How many fathers have told their sons to shape up and get a haircut? It’s obvious that Salih has done what he was told that as the episode opens with him musing over Idris’ fatherly advice, itself a ‘first’. The haircut is just the starter, the next step is the careful reconstruction of his alter-ego, he of the immaculate red suit, brilliantined hair and that personal touch, red handkerchief in his pocket. With a squaring of the shoulders and a clicking into place of the supremely groomed head, Vartollu Saadettin has returned. The difference now is that he can coexist with Salih in the same body and the personas are interchangeable depending on what is required. This is a disciplined and cunning Saadettin, intent on using his experience and skills to achieve what appears to be an impossible task. The sourcing of raw materials for drug making is the first task. Then he is to pay for this ‘flour’ and turn it into saleable drugs. In exchange, he will be ‘given’ Saadet, his very pregnant wife.

I suspect that Ceto has no idea what kind of a refining process has gone into creating this even more lethal manipulation machine that is Saadettin. And Ceto had advised Salih to smarten up! This reincarnation has a sense of ritual: my former Catholic self-recognises the careful putting on of the vestments before a holy task. And this is a holy task for Salih/Vartolu. He has already told us that he always knew Saadet’s value. He is set on liberating her from the Karakuzu and he will need to carry out some difficult steps along the way. Getting money will be a starter and he stands a better chance of success if he scrubs up well. And gathers up the very useful set of communication, including persuasion and torture, skills he has employed in the past, with any new refinements, courtesy of Kocovali membership. Ceto has told it how it is,
“You have to give us what we want so that you can get what you want” Vartolu has no reason to believe that will happen, given the readiness of Ceto to have him a shot after his last term of employment as expert drug cook. We do find out later that the Karakuzu are quite grateful, now, that the attempt failed, given their current need for his services. Some power accrues for Vartolu as a result of their need to meet the Bulgarion order in a timely and orderly fashion and with a quality product.

I had predicted the return of Vartolu Saadettin in my last review and I had some ideas about what might happen in this episode. The rapid-fire nature of the action I found even more exhilarating, and confusing, than usual. I watched the episode several times, trying to get an ‘angle’ to write from this week, but I got more and more tangled up the more I watched. So, I’ve decided to abandon any attempt at a linear retelling of the story and to go for some of the ideas and understandings that made me think hard, feel sad, laugh out loud, get frustrated or say, under my breath “Good for you!’ this week.

I notice this week that pairs, twos, partnerships, are important. We start out with the “two for the price of one” being that is now the aforementioned Salih/Vartolu. In contrast to earlier times, the two personalities in the one body are easy with one another and either can be brought to the forefront as needed. Medet is delighted that his old ‘Boss’ is back and in a very clever and funny piece of dialogue is told off for daring to suggest anything to Vartolu. Medet then humbly asks if he is allowed to address Salih instead. and whether he might get an answer if he does. These two actors are just wonderful together and I found myself laughing at the smartass interchanges between them, as well as feeling sad as Medet’s illness disrupts their ‘work’ causing worry for Vartolu.

The other brothers are well aware of Cumali’s Rambo tendencies. When in his company, the familiar slightly shabby Salih is a safer bet than the flamboyant Vartollu whose rather different appearance might cause untoward smartassery. His very black and white oldest brother has been spoiling for a fight for ages, anyhow.

The Cumali/Yamac dyad is emphasised this week in Cumali’s assemblage of a group of his “own” men so that he doesn’t have to compete with his little brother. I believe Cumali is still a sore loser in the race for the leadership of the Kocovali clan, even if he cedes power to Yamac on the surface. An ironic twist with Cumali’s men is the discovery that the repellent little Veysel who was dealt with by Idris and company is an identical twin, the other brother one of Cumali’s ‘men’.

The background to the Mahsun/Ceto pairing this becomes a little more detailed this week, though we are no closer to the reason why they got together in the first place. There is a ‘young” photograph of them in their home, they affirm that whilst one is ‘kara’ the other is ‘kuzu’, interchangeably and forever, and that anyone else is unimportant except where their presence serves Mahsun and Ceto. There have been hints that the relationship is founded in some trauma. This embodiment of karakuzu is powerful and has drawn in recruits to fill out the ranks of ‘brothers’ in the spurious Black Lamb family. The idea of brotherhood starts out being fine, but it brings death and destruction. The promise of triumph is held out and members of the group are willing to die for it: things keep falling apart. So, there is a need for the Nuremberg Rally-style meeting led by Ceto, followed by Mahsun, in which ‘the enemy’ is held responsible for the failures in general and the deaths in particular. Sacrifice and effort are called for if the dead ‘brothers ‘are to be avenged. This unholy pair are masters at manipulation, adept at using their perverted version of a family to create unswerving loyalty to “the cause”, which is no more than a vehicle to feed their own wishes. Together with the karakuzu symbol, a tag, “AILE NEDIR YA?” asks the cynical question, “What IS family,”, the implied answer “Nothing much, really.”
Nothing could be further from the truth for the Kocovali. The reply to this tag is clear and uncompromising and echoes Idris’ words from the end of the first series and the beginning of the second. “AILE HER SEYDIR”, “Family is everything!”

This has been so painfully true for Celasun throughout this series. In order to protect the remnants of his own nuclear family he has been forced to teeter on a wire which threatens to cut him wide open, that is if he doesn’t fall into the Karakuzu abyss on one side or get found out by his old allies and his damat family on the Kocovali side. He plays a double game but refuses to let go of the illusion that he can ‘save’ both of his grieving women. His mother and wife can’t live together and it is after the ultimate bribe from Ceto, the provision of a new home that will be an even more secure prison, and the attempted suicide of Aksin that he breaks down and sobs to Karaca, she of the dubious motivation and the ‘hots’ for Celasun ,that he can’t do it any more, he needs help. This will eventually lead to Sena’s rescue of Aksin.

The irony of Celasun’s situation has been his insistence that he alone can save his wife when that girl is such a vital part of the Kocovali, is, in fact, one of their princesses as we have seen in her loving treatment by her uncles Cumali and Yamac. They are appalled by the impact of the wedding slaughter on Aksin, but also grateful for the strength of the mature older generation of their women. In pursuing this part of the story, I found out about the role of ‘damat’, a name given to Celasun by Cumali and used often by the older man is the traditional title given to a member of royalty who has been admitted to that family by virtue of his marriage to a princess. That is the status Celasun has been afforded by Aksin’s uncles. How could they possibly tolerate a betrayal by Celasun? He s at breaking point, however. The shock of finding his beloved wife with bloodied wrists is the last straw and he tells Karaca,
“I thought I had lost the last thing that connected me to life.” And,
“I’m getting crushed under this burden. I don’t know what to do.”
I’m inclined to give Karaca the benefit of the doubt here, she promises to help and expresses what appears to be the sincere concern for her troubled cousin.

This part of the episode is where I sense a real hope for the future, a beginning. Sena has grown into her role as heir to Sultan. The two women, yet another pairing in this episode, have lived together in the past and Sena has learned much from her mother in law, whom she has cared for in her post-traumatic catatonia. Sena is becoming the family’s strong woman now, her recovery from the mental health issues caused by her poisonous, but now deceased brother, continuing apace. She is the agent for change amongst the Kocovali women, understanding the need for them to look after one another as well as their menfolk. Sena brings the princesses home to visit their grandmother, she makes the soup and ensures that all who need feeding get some, she is aware of Selim’s need for sustenance even as he serves his sentence on the fringes of the family. Sena is becoming a most impressive woman if you like, a worthy and strong consort for the leader. Sena persuades Celasun that by holding Aksin close to his chest he is smothering her and not allowing her to heal. Sena helps him set Aksin free by taking her back to her family. Sena helps Celasun set himself free.

Yamac has always been a man of strong emotions, this being both a strength and a weakness depending on the situation he is in. Towards the end of this instalment of the CUKUR story, Yamac has come to a profound conclusion. Looking at the pain which still suffuses the lives of most of his family, he is at a loss about the next step. He knows that continued struggle must happen, but asks himself and Sena,
“How will we fight with all these wounds?” Leaving the fighting, the excitement, “Heycani Yok”, rooftop running and shootouts with the Black Lambs, verbal sparring, ambushes of Bulgarian drug lords, all of it, briefly to one side, though it will all still need to be managed, Yamac has worked out his first priority,
“I need to pull my family together before everything else.” Like Celasun he too has reached a breaking point and can’t do it on his own. He needs Sena if this is to work if he is to work properly.

“Never leave me again,” he pleads with her and I think she won’t. These two are, I believe, gearing up to be the power couple of the future and the leaders of the ‘new’ Cukur.
Probably good timing, too, because Idris is showing that he is pretty much a spent force. Even after the successful confrontation of Veysel and his bullies last week, which earned him back respectful greetings from people in the street, Idris is not interested in working for his people again. Emmi, himself having been asked to take up his old role if only part-time, asks Idris to join him and is turned down. Perhaps there is something of the old dog left in Idris as he again meets up with Meliha, to what purpose is not clear.

The rendezvous goes horribly wrong. Strong arm Idris Kocovali has disappeared and Meliha is shocked at the weak man she finds in front of her. This apology for a former all-powerful, decisive gang leader does not stand up to barroom bullies as he surely would have done in the past.
“What’s happened to you?” she demands. “The Idris Kocovali I knew wouldn’t let this past. I don’t know you.” Meliha picks up a bottle, breaks the end off and sets off to deal to the bully, in place of Idris who she now sees as a failure and a disappointment. She is appalled at this new, weak Idris and refuses to speak to him any more.

As I watched Meliha do her thing, I had a quiet smile to myself. I’ve always been suspicious of Idris, right from the time we first met him, in a coma and being cared for by Sultan who has called a very reluctant Yamac home at the start of this CUKUR saga. I’m not sure that Idris actually was in a coma, and have always wondered whether this was a ruse on his part to call his defiant youngest son to heel and then to a home where his sense of loyalty might be preyed on to keep him away from his city rock star life. That’s just me being cynical, I suppose, But I DON’T LIKED IDRIS! Never have.

This is a very complex episode and I had great difficulty writing choosing what to write about. No apologies for the copious bits I left out. I could have commented right into 2019 about episode 43 and still have had more to say. Great writing, great characters, great music. What’s not to like?

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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