have an “Aha. So that’s why THAT happened!” moment.

Or we recognize linked scenes within an episode such as these two illustrating a fundamental difference between Mahsun and Yamac, and underlining how each of them holds power as a leader. In the first of them, Mahsun convinces a man to surrender a child who is being taken hostage with a promise that the protector will not be harmed once he lets go. Then with the child watching, he shoots the man with the comment that he had lied. This cold-blooded killing follows an earlier description of an incident in their youth when Mahsun and Ceto had been responsible for an act of deliberate cruelty because they enjoyed it. The Black Lambs have some very baby-faced adherents who seem also to take the killing part of their work in their stride and can very easily be rallied to violence with Mahsun’ s ability to work for the crowd or rally the troops in the style of Hitler or, perhaps in this case, Mark Antony. We know that Ceto is good at it too and the message is driven home that there is no consideration of conscience in their world. Murder is every day, in fact, it can be quite enjoyable.

Contrast Yamac, with Salih in tow, going to great lengths to assassinate one of the Afghans who has been causing grief. They reach the man’s bedroom and are about to shoot him when they notice, hidden under the covers and curled in close to his father, a sleeping boy. In horror, they abort the attempt and leave the room in haste, commenting on what a close call it had been and what a peaceful scene the sleeping pair made. Children are precious to the Kocovalis and to murder a boy’s dad in such circumstances would be unforgivable.
Salih, visibly moved by the sight of the boy and his father, takes a risk with Yamac, asking one of two questions in this episode which are life-changing for him. He is tentative, almost shy when asking his brother if he had ever been hugged in such a manner as a small boy by their father. Yamac’s answer is perfect. With a grin, he reassures Salih that he hadn’t had such a thing happen to him,
“You’re talking about Idris Kocaveli!” after all.

‘Saadettin’ and ‘Vartolu’ are more often replaced by ‘Salih’ these days. The mask is off, the dress-up clothes and the hair product have disappeared, he wears some truly awful sweaters. He has owned to a need to make amends for his past behaviour and has begun to be at ease with Cumali. The smartass interchanges between these two are still coloured by anger over Kamrahan’s death, but both are managing to keep some sort of peace for the sake of the mission to retake Cukur. The once lonely outcast Salih is being softened by acceptance as a Kocovali brother and the agent for this acceptance is Yamac who is maturing in his leadership role by the day.

Yamac has acknowledged Medet as “my brother’s brother” and it is in Salih’s love for this wounded and awkward man that we are reassured of his capacity for redemption. The bond between them has been tested but has held even if Medet has wised up a little more and is no longer prepared to be a doormat.

Alico is Yamac’s roommate these days. In a sleep talking conversation with Yamac, he gives us some more clues to his past including the name of Saadet who very well may be his sister. But, maddeningly to me, we only learn of his mother that she made Tarhana soup and was probably beautiful. Her identity is an answer for another day even if there are some clues. There is a great deal of love between these men: while Alico can’t be in his wrecked home, for now, he’s safe with “brother” Yamac and is a valued and uniquely skilled member of the Cukur reclamation team.

A “brother” who is in sore need of those who have cared about him in the past is Celasun, on whom life seems to heap more and more pain and loss.
Family deaths, failures, betrayals and terrible grief are compounded by the expectations on him to be a leader. With what appears to be an inevitable and depressing speed, he ends up in a vicious knife fight with his former friend Meke which goes very badly for Celasun. He has visions of his family as the duel whips up in aggression and hatred: he sees himself alone between his dead father and brothers who are past his help and his sick wife and grief-stricken mother for whom he is the only source of help. This is the wife who burned down their home and the mother sifting through the ashes to find something, ANYTHING of her dead children so that she has something, anything to hold onto. If he dies, what will happen to them? In the end, the only chance of redemption is in surrender. Celasun gives in and falls to the ground in defeat. My hope is that he will find his way back to Yamac and the others of his old allies. Again, a wonderful performance from Kubilay Aka who is undoubtedly one of the most exciting “finds” of Turkish film and television in recent years.

The waters have muddied in Cukur of late. There’s not just the Kocovali’s and Black Lambs, there’s also at least a couple of warring Afghani groups with more on their agendas than a simple search for missing drugs and money. There are splinter groups in the Cukur population and the suspicion of future disloyalties amongst Ceto and Mahsun’s management team. Blackmail hijacks and kidnaps continue. There is a contract killing needing to be carried out in the Afghan inter-tribal dispute.

There’s been a lot happening on the roads in and around Cukur involving all sorts of people. Hijacked ambulances, motorcycle convoys, cars stolen from the initial thieves, a red sports car which changes hands several times. Its various male minders understand its power as a genital enhancement and excitement machine to lust after in trendy motor magazines and from which to ogle girls on the Istanbul streets. There’s lots of street speed, chases on foot and rooftop running, which we are told was a strength of Cumali’s prowess in his younger days. Yes, he WAS a roofboy. Cumali also had a love life in the old days. He might be a bit rusty in this arena, but it looks like some progress is being made.

And there’s the second question that Salih asks of his youngest brother. Would Yamac be prepared to risk his own life in order to save Salih’s? The answer is an age in coming and we sense that it is very important to both men. An answer in the affirmative would cement Salih’s place in this family group of Turkish brothers. He would belong. And Yamac, the youngest of them all is the leader who can affirm his right to call for help.

So, some things are getting better. Many are not. There is a sense of apprehension about lots of water yet to pass under many bridges. I suspect that a good deal of attention will be paid before too much longer to the vexed questions of parenthood in the Kocovali clan. Particularly to fatherhood. Idris Kocavali’s fatherhood.
There were lots more happening in Cukur this week. It always does.
As you already said, Yamac,
“It’s complicated!”

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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