“I’ve carried it for 35 years. Here, take it and you carry it for a bit” MELIHA to IDRIS, this Episode

Sitting down and writing about a CUKUR episode straight away is impossible for me because I can’t write in a linear plot summary kind of way about this series. My instinct is to go inside the characters and to focus and what is happening to them. A lot of my life has been spent wondering, learning and reflecting on what goes on inside people either as individuals but mostly in relationships. I’ve been through the whole gamut of family relationships and in my working life have been a teacher of teenagers, a school counsellor, a producer and director of youth theatre. For a few years, I was “house mother” to an annual temporary family of three hundred first year university students in a hall of residence.

People are endlessly fascinating and perplexing to me and I am naturally nosy, so the in-depth character studies in this most intelligent, challenging and human of series are right up my emotional alley. These alleys in my mind and heart are not unlike the tangled web of streets, cul de sacs, hidden entrances that are the information routes in CUKUR, the place. I’m prone to flights of fancy, too, and understand the joy and freedom that racing across rooftops to the beat of one’s own rhythm can bring.

We’ve had a lot of hours of CUKUR now. One of the many advantages of the Turkish dizi style of television program for me is the time and space available to develop true character arcs, so that we can share in the stories of what happens in the physical world to a whole lot of interesting people, like the amazing array of folks who populate CUKUR, both the place and the concept. Equally, there is time to develop, investigate and reflect on what makes them tick, asking where they have come from, what their individual trajectory will be from now on. And, vitally, how is each life story part of someone else’s?

This Episode 47 was packed with information about people and I’ve had to make conscious choices again to leave some to the side or else I’d be writing through Christmas Day, which is tomorrow. People here need me to be in New Zealand, not Istanbul, to where I disappear for a lot of hours each week, so I have been informed by some cheeky members of my family.

So here goes. The women of CUKUR are prominent this time and my first observation is that they demonstrate in varying degrees, strength, compassion, toughness, no-nonsense when required, outspoken courage, reflectiveness and respect according to the situation in front of them. They are smart operators, these CUKUR women, and they are very good at handling their men. Sometimes that must feel a bit like being lion tamers.

Sultan has picked up her reins again now that her boys are back in town and the focus of her queenly attention this week is Selim, who is still skulking around for most of the time. He looks bedraggled and unkempt and Sultan orders him to smarten up, starting with instructions to lose the beard, then to get to see his daughter. This very good advice re Karaca is supported by his ex-wife who knows her daughter has been hurting and angry over Selim’s absence. Mummy may have been tough on Selim, who is going to have to do a great deal to get his place back, but Karaca shows how well she has absorbed from both her mother and grandmother the Kocovali training in dealing with their menfolk. She is fed up with her father’s self-pity and grovelling and advises him to lose the idea that he must be a reformed character. What he needs to do is accept who he is and get on with his life: there are things he cannot change. So he needs to rebuild and she needs him.

This is all very Jungian, this seeking out and accepting one’s Shadow and I think Karaca has had a prime role model in her mother. Karaca’s Shadow is always lurking when she is anywhere near Celasun, who is her sick cousins’ husband, and after whom she has lusted since she first laid eyes on him. Remember the suitor who annoyed Ayse so much back last season that she dispatched him with a heavy flower pot smashed on his skull? Thereby necessitating Pasa’s skills in butchery for the discreet removal of the body. Conscience does not appear to be a big issue for Ayse, who is able to advise Ceto, in the middle of a manicure, about such lofty topics as the politics and ethics of gun ownership and about being on the right or wrong side. And to inform him that he is a murderer, with total disregard for her own homicidal history. Ayse is a survivor and isn’t afraid of much.

The debate between her and Ceto is fascinating because it does pose valid questions about Kocovali mores and behaviour which in many ways match that of the Black Lambs. Let’s come back to Ceto a bit later
Meliha’s disgust with Idris wimpiness and lack of action, together with Emmi’s frustration at his friend’s refusal to support his people lead to a crisis of conscience for the Kocovali elder. He is jolted out of his apathy by a report that a young woman who had been forced into sexual slavery has been murdered together with her mother by her pimp.

Idris slips back into his role as dispenser of justice in Cukur administering a brutal beating to the much younger and bigger “owner” of the girl. There is an iconic shot of Idris, bloodied knuckles held up to the light and underpinned by a musical “phrase” which has been heard often in the past when Kocovali punishment has been meted out.

I’ve been doing, for my own enjoyment, some research into the way music supports story and character in television programmes and I’ve learned that such a recognizable phrase of music is known as a LIETMOTIF. There are, as we all know, very many of them in CUKUR. Think the opening bars of “Mihriban” when Vartolu’s murdered mother is mentioned, think “Yok!” for a hyped up Yamac, think the grinding chords which announce Mahsun even before he appears on the screen.

Anyway, we now have a sense that Idris is back, not fully up to speed as yet, but more at ease with himself after a productive meeting with Meliha. He learns that her health was severely compromised by his bullet and that she has been in and out of hospital ever since the shooting, needing expensive surgical procedures. The hospital has been where Alico found her and where he has been her link for news of her lover. The love has never gone away for either of them.

Sena grows in maturity and wisdom. Her innate kindness and compassion and her strength of character draw Yamac ever closer to her as the old hurt between them is healing. Devastated by Salih’s admission of double-dealing with Ceto and Mahsun over drug manufacture, Yamac goes to his wife for comfort and rationality. Salih, as we know and Yamac hasn’t up until now, has been forced to ‘cook’ the raw materials which he’s also had to source in order to protect Saadet and their newborn son from the Karakuzu leaders who will kill them if Salih does not comply.

Yamac has not known about the baby until Alico’s forensic investigations have found a soiled nappy in the Karakuzu trash. There is relief for Yamac that his adopted sister, now his sister-in-law, is alive, there is joy at the birth of a new Kocovali signalling hope in all the current mayhem surrounding the children of Cukur. There is, for Yamac, terrible grief and disappointment that Salih has deceived them all, put them all at risk, even whilst he understands on the surface why his brother has made these choices. Sena puts it all into stark perspective. She wants to know whether, if this had been her in captivity, first pregnant and then with a new baby, hers and Yamac’s hypothetical baby, what choice would he make between his nuclear family and the wider family of Cukur? Of course, he would choose her and therein lies the possibility of understanding and of some peace.

For me, the pivotal scene of CUKUR 47 happens between Ceto and Ayse over a set of manicure tools. Ceto fascinates me. He’s vain, immaculately turned out in trendy suits, he is urbane and able to conduct himself in a wide range of situations, he’s ruthless, greedy and determined to enforce his will on the population of Cukur which he treats like a personal fiefdom. Usually quietly spoken, he often gives away signs of the immense rage that sits just below the surface. These are the most dangerous times to be around him, because any breakdown of his sibilant self-control can, in Shakespeare’s immortal words, “let slip the dogs of war”. The leader of that pack is Mahsun who must be patted on the head and kept on a short leash for fear that he could turn truly feral. Ceto’s saving grace is his love for Mahsun, unhealthy though it might be. He cannot, in losing his own cool, allow Mahsun free reign to maraud and kill at will which is one of Mahsun’s very favourite games. His murderous intent and psychopathy must be given expression in tasks of Ceto’s devising, such as armed raids, formalised ‘punishments” such as the recent beating up of Celasun, and sexual forays into Cukur, which Ceto needs to monitor through full reports.

I was expecting Ceto’s childhood story. I’ve heard it many times from young men in my counselling room. I have met time and again, the alternative personas of sexual abuse victims, especially those of men raped as small boys. The buried rage against families who weren’t there, against the system which ignored and perpetuated that abuse, against so-called ‘nice’ ordinary people who have no idea of the hell this young person lives. I am aware of how difficult it is to help such boys because the safest instinct is to bury, deny, never talk about the abuse. It’s just too shameful, too painful.

Think ‘SUSKUNLAR’. Recall the reconstructed professionally suited life of Ecevit the lawyer and the match chewing neurotic Bilal who kills in a frenzy of hatred and confusion These four men have a common characteristic: they are children frozen emotionally at the age of their first sexual abuse. This sadly is the way of the abuse of boys.
If parents are absent or can’t be relied on, you can create brothers. You don’t have to tell the adults anything. Your brothers will look after you.
“You’re hungry? Forgotten what soda or lollipops taste like? Here’s all the sugar you could possibly want. Help yourself.”
“You like our Karakuzu rings? Look we’ve ordered a whole tray of them so every one of you new brothers can have one. But look at this sample. You can flick a button and a “trick” Kocovali symbol pops up. If your folks notice you are wearing one, you can say you found them in a junk shop, real cheap. They’ll never know the difference. How cool is that?”

I may be judging Mahsun too harshly when it comes to the stolen snow globe. When he was playing with it this week there was a definite hint of little kid at Christmas about him. I just witnessed a two-year-old watching one on the dresser in my lounge and the expression on his face was not unlike that on Mahsun’s…fascination, wonderment. I hope Mahsun did snitch it as a toy, not a trophy, but I’m not hopeful. He’s still hanging about Sena in a very creepy way. Even so, he did look really sad when it broke and he DID NOT want Ceto to see him with baby stuff, even though Ceto loves hand-held games.

Cumali is still furious. But he’s still very funny. Sometimes he walks just like John Cleese in FAWLTY TOWERS.
Salih is beset with guilt for his duplicity and fear for the survival of his family. Cumali and Yamac, Medet and Alico are very aware that there is something seriously amiss with Salih.

This week playing out the nightmare, Salih has concerning the rescue of Cukur’s children paints a terrifying picture of what might occur in a pitched battle.
The Cukur boys don’t, in the nightmare, want to go home. Is the brotherhood on offer rather more attractive than the rigours of ordinary family life? Is the seduction well under way, signalled by the promise of Karakuzu. Will the nightmare come true?

Alico has shown us how much he hates being around when guns go off. Yet he’s utterly prepared to hold a loaded gun to someone’s head, family or friends be damned, if his beloved Yamac is under threat. I’ll say it again, I love Alico. I’ve got a son just like him. I can’t help playing favourites with that son.

Medet puts Salih’s phone through the washing machine and thinks he has stuffed it up totally, He sneaks the broken phone into Salih’s room in the hope that he won’t be blamed for all of the data being wiped. Salih is too canny for that. He demonstrates to Medet a sophisticated data recovery tool and all is well, eventually. DID YOU ALL CATCH THE NAME OF THAT PROGRAMME? IT WORKS, I’M TOLD. I also love Medet.
Saadet is loving her baby and doing the best she can, under lock and key and without sunlight.

I’ve been quietly watching Avni, the Black Lamb underling with the precision cut hair and the cold fish eyes, as he shows up more and more as a trusted foot soldier. Is he being groomed for greater things in the Brotherhood? Has anyone else been watching him out of the corner of their eye?

Ersoy is terrified of his bosses and it seems a sticky end will be inevitable for this car mad accountant. The skids are under him, I fear.
We need to know Mahsun’s back story. How, when and where did he and Ceto meet?
Tell us some more about Ceto, please.
I think Celasun might be home recovering from his bruises this week I hope he has some gentle healing time with his young wife, whom he adores.

Who paid For Meliha’s medical bills for so many years? I’ve got a theory but I’m not saying, yet…

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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