I needed to take a break for a couple of weeks from the routines of my life in order to support someone who is so much like Alico that sometimes I forget which one I am talking to, or about. They both make my heart sing, my son who has been quite ill recently and Alico who reminded me this week that the routines of ordinary living are great stabilisers when one is dealing with matters of consequence and change. Plus, he gave me a great demonstration on how to cut back on the ironing, which is my most hated domestic chore. When I am shopping for clothes, which I also hate, I immediately return to the rack any garment that has a tag which instructs me how to iron it.

I’ve played the segment showing Alico getting ready to return to the Kocovali mansion at least a dozen times and I have laughed till I almost cried every time. Especially the bit about the body spray.


People of a certain age who like classic British comedy will remember “Steptoe and Son” with the brilliant rag and bone man Wilfrid Brambell. His collections of sundries like cosmetics, eye glasses and false teeth were the starting points for his shows which were funny, but always with a poignancy which told of the vulnerability and difference of people in our society who are often seen as “other’. Of course, old man Steptoe and Alico are less bothered about any difference than are those who apply such labels.

That is part of the true genius of Alico. He is ‘other” but also “not other”, a natural part of the landscape as he goes about his daily business as a rubbish collector in Cukur. He can go to lots of places where Yamac and others of the Kocovali, along with their loyal Cukurians cannot because his presence is unremarkable. The difference, of course, between him and his Cockney counterpart is in the content of his collections. Alico is ultra -intelligent, has an eidetic memory and a huge heart overflowing with love for Yamac and all the Kocovalis. He is the ‘go-to” expert on all sorts of stuff, both current and historical. He’s a treasure. He’s also very flattering to any cook who will offer him homemade soup and bread. Easily pleased, always enthusiastic, very ritualistic in his table manners.

Alico belongs to the Cukurian royal family, but how? I’ve been wondering since the very first time I saw him interacting with Idris and the others where he came from. Who was his mother? Where is she? What happened? In this episode we hear that his mother is in the fabric of his dreams. He calls for her in his sleep and I am left wondering if we are going, at long last, to be treated to the story of Alico’s origins. Of course, his status as one side of the Janus coin of new beginnings that is Yamac/Alico has been established through Yamac’s dreams. This is a soul matter, of course, but I have always wondered if there is a historical, even blood relationship between them. Who knows the truth? Again, who is Alico’s mother? Have I missed something, have there been clues? What are these dreams that carry so much portent? And who is his father?

“Cukur”, the series, as we all know by now is complex, utterly frustrating at times and multi-layered. I think this episode answers some very pressing questions and offers resolutions to some perturbing situations. Whilst these answers are key considerations in its overall purpose, my personal understanding is that this week’s story is about changing the guard and about matters of succession and solidarity within the royal family of Cukur. For necessary transitions to be carried through, physical changes are needed for many of the players in the drama. New locations need to be established for some, old damage patched up. Where some return to places of their origin, relationships and responsibilities need redefining. For example, Salih and Saadet separately bemoan their inability so far to be together with their son. A home needs to happen, regardless of Salih’s lack of funds, so that this fragile family unit has a chance. Yamac, as so often we see, is aware of this need before anything that he might need himself. He sets about solving the problem by convincing Cumali that his newborn nephew deserves a home, regardless of the reality of the boy’s father, who is still Cumali’s enemy.

Of paramount importance is the issue of leadership now that the Kocovali have returned to Cukur. For some time, questions about Idris’ role have been around and he has been involved in the design of the new order which is slowly evolving. The meeting with the sons and nephews of his old friends and colleagues from Istanbul, together with the apparently fatherless Ceto gives Idris some pretty important information. Ceto is, as usual, willing to use extreme violence and demonstrations of his power based on the number of followers he can put on display to get what he wants, which this time is a return to Cukur for the Karakuzu. A startling piece of information emerges, one which is new to both these young leaders from Istanbul and the old leaders from Cukur. Ceto is the figurehead for Baykal who everyone had assumed dead even before the wedding massacre. He’s been in hiding, rebuilding and consolidating and his foot soldiers are Ceto and Mahsun’s Karakuzu. Ceto claims there are thousands of them and that they are entitled to live in Cukur from where they had been dislodged by the returning Kocovali. He will pay l ‘respect’ to Idris as an elder.

Idris is made very aware that talk of old alliances and reminiscences of balmier, brighter days have no place in this new landscape of a”shared” Cukur. Uncle/Father Idris is one of only three men from the old order at the meeting and one of those is cooking out the back whilst the important discussions go on.
“Everyone here has a father or uncle who is your friend. But none of them is here any more.”

I like to think that Idris has known for some time that his reign as “king” of Cukur has been coming to an end with his absence from its streets, cafe and people. The peacemaking with his sons has been purposeful and careful in preparation for his abdication and for their future ability to form an effective and focused team. The heir apparent is obvious, has been for some time and it’s now time for Idris to pass the baton to Yamac. After the meeting, Emmi and Idris will talk with Yamac on his own,
“First, Yamac in the beginning. If he’s with others, separate him from them.”

A cool head will be needed and no overreaction, calls for intikam or hotheadedness from either Cumali or Salih. And I’m not sure that Idris trusts Selim much yet. The idea of a mass Karakuzu return will be hard enough to discuss with Yamac with his cool intelligence, talent for strategic planning and appreciation of the power of doing the unexpected. Because that is what the discussion with the arrogant and dismissive Ceto has led Idris to decide is needed, a shock. Ceto’s mocking gesture of respect to Idris as an elder past his use by date reinforces the impossible dream, or more likely forlorn hope expressed by the leader of the “boys” from Ista
“They’ll get back to Cukur, uncle. There’ll be no fighting. You’ll be happy and they’ll be happy. You’ll all live together!”
There is precedent for such an insane-sounding idea. Military strategists still use the thinking and battle plans of a Chinese general from the 6th century BC, Sun Tzu, who often gained victory by doing exactly the opposite of what was expected on the battlefield. Another brilliant strategist, but one from a time closer to ours, concurred with Sun Tzu. Michael Corleone was heir apparent to Don Corleone, “The Godfather “. Michael describes an important lesson from his father.

“My dad taught me numerous things here. He educated me in this room. He trained me, ‘…hold your friends close but your enemies closer.’”
With the information about Ceto’s ‘request’ ahead of his brothers and other community leaders Yamac will be able to plan how best to create elements of surprise and unexpected shows of strength when the Karakuzu come back to town.
Yamac is ready to lead. And there are a couple of symbolic acts spaced well apart in this episode, but powerful for the naturally regal way in which Yamac carries them out. Entering the refurbished coffee shop, he moves without hesitation to sit in Idris” throne.

Selim does not blink an eye, it is to be expected he makes tea and serves to Yamac. Earlier Yamac has sat on the arm of his father’s easy chair, arm around the older man’s shoulder, as he has made the famous quip from “Game of Thrones” about the arrival of winter. Which signals the final battle. While he and Idris share this throne for now, the implication is obvious. He is ready to take over. The seat he will occupy will be less impressive than the Iron Throne of Westeros, but will be just as uncomfortable.

In preparation for his role, Yamac has unearthed from his subconscious a statement of the nature and enormity of The Pit, from which he came and over which he is set to reign, in the natural order of things. He will require the ultimate courage to rule, given that he knows he is the carrier of the ‘death gene’. It’s worth revisiting that statement here from his coma-dream, as we consider an interchange with two young people which will give Yamac information about the lengths to which the Karakuzu, particularly Mahsun, in will go to corral the hearts and minds of the boys of Cukur. In their room as he waits to speak to the two boys who followed Mahsun’s order to bring Metin’s small son to him, he has found the signature ring of the Karakuzu. How easy it is to teach deception by making false promises to vulnerable young minds.

“You have death in your roots, Yamac. You have death in your own root.
Whoever has death in their roots, have death in their branches.
In their leaves, too. In their apples, too.
In their worms, too, Yamac.
In their worms.”

The death is surely in their apples, these two boys who already claim their membership of Karakuzu without any true knowledge of what that might mean.
Metin is Yamac’s assassin. His son had been kidnapped by Mahsun and he was given an ultimatum. Either kill your friend or we will kill your son. The agony is great but his choice is for family. Incredibly, Yamac gets it. Not without shock, anger, disbelief but he gets it. His handling of the aftermath is masterly, regal and supremely courageous.
We watch Metin tormented by the guilt and grief of the attempted murder of his friend. The pain is almost tangible and Toygar Isikli’s song which is the soundscape to his agony is hearbreaking. “Kisur Dingu” in Turkish, it is “Vicious Circle” in English. Allame sings of desperation and futility when faced with choices that seem impossible, such as that which Metin has been forced to make.

The solution which Yamac chooses is dangerous in the extreme. In a double bout of Russian Roulette where only one bullet remains in the magazine of a revolver, first Yamac then Metin will put the gun to his head and pull the trigger. This is the question that each asks of the other and proves ultimate loyalty even after a betrayal as bad as Metin’s has been. Is either willing to die for the other without a second thought? Both answer in the affirmative and neither has been shot in the head. The crowd outside the coffee shop who watch, silently, know the height of the stakes and the rules of the game which is a traditional means to heal such a huge breach in trust and relationship. All breathe a sigh of relief and there is jubilation at the resolution of what seemed to be an insoluble problem. Yamac’s courage is a further affirmation of his fitness to rule.

Selim thinks he’s crazy, but he gets it. In relief after the terrifying Roulette the brothers laugh, weep and smile together as they stand on a balcony above the crowd who have watched the drama. I am reminded of the two brother-princes of the British royal family who have no trouble in demonstrating their love for one another. It’s as if they are on the balcony of Windsor Castle. I’m also mindful that this is a public demonstration that the “chosen” one is modelling forgiveness of the brother who had betrayed his whole family and who had returned, like the Prodigal of the bible. What has been acted out in the forgiveness on show today is the true power of love and the importance of family which we have been told so often, is everything. Without family you are nothing.

In regal mode, the Queen of Cukur has returned in a motorcade, waving to the Cukurians who excitedly gather in the street as news of her return spreads. Waving as she recognizes friends, Sultan is back and heading for her rightful place, her home. Of course it’s a mess after the all-male misuse by the Karakuzu and the shooting up which was part of the war with the Bulgarian drug barons. An urban army of Cukur women, buckets brooms and headscarves at the ready, arrive to put the queen’s palace back in order, It is, in the manner of the dizi-sphere, highly improbable that such colossal damage can be cleaned up by these Cukurian housewives in an afternoon, but it IS just a story and we’re allowed to suspend belief in such matters for the sake of a feel-good resolution to the issue of the mess.

A refuge is quickly established and the world feels a little better now that Sultan is back in her home. It seems no longer to be “their” home, as in Idris AND Sultan. Meliha’s return probably has given Idris an ‘out’ from going home which I suspect feels just fine for Sultan. I may be wrong, but I think both husband and wife may have used coma -like states as escapes from reality, perhaps at least in part from one another. The marriage seems not grounded in any passion but is as Idris once described Sultan herself, “for the home.” Meliha was and is for him, for love, and this may be their chance. I am unclear what was said in the conversation between Meliha and Idris. Was it about creating appropriate boundaries into the future? Even though Alico, urges him to go home to Cukur, is Idris set on staying in what appears to be rudimentary bachelor splendour? Will Meliha join him? Will he move in with her? Aren’t they both a bit old for such unseemly behavior? (Written with tongue firmly in cheek.)

And the real stumbling block. Idris’ children have grown up not knowing anything about their father’s affairs. They have no idea who Meliha is. How will finding out about her affect their relationship with either of their parents?

Sultan has, for all those years. been the source of Meliha’s survival. It has been her secret and she has silently made Idris pay for the betrayal by tapping the funds for Meliha’s treatment and living costs from Idris’ bank. That it is a source of intikam is unlikely because he doesn’t know. Rather, she has followed her conscience and her humanity. Meliha acknowledges this “Mother of Cukur” as her mother too, pays her respects and says that she will never come to Sultan’s home. That is all she will promise.

Mahsun, I have decided is most definitely a psychopath. I had a little sympathy for him when he explained his Fikret/Mahsun split to the gun-wielding Sena. Then he went and spoiled it all by terrorizing Sena’s friend and flatmate . She, of course, is the first recipient of Sultan’s kindness and rebuilding in the restored Kocovali stronghold. I hope Mahsun gets his comeuppance before too much longer, but I doubt it. He’s too good looking and such a series as this needs a true villain like him with whom to have a love/hate relationship. Like Emir in “Kara Sevda” or Veli Cevher in “Carpisma.”

I’ve noticed how much more comfortable each of the Kocovali men seem to be in their own skin since they have returned home. Lines in faces have been smoothed out and there is laughter more often. The quality of acting from each of these men is remarkable. Yamac is developing a demeanour, appearance and assurance that seem to be very like his father’s, perhaps at a different time, before Mihriban and before Meliha.

Thoughts had been turning to the future and now comes the return of the black Karakuzu cavalcade, filling up the streets with stony-faced youths who we have seen will fall to the ground and perform perfectly co-ordinated sets of push-ups at a single syllable order. My mother used to describe such blind responses as “Yes, sir! Yes, sir! Three bags full, sir!” obedience. The next step is the coordinated machine gun fire, which we already know about. They fill up the street behind Mahsun, Ceto and the awful Avni towards whom I have developed an irrational and pervasive hatred…he’s really no worse than the rest of them, is he? I just feel like smashing him.

It’s a bit like the set up before the Battle of the Bastards, only there’s six or seven Kocovali as opposed to just one Jon Snow in front of the hordes of enemy.
What on earth is Yamac thinking, letting those Karakuzu get away with their scare tactics? And then we see. The Black Lambs may think they have superiority on the ground, but look up, just look up!! The Kocovali command the rooftops and the skyways, the secret alleys, the air conditioning and the chimneys They know the hidden routes and exactly who lives under which roof, who can be called on to allow passage or to give shelter. And one by one, they are unfurling huge banners with the Kocovali symbol, which to all those who know their heritage, describes just what Family is here in Cukur. Yamac has clasped Metin on the shoulder, letting Ceto know that his assassination plan has failed.

A piercing whistle sounds out from the rooftops The Black Lambs cannot help but look up, astonished at this demonstration of identity and belonging which is unfurling. Even Ceto is visibly shaken. So far there are five huge banners, more may be coming, who knows?

The Kocovali Command, this row of Cukur men join Yamac in greeting the returnees. “Welcome to my Cukur.”

PS. I owe an apology to Metin. In my review of Episode 50, I incorrectly attributed the precision butchery and suitcase disposal of Ayse’s murdered admirer to Pasa., of blessed memory. Of course, this was the work of the multi-skilled and loyal Metin who needs all the brownie points he can get right now.

Written by: Judith Kelleher





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here