At least we haven’t had to wait three months to find out the answers to all the questions we were left with at the end of this pivotal episode of CUKUR. We’re into the last week of this New Year recess and the revelations we desperately want after that shocking final frame will be with us very soon. Or will they?

STOP PRESS! Some of them ARE…late this afternoon. So, SPOILER ALERT. Don’t watch the trailer if you like the tension of the not-knowing.

Thinking back to the family massacre at the end of Season 1, didn’t we make all sorts of presumptions and predictions that were wildly inaccurate? We didn’t get all the answers straight away. Those incredibly clever scriptwriters dragged it out for weeks and they’re all still pieces of the Kocovali jigsaw puzzle at the end of Season One to be filled in. We don’t know what happened to Pasa yet and Selim has been instructed by his parents to bring his own son back to the family. An interesting piece of film ‘gossip’ suggests that this role will be taken up by Ekin Koc who has recently starred in the film about Bold Pilot, the racehorse who is Cumali’s obsession.

Those questions about the direction of the story along with that frightening memory of an unconscious Yamac gunned down and lying in a pool of water, thankfully face up, are in the back of my mind. I’m going to focus on some of the other important action and ideas from this engrossing and eventful chapter in the story of the Kocovalis and the Kara…

“I don’t know what childhood is. I didn’t have a childhood.”
Cumali Kocovali, “CUKUR” 48
This episode has a lot to say about families who have failed their male children. We are reminded of the depth of the damage and self- loathing into which Selim has fallen for his failed efforts to break free from the old Kocovali patterns, to destroy who and what has hurt him, to get revenge. And now to make amends for the outcome of his monumental failure.

Off camera, a young woman is pleading with her father to stand up for himself. “I just want,” Karaca declares to Selim, “to see you strong.” She has already told him to stop trying to fix stuff and yet here he is again provoking contentiousness amongst the Brothers Kocovali. Asking for understanding from his siblings, he is fooled into entering Cumali’s home and is soundly beaten up for his trouble. What becomes apparent from this astonishing scene, one brother bashing another with a stick when what has been asked for is help and acceptance is that this is the outcome of Idris’s teaching. And these three men grew up in a family full of secrets. Also full of violence.

Cumali has never had much in the way of coping strategies apart from his anger, his gun and his ability to stand outside and watch while others live their lives. Prison will do that to a man. Sentence was passed on him as a boy when his childhood was substituted for formal responsibility for his brother Kahraman. As he strides back and forth, much as he would have done in his cell, he tells us how he was forbidden to get hurt. If he did, more punishment would be his lot. His mission in life, heaped on him by his elders who should have been doing the job themselves, removed from him any chance of a personal life. His has been the classical role of the oldest child, made even more demanding by the severe dysfunction in the family. And then his reason for being, the brother who was his “assignment” was gone, dead. Selim should have looked after him, that is the function of the pecking order and the role of the next oldest sibling when the designated substitute parent is absent.

Selim has failed in Cumali’s estimation, until Yamac describes how this Abi stood between him and a bullet, thus saving his life. Selim has fulfilled at least some of the responsibility, in Cumali’s eyes, of an Abi. Of even more concern is that someone has dared to attack Yamac, his littlest brother, who by tradition, is also Cumali’s responsibility > He is enraged when he asks Yamac,
“Who shot you? “, a question we will all be asking again by the end of the episode.

This stuff is very convoluted until I have an “Aha!” moment. These three brothers, and the one who has died have a “spare”, fifth sibling who is relatively new to the pack. He is outside at this juncture wondering just what the hell is going on inside Cumali’s house. All of them are part of a desperately dysfunctional family. It’s always been this way and any half decent modern family therapist would be able to map the dysfunction with very little effort. It’s a textbook case of missing father syndrome. These five men have not known themselves, their siblings or their father because there has been no true father figure to model themselves on. Thirty -five or so years later, its truly hitting the fan, this fatherlessness. It’s a story that is played out in every country in our modern enlightened world.

This father has been tomcatting throughout the years his sons were growing up. One of them is from yet another “stray” he doesn’t have anything to do with. This mother is murdered and the boy’s very existence is denied. He is gotten rid of, eventually. Nothing changes the fact that he has witnessed his mother’s dead body.

Idris once stated that Sultan was the home woman, that Meliha was the woman of his passion and his obsession with her reached such a peak that his colleagues demanded her death. So much had this leader of Kocovali and Cukur lost his way with Meliha that her permanent removal from the scene seemed the only way to bring Idris to heel.

At the end of this very important segment, two things stand out to me. Yamac sums up his feeling about Selim and there is a clear sense that he is speaking for Cumali and the wider family. No matter how much forgiveness goes on there has been so much damage done that trusting Selim again is always going to be a problem.

The brother who is outside, Salih, greets Selim with happiness when he realizes that the other brothers have been talking. There is some peace between these two and significance Salih using the familiar ‘Kardes” when greeting this brother, Salih is upbeat and hopeful, planning for life after his family is restored to him. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Two other young men are grappling with intense emotions. Celasun is so in love with Aksin and so worried that he has, despite agreeing that he should stay away, come to see her. As he fights desperately to “imagine” some normality back into their wounded relationship with tea, biscuits and a chick flic, he weeps. Aksin has come out of her fugue and can only see herself as so damaged and unable to connect that Celasun must leave her behind. He is devastated when she says they should divorce.

The other one is Mahsun. The cracks are starting to appear in his world, starting with his suspicion that Ceto has been selling off spare parts from the bodies of dead Karakuzu, who are supposed to be his brothers. He finds this out as Ersoy laughs in the face of his executioners, challenging Ceto to deny his sideline to Mahsun. Bilal, the tiny mute assassin, is called in by Ceto to hide any evidence currently in the morgue. The little man is easily kept under control with a pat on the shoulder and a comment that he is the person on whom Ceto most relies.

Even after this, Mahsun is present as Ceto inflames the Black Lambs with a fictitious account of the martyrdom of Ersoy by the Kocovalis. Ceto is a master manipulator who has staffed a criminal empire by finding young men with gaps in their hearts and souls because of childhood deprivation and parental neglect. He has built a false family, which he manipulates and controls by the power of his personality and talent for demagoguery almost equal to that of Hitler speaking to the assembled Nazi masses. Ceto hand picks from his pool of talent and trains acolytes who will follow his orders without question. Killing is a part of the job and creates about as much concern for the Karakuzu as does swatting a fly. They willingly lay down their lives for Ceto and then he sells off their bodies. The Black Lambs will do anything for Ceto, in the manner of wounded men who have blindly followed flawed leaders for millennia.

For this first time in their complex relationship, soon to be described by Mahsun to Sena, the younger is having doubts about the elder. Ceto senses this. Something has changed at a very profound level between the two and I believe it is at this point that the true seeds of destruction of the Karakuzu are sown. Ceto realizes that Mahsun is suspicious and will check out the story. Bilal is easily called in to cover up at the morgue.

Sena is out shopping and comes upon a distressed Mahsun. He is in such a state of distress that he is hyperventilating and cannot breathe. In what for me is the acting highlight of this episode which is replete with such a feast of fine acting, he responds like a lost child to her kindness. She brings him a paper bag in which to breathe, an old cure which her mother had used when in a similar state to Mahsun. I suspect Mahsun has had precious little kindness without obligation in his life before Sena. An apple in her hand has triggered a long-buried memory. With the face of a small bewildered child, Mahsun tells her of his life without any memories before he was found and taken in by Ceto. Gently, Sena leads him to tell her what little he can recall.

“I don’t remember my Mum and Dad…I don’t remember anything about my past… Who are my parents? Who am I? Who are my ancestors?”
We witness the possibility of friendship becoming real for Mahsun. We are alongside him as he painstakingly carves a red apple on the wooden seat where Sena has called him her friend and left him to think about what has happened. I sense that he is becoming aware that it is possible to for a girl to be a friend rather than a sexual object.

So, we come to the main event, a Turkish version of the Gunfight at OK Corral. The night before, Ceto has once again reneged on his promise to free Saadet and the baby and has locked Salih and the very sick Medet up. This is as insurance that the upcoming delivery of drugs to the Bulgarians will go to plan after which he will release the hostages. Salih is understandably dubious.

We have the story played out between the Bulgarian faction and Ceto’s men. All seems to be going smoothly after the disaster of the aborted first drug deal, albeit both sides are heavily armed and the air is thick with mistrust and suspicion. Hands are shaken, the money is passed over, then one by one the barrels of Salih’s carefully manufactured “good” self -implode.

The scene erupts into a blazing gun battle, corpses litter the ground and a furious Ceto, minus the large bag of money is driven away from the field. But where to? Home is not an option. It is being shot to pieces along with the Black Lamb foot soldiers who were guarding it. Similarly, Salih/Vartolu’s old place where Bilal has taken Saadet and her baby has been strafed with bullets and the Karakuzu there eliminated. There is nowhere for Mahsun and Ceto to run but the road. The hairline fracture in their relationship is becoming a large crack, and getting bigger by the minute as the enormity of their failure sets in. Mahsun spits out his frustration.

“What do we do now? There’s your Champion’s League, Ceto.”
No matter how much Ceto scrabbles for ways to minimise his responsibility, there is no way back to CUKUR as things stand. The Kocovali have won this round, convincingly. Ceto is under no illusions who has been the mastermind,
“YAMAC!” He is furious but with so much hubris that admitting defeat is unthinkable. He makes out that this was mostly what he had planned all along.

In a scripting strategy which is often used in “Cukur,” we have been treated to the bare bones of the action, with a good chunk of the back story saved for the “fleshed out” version. Back now to the rerun which shows us the meticulous planning, the carrying out of the Kocovali contribution to the drug drop off and cleaning out of the nests of Karakuzu at various ‘fam’ strongholds. A striking contrast to leadership styles between Ceto and Yamac is evident and proves to be a winning factor in the Kocovali success this time. Ceto lies, propagandizes, makes impossible promises, flatters and corrupts. His fatal flaw is his need for absolute control which leads to the deception of those closest to him and, in time, corrosion of trust as is happening with Mahsun.

Yamac knows his men. He has grown up with them, knows their strengths and capabilities and trusts each one to carry out his “speciality” without any more than a request. Trust in those who come from Cukur is absolute. Isn’t it written on the walls?”
“FAMILY IS EVERYTHING” Graffiti, Episode 48
If you ask for weapons from the incumbent arms supplier and technician, he will supply you with copious quantities of the best quality. Opening a car boot to a treasure trove of armaments is an occasion of joy for Cumali, who amuses the others with his quip that he can now play “Cumali’s Angels”. Gun’s are still toys for this boy who has never been allowed to properly grow up.

I’m left pondering a culture and local history where such a cache can be a desirable toybox and/or essential equipment, especially in copious quantities.
During the rerun, the roles and contributions of various Cukur natives, Alico, Celasun and others are seen and then we are left with the clean-up phase, Saadet and baby are rescued, introduced to the family and the healing potential of a grandchild is evident. Hope is growing. There is a family celebration with everyone there except Cumali. He can be seen, once again, on the outside looking in.
Cumali is not finished. We are reminded of a conversation early in the reconstitution phase of that great group, as also written on the walls in CUKUR,
“KOCOVALI BROTHERS” Graffiti, Episode 48

Intikam is to be had, between him and Salih, who has acknowledged the murder of Kahramam. In a scene heavily redolent of a Shakespearean tragedy being worked through Salih acknowledges Cumali’s right, even in a time of family celebrations, to play out the drama. The atmosphere is one of foreboding, the location the graveyard where both acknowledge and pray for their dead.

Garments are ceremonially taken off and knives chosen. Using a gun would be too much like the murder of Kahraman, both agree. A freeze frame ends our participation in this deadly homage to intikam. Isikli’s powerful combat music is throbbing. An electrical storm crashes overhead as if in protest at this insane act of intra-family violence at the very time peace may be a viable outcome for the Kocovalis.

This is the first of the unanswered questions from Episode 48. Who is still alive after the knife duel between Cumali and Salih/Vartolu?

Ceto has met with an unnamed and invisible person under a huge Roman aqueduct. He states that he will be leaving and asks this unnamed person to pick up responsibility for making life hard for the Kocovali. They will want to get back to Cukur and letting Yamac and company get a foothold would clearly be problematic for Ceto’s future dreams of power and control.

This is the second unanswered question. Actually, a few questions. Who is Ceto meeting? Where is Ceto going? Has Mahsun been a good boy and stayed in the car as he was told?
And the biggie… BUT, SPOILER ALERT!!! The first of the trailers for Episode 49 came out a couple of hours ago and I know at least part of the answer. Look it up, if you must. I wish I hadn’t. It’s spoiled the anticipation for me.

The third set of questions now. Who called Yamac away from the family celebration? What did that person want? Did Yamac survive?
And last of all, as Yamac himself asked as he was gunned down, “WHY?”

Postscript: Though I have talked a lot about Cumali both in this and previous reviews, I want to acknowledge here the love between him and his youngest brother, Yamac. Both are sensitive, hurting souls. Each has learned to better understand his sibling as the show has progressed. In this episode, I was moved by Cumali’s acknowledgement of Yamac’s “smarts” as his plan to defeat Ceto and company is rolled out like a map on a table in a military war room.
“Dude,” he said, ”I swear to God I’m glad that we sent you to school. You’re so smart, so smart.”
Yamac, worried about his abi’s agitation and inability to relax, has bought a puzzle book for Cumali, who is overwhelmed to receive such a gift. For the first time, he reveals to Yamac how neglected he felt in gaol. Every morning he had waited for the newspaper so he could do the puzzles. No one thought to buy him one of these books. No one came. Why did no one come?
Yamac cries as, for the first time, he confronts the family’s neglect of his oldest abi. Is this why Cumali is so separate? So angry? Hasn’t the family always been taught:

Written By – Judith Kelleher



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