A successful strategy by the creators of CUKUR has often been the use of flashbacks or, more precisely, the construction of an important piece of the story in two phases. First, there is fast-paced, often unexpected and startling action in which the events are rolled out like items being aired for the first time on a news flash. The response from us is shock and sometimes disbelief at what we are shown.

Then the explanation, the addition of detail, the fleshing out, the return to the past. Gorkhum Horzum, the scriptwriter, is a genius at creating cliffhangers. Shocking things happen and we are quickly pulled away to something even more shocking without any answers offered for the first piece of unfinished business. The narrative races on and it seems the “unimportant” details have slipped both our minds and that of their creator. Then he drops us in it. We had all thought Selim dead at the start of Season 2. The last we had seen of this classical scapegoat in the Kocovali clan before he turned up out of the blue this season was an apparent corpse bleeding from slashed wrists as the enormity of his failures drove him to a dramatic suicide. Leaning against the wall of his verandah, he seemed to take his last breath as we watched.

Not so! What we are shown now, all these fifteen or more episodes later, is that Yamac rescued Selim, having sensed there was something wrong and having followed his gut instinct. Here we have the replay, in reverse. Selim has followed Yamac from the family gathering. He’s worried about his little brother’s sudden distractibility and has such a foreboding that he begins to panic when he loses Yamac in a line of traffic. It is Selim who finds first Yamac’s abandoned car, then a blood trail, then his shot sibling. Yamac has managed somehow to pull himself from the water and into some rudimentary state of safety. In response to Selim’s tortured cry as he imagines the worst, Yamac can lift one hand and is found by his big brother who is able to drag, push and pull him into his car and get him to hospital. The details of the two rescues are scarily similar. Before we are taken to another rerun, this time that cliché of every (well, maybe not EVERY, but very close to it…) Turkish dizi, the takeover of the nearest hospital EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT, denoted by very large red print on the outside of the building. As the script runs, someone key to the plot is close to death and it seems nearly everyone they have ever known has turned up, as if it would really help, to keep vigil and to get in the way of those stock heroes, the long-suffering but kindly doctors and nurses. Here it’s Yamac, and we witness a tortured Idris pleading with the inert body of his youngest son to come back, that Idris would happily give up any of own remaining future days in order that Yamac might live. As if it were possible! And, if only!

And Idris, who I’ve always mistrusted and disliked, tells us he has seen enough and experienced in his life to hand his time over to Yamac.

My heart is with Sultan in the waiting room of the Emergency Department rather than with Idris. Sultan blames herself that her boy has been hurt. Yamac is the classical example of the “Golden Child” so called by the family specialists and therapists who take notice of birth order and of roles in families. He is the last child of a mother who carries a heavy load of responsibility and she has delighted in his personality, and his potential. Not only does she love him fiercely, so did the rest of the family when he was small. His status has created for him the privilege of quality education and he has been one of her boys for whom she has been able to effect an escape. First to university, then to a career not restricted to gun running in Cukur. She tells us now that she sent him to freedom but it has then been her who called him back into The Pit when Idris stopped functioning. Her eldest son was in prison, the other one aloof, and detached from his family, getting up to mysterious stuff which would eventually be shown in all its toxicity. This golden boy has been called back to take over and now he is, it seems, to die for his loyalty to family and Cukur.

With her customary dignity and kindness, Sultan empathises with another woman who is waiting there whilst her daughter is treated for a random and deadly brain embolism. Reflecting the personal pain of parents in such situations, Sultan offers her belief that there are no “… Turkish words or translation for that pain. That burning has no equal in our language” I am reminded of Shakespeare’s injunction that we should “…Give sorrow words.” In Macbeth, he tells us that “…the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break.” How much harder when your own language does not possess those words to start with.

Idris observes the fight between Cumali and Salih in the graveyard, no doubt hearing the bitter words spoken by Salih about his own lack of a father and of brothers because his life was less important than those of his “legitimate” brothers who didn’t know he was related to them. Idris tells them that “They shot my Yamac’ and remains with his dead family as his son’s speed to the hospital with a tearful Emmi who has been waiting for them in his car. Their father has witnessed them join hands as they rise from the ground to deal with this new matter which is more important than their own enmity.

At the hospital, family and friends gather, empathise, fight some more, throw their weight around and finally get to some agreement that delegation of responsibility is called for. Cumali is to go back to Cukur to share information and stabilise the people there, Salih will go after Mahsun and Ceto who are possibly running riot in Cukur by now, who knows!
Saadet is equally tough on both Cumali and Salih about the craziness of the revenge stuff going on. She needs a live husband and a father for her child. To Cumali she states,
“The cemetery will be filled with the ones you couldn’t protect if you seek revenge,” and,
“MY husband grew up without a father. My own son will not have a life like that.”
While she is busy standing up to Cumali, Salih is busy changing what appears to be a very smelly diaper. This a particularly beautiful sequence which displays the powerful unconditional love Salih has for his family.

As the news of Yamac’s wounding reaches others in the community, they arrive at the hospital and mobilise to help and support where possible. Many from Cukur, not just the immediate family, are holding a vigil in every available space, a fact not lost on a new ‘pretender’ to the leadership in Cukur.

There are, however, a couple of worrying events involving the disposal of a firearm into the sea and the scraping of mud off a pair of boots by people who would not normally cause suspicion, but this time… Ceto and Mahsun annihilate the Bulgarian drug dealers and any sympathy that I might have had for the younger Black Lamb disappears as we witness the sheer joy he takes in the killing. They are both in full killer mode: as well, Ceto’s recruitment and the training regime has resulted in the foundation of a new chapter of his gang, with the odious Avni taking up a more senior role.

Cumali is still ranting and raving at everyone he can get to stand still for a few minutes. He is slowed down by Emmi who points out that Yamac may be in hospital but has succeeded in emptying the known criminals out of Cukur. Rather than rant, Cumali should lead and go back to fill the void. He cannot do so without abusing others who very quickly get their backs up

Selim is beginning, at long last to stand up for himself but is traumatized by the injury to his little brother, enough to have him come back at Cumali when he is verbally abused once again.
“If you have your Karahman, I had my Yamac. I loved him the most.”

So, with all this going on back in the ‘hood, let us cut to the real chase, back in the Emergency Department. Yamac has left his inert body and is calmly observing himself on the gurney, attached to all the paraphernalia of a serious injury under treatment. The camera shot is clear and unequivocal that this IS an out of body experience we are witnessing. There will be those who watch and don’t believe that such is a possibility and those who are offended for religious reasons.

I own my bias at this point. I have personally had such an event, I don’t discuss the details with anyone else and since that experience, my life has been very different. I am finding this episode very challenging to write about. I won’t go into the science of “Near Death Experiences’ but acknowledge there has been a lot of research done and there is disagreement on their validity, often on religious grounds. I go back to Shakespeare again, this time to Hamlet who discusses supernatural matters with a friend. The quote is, rightfully, famous.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”

In preparing this part of the review, I wanted to know if it would be difficult for a Muslim screenwriter to openly explore such phenomena. I profess little knowledge of Islam, though I wish to find out more, but did discover that in Sufism there may be some answers. Perhaps a knowledgeable Muslim reader might be able to comment and enlighten us further. Certainly, my own founding religion, an Irish variant of Catholicism which I long thought I had shaken off but which still has its claws in my back, would condemn my belief, probably calling it a mortal sin. But so be it. My personal near-death experience, like Yamac’s, is what opened up my mind. And that is what I believe Yamac has engaged himself in, opening up HIS mind and soul.

He Is reviewing what he knows and what he needs to decide before he commits himself to return to The Pit, which is his destination and may very well be his doom. That is the true legacy of this Cukur which was built by his father on a swamp and which has a voracious appetite for the children born there who provide its sustenance. Before this last incident, Yamac told us he had been shot in the back plenty of times. Now the bullets are in his front as well and we still haven’t found out who shot him. Or could it be that he DOES know and can only ask “Why?”
This is the first question asked by Alico his chosen companion on his journey into himself and into the choices, he must make.

. Alico is his best friend and his consultant on the most important matters. Unlike others around him, Ali is a truly good man, with a purity and focus rarely found in the so-called normal population. Blessed with an eidetic memory and a passion for some truly unusual interests, Alico can always be relied upon. He demands nothing, tolerates small shows of affection and loves gifts of homemade soup and bread. Trust between them is implicit and absolute.

Yamac, I think, steps out of his body with this clone of Alico who has always lived inside him. In keeping with the many individuals who live inside each of us, Alico is wearing layers of disguises. Yamac is in the ultimate disguise, invisible to all but this version of Alico, and in his blue hospital gown. They go walking in their Cukur, Alico having divested himself of all but a plain old black suit and tricorne hat. This is the garb of an eighteenth-century attorney, trained to offer cogent and orderly facts Both have now peeled back to the basics, but not quite…

The coherent and beautifully spoken Alico, so different from the everyday version for the rest of the world, spares no details in laying out the future Yamac will have, should he choose to live and come back to his family and to Cukur, which he has been chosen to lead. He will sacrifice much, probably everything, and he will be transformed, likely into a copy of the public Alico with his so-called limitations and deformities. What we are learning is that Yamac already knows all this and is bringing his Alico out into the light to listen to the internal wisdom that has been there all along. They are sides of the same coin, these two brothers of the soul.

There’s another man, a famous thinker, who was relieved of all but his mind when he began his real work as an advocate for the universe. Stephen Hawking was metaphorically down to the last costume for much of his adult life. The actor, Eddie Redmayne who played him in the recent movie, revealed a man whose exterior disguised an individual whose mind is totally functional and capable of profound decision making till the day his personal “cukur” finally destroyed him. I find a likeness, both physical and in terms of their performances, between these two superb actors, Redmayne and Aras Bulut Iynemli.

And Jean Dominique Bauby, writing his slim and wonderful volume “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” with one eyebrow and in a Locked-In State, showed the world that there is rarely nothing going on in the brain of someone who is unconscious. (There is an excellent film of the same name, starring French pin-up boy, Matthieu Amalric, in the performance of a lifetime). Having written his ground-breaking almanac for living in an immobile body with intellect, humour and grace, Bauby was taken into his own Pit by a second massive stroke and was consumed.

What will Yamac do? I think that he will choose to return. And whilst he may have figured out who shot him, we don’t know for sure yet. Nor do we know why.


Written by Judith Kelleher


  1. PLEASE, in the last paragraph, substitute “NOTHING” for “anything” This inadvertent typo changes the meaning!! -Judith Kelleher-


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