I acknowledge the lateness of this week’s review. In company with people across the globe, I have been remembering the sacrifice of so many young lives on the battlefields of Europe and of Turkey. As we have taken part here in New Zealand in ceremonial commemorations of Armistice Day on November 11th, I recalled my journey to Gallipoli for the 90th Anniversary Memorial. That was the start of my own love affair with Turkey. I was moved greatly by the words of Ataturk who, at various places all over the peninsula, enjoined those of us from alien lands 11,000 kilometres away to feel safe about leaving our dead sons in the company of your dead sons. And later, Ertugrul popped up on my television screen, igniting my love of Turkish television.

My attention this week was on a relative who died attempting that futile scaling of the Gallipoli cliffs and on another who was wounded and died during the preparations for the battle at Passchendaele. I was remembering all the dead boys, so-called enemies as well as allies. I have walked through those fields of graves and red poppies.

I needed my wits about me as I watched this latest episode of “CUKUR”. There was so much going on, so many cuts and jumps back and forward in timeframes that I needed to push the PAUSE button on a couple of occasions to catch my breath. And to make sure I knew just what was going on, whose part in the story of CUKUR was in focus at any given moment. Helter-skelter would be an accurate way to describe much of the action, yet there were scenes that slowed down the pace as some of the people let us into their inner beings, if only for a glimpse and leaving us frustrated that we weren’t really all that much wiser.

That is particularly true of Idris, whom I have often nominated as one of my least favourite people in Cukur. The opening scene with Selim infuriates me. His son wants a clear answer to the most important question of his particular life, why his father has never loved him. His father should do so because they are blood: Selim spells it out,
“One should love his own kid because he is the father. His son comes from him.” Idris’ response is to query, still, why knowing is so important to Selim.

And despite a lengthy description of his time as a ’lad’ with his two best mates in the early years of Idris’ marriage to Sultan and information about the love of his life, we don’t get past the intensity and workings of the love affair with Meliha. Whilst Idris can acknowledge that he didn’t give Selim the special ‘look’ reserved for his brothers, he doesn’t get to explain his dislike of his third son. There is more to come in this episode about Idris, but the opening scene leaves me still angry with the father who deflects this crucial question from his son into a recounting of his own story. I wonder that if he really gave some thought to Selim’s question, he might have to look at how his neglect of this son’s need for love as a small boy contributed to Selim’s eventual evolution. As an adult man, Selim was finally able to get his father’s attention as one of the trio who caused the destruction of his father’s Cukur.

Not only does Idris fail to answer the question, but he also turns the whole situation back on Selim He says that it was the same for him with his own father,
“…but I never stabbed my father. I never became like you.” Selim swallows the cruelty of his father’s words and agrees, but he is insistent that Idris stops avoiding the question.
“Tell me,” he says, “and I’ll go. You’ll never see my face then. I promise.”

Two of the most important scenes in this episode demonstrate other qualities which contribute to the community’s need for Idris, the leader. In the first of these, he is beaten severely by Veysel and his bully boys. In a demonstration of the truism that discretion is the better part of valour, he takes the beating, patches himself up and carries on with his daily life of working at the market and looking after his traumatized and disabled wife.
Idris reaches the point of no return when he witnesses, once again, Veysel and his ‘boys’ using standover tactics with the teacher he hates and his family. In a glorious return to his old role as leader of the pack, Idris leads Emmi in a retaliatory beating of the bullies using the legs of a broken table found on a rag and bone man’s cart.
“What a never-ending problem he is.”

In the past, they were three, Idris, Emmi and Pasa. Now Selim steps into the gap caused by Pasa’s absence. Faces tell all here. Selim is smiling as he joins his father in their first ever shared enterprise and Selim’s first physical fight. Idris signals his approval of his son’s actions with the most fleeting and small twitch of a facial muscle and an “almost” smile. I am reminded of the “Three Musketeers” of an earlier episode. The teacher’s daughter, probably about ten years old, lashes out at Veysel, who mocks her. Idris sees and acknowledges the girl’s courage with a secret hint of a wink before the beating of the bullies and a small smile afterwards.

Idris has made a tactically brilliant decision by dealing with Veysel and his cronies who have been terrorizing the population for a very long time and getting away with it. Here, in one act, Idris takes back his power. As the musketeers walk through town there are physical gestures of thanks and respect from people in the street. Something has shifted, at long last.

Meanwhile, relationships among the current crop of ‘lads’ are variable. Yamac has been plotting and planning again and Cumali is resentful at being kept out of the decision making. He’s a more than a little jealous of the relationship he sees developing between Yamac and Salih and asks,
“Yamac Kocovali, who am I to you? Just tell me.” He has ceded leadership rights, but
“It’s not clear who the big brother is here. Don’t I do everything you asked for?” and “Why am I shut out? What am I to you?” Cumali is a most interesting human being. Such a mess of contradictions, he craves love and offers it, can weep over smelling a hint of his long-dead brother in the hair of his troubled niece, whom he loves deeply and is hugging for dear life. He can mock Celasun for not knowing the story of a famous racehorse and then interrogate this “groom” about his abilities with firearms and his courage in fighting. He knows about chloroform and smiles with glee at the thought of using it. He wants Ceto and Mahsun dead and can calmly execute five of their “Staff” counting them as if they are notches on a belt, nuisances out of the way, seven more to go.

But most of all, “I won’t let them kill you, Yamac Kocovali!” The family is all to Cumali, and he loves this little brother dearly. Whilst Yamac sets up a plan to spoil “the good’, by blackmailing the new Black Lamb’s chemist to poison it, a hitch is caused by the double-dealing of Ceto’s money man, Ersoy. An exciting and tense dance across the rooftops of Cukur leads the brothers to “doctor” the water supply for the drug lab. The batch fails. The fallout for that is yet to be seen, but Mahsun and Ceto are anxious. Well, they might be.
Double-dealing continues on both sides. Alico recreates an incriminating document from Ersoy’s trash. It’s pure gold blackmail material for Yamac. An apprentice Black Lamb is “trying out” for full membership by voluntarily being beaten up and sent to Yamac via Celasun to be ‘rescued” His real job is to find out whether Vartolu is with the Kocavalis and he reports directly to Mahsun. Vartolu is a chemist, Ceto has his wife locked up and the last chemist was shot. New employment for Salih next episode?

Alico is comical this week. Two short appearances, deadpan commentary about Yamac and Salih as adrenalin freaks… “No excitement!’ (Sadly, without any “Yok!”s) and description of Yamac’s occupation as “Rockn’Roller!”, which allows for some very funny mime.
Yamac plants a passing kiss on Alico’s bald head, which he pretends is unwelcome. That’s one of Alico’s main roles in Cukur, being the person everyone can love unashamedly and extravagantly.

There’s lots of love in this family, both the Kocovali’s and the wider Cukur family. We know it is so from the tattoo and tag, whose meaning has been given to us explicitly in both seasons of this show. There’ s plenty of examples of Kocovali love in this episode. There’s Sena’s love for Yamac’s parents, there’s Idris leaving out a first aid kit for Selim to fix his face, and then allowing him into the house to care for his mother, there’s Celasun’s love for his troubled young wife, there’s Sena insisting that Yamac take care of his niece, NOW. There’s Salih’s fruitless search for his beloved Sadis and his calling for her in the dark. And what amazing camera and lighting during that sequence, as Mahsun holds a gun to her full-term belly.

There’s unexplained love. What about Mrs Bulent and the mysterious tryst with Idris? What about that photograph? Who is Alico’s mother? And I’d like to know where Mihriban fits into Idris’ history of infidelity. And why does Idris still keep THAT question about love at bay, this time by casting a slur on Selim’s own performance as a father?

There is so much to comment about in CUKUR 41. I’ve made choices as I always must. Last comments belong to the music. The interweaving of the action, dialogue and music belonging to individuals and groups of characters are masterly this week, for me most evident during the rooftop sequences as we are alerted to the presence of either Black Lambs or Kocovali, with shifts in the music. I always love it when we get the rooftop music from the start of the show, full on!

And back to love. Ceto’s last comment is about family causing weakness. I hope that the final, chilling scene with Celasun, the saddest person in the family to my mind, does not end up in tragedy and that the strength of family love can find a way out for him and for Cumali. I could not bear watching Celasun’s tears in the dark.

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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