If, like me, you have become a passionate devotee of “CUKUR”, this extraordinary tour de force from Ay Yapim, you will be well aware that its sounds, rhythms, raps, instrumentation are intrinsic to the soul of the series. And what a soul it has! How many of us listening intently to that driving opening musical sequence, the layering of instruments, the lifting of the volume, know that the music could very well be recognized as a character in its own right, such are the stories it has been telling over the thirty-three weeks of the first season. Not far into the Season 1 Finale of “CUKUR”, I notice the beat of a metronome, slow, just barely audible in the background.  As the story picks up pace it is matched by this insistent “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…

 Idris Kocovali walks in the middle of the road through his territory. He is telling us that family is everything, that if your family is not with you, you’re zero, you don’t exist, you are nothing. So why is he seemingly alone on this walk? Where are his sons and his wider family, his lieutenants, Emmi and Pasa? As the camera pans the street, people from the neighbourhood come into view and they are not looking happy. Clearly there is something amiss. The metronome is louder, more insistent, almost intrusive and there is a palpable urgency in the requests for help now. “You are,” he is told, “the only one who can help us now.”

What we are about to learn later in the episode is that Idris will leave the physical environment of “Cukur” in order to save it.

For Idris is The Father, who decides what is best And ”CUKUR” is, above all, about his family and  their relationships. About belonging or being cast out, about acceptance or rejection, about loyalty and betrayal, about misalliances and brotherly love in the most unlikely of circumstances. About the line of succession, about ceding power and about accepting or rejecting the role of leader.

 “CUKUR” is about a desperate need for love and forgiveness when neither are possible any longer. It is also about the most unlikely love between people who are willing to give up their lives for their brother. Such is the power of Cukur, which is not only a place, but is everywhere.

The Kocovalis may well be the royal family of the place, Cukur, which Idris created. Now each one of them is witness or participant as its dismantling proceeds. He has told them, “I am done”, and that he will leave the place, knowing that in removing himself from the place he founded, he will leave behind more than stones. The people and the idea will survive if he goes.

I have needed to watch this episode several times in preparation for the new season. It is driven, intense, packed, shocking, heart breaking, funny, beautiful, stunning, sad in the extreme.

As Alico and Yamac expressed their brotherly love in those simple words about missing one another, I found myself crying. I love Riza.   He does not play Alico. He IS Alico. **

As Vartolu realized that his quest for intikam had been futile, that he had hurt so many people for nothing and that sitting in Idris’ chair gave him none of the promised satisfaction, I wept again. Then I felt my heart lift when he could admit in response to Saadet’s insistent questioning that none of his victory had made him happy.  The look of boyish joy on his face as he learned her good news, gave me hope that these two who really are victims of the Kocovali history might have a future: then I waited in dread for the inevitable disaster to befall them. Medet’s self-sacrifice was heart-breaking, but to no avail except that he stands as a model of love  for one’s brother above all else. I have loved Medet from the time he first showed up.

Orange juice has been off my family’s breakfast menu since the joint murders of Nazim and Emrah. Irrational? Of course. So are many of my emotional responses to the extremes of joy and the depths of pain experienced by these people of Cukur, which is the home to which they all return in due course.

Why have I, a woman from such a diifferent culture eleven thousand kilometres in physical distance from Turkey, fallen so far under the spell of Cukur? I think that it is in many cities and countries though it will have a different name.   Here in New Zealand it is West Auckland and it too has its own television series with its own crime family. I find myself struck by the similarities rather than drawn away from the differences. Perhaps a driving need for Cukur is in all of us. What and where is YOUR Cukur?

This last episode in the first season of “CUKUR” is densely packed with the details of so many interconnected stories that I think it requires careful re-watching.  We will return to the physical place under a banner which is a corruption of the tattoo worn by those who understand its true meaning. We are told how the wearing of this symbol guarantees us entry and then signals our belonging as of right to a family which will always nourish us. The symbol of the new power which has usurped Cukur, the place, has two arms only which have been twisted to one side and the people do not fit between its arms. They are not even present. Have the new masters not grasped that Cukur is everywhere and that it IS the people?

No matter a shocking massacre, nor the systematic poisoning of a vital young woman’s mind, the tortured self-destruction of a son who wanted above all else to be seen and loved by his father, the bitterness of the vengeful wife whose man has been murdered   This last episode offers the hope of young love, the courage found to leave behind the old ways in order to try out again an older love, the promise of a new life to come, the purity of simple brotherly love, the clarity of Alico’s autistic vision.  We are tentative in our hope, only too aware that none of this is likely to really happen, so deep are the wounds, so long the history.

These  examples are, among so many others, the essence of Cukur, and we have had to wait until the very last few minutes of this epic story, seventy hours or so in the telling so far, to truly comprehend the power of its tattoo and tag . The new ‘masters’ attack and  attempt  to obliterate it as a first step to asserting dominance over the old ways.

 So, at the last we are left with the mission to come. Two brothers, stripped of their masks, battered and emerging from the shadows, are ready to reclaim what is theirs by birthright. The old debates are lost or won, it doesn’t really matter now. Yamac reminds us early in the new season,  

“Everyone has a home in this life. Ours is Cukur.”  And the intruders will not become the new order because they have no idea of what they are dealing with. Eventually everyone who belongs comes back to this place, “…which is not just a neighbourhood. It is the name of a kingdom.” 

Those who call this place home will always have the advantage, for

“They think Cukur is in Istanbul, but they don’t know Istanbul is in Cukur.”  

As you join me in re-watching at least this much of last season’s series, I hope we find early answers to these questions:

1.    Who survived the wedding day massacre? Hopefully, Celasun at least.

2.   What happened to Sena and Saadet?

3.   Where is Cumali in the story and who plays his character? I hope it IS Burak Oczivit as I have heard hinted, though I don’t think he would be that great as the bad guy…

What other burning questions do YOU need answers for?


NOTES: 1. For the purposes of this review “CUKUR” in upper case and parentheses is the physical series we are watching. At any other time, whether idea, concept, kingdom, neighbourhood, home it is Cukur.

              2. ** Alico makes my heart sing. I have an adult son who has autism as one of the dominant characteristics of his being. Lacking guile and duplicity, he is unflinchingly honest, sees to the core of people, knows who and how to trust, has a special talent for manipulating visual information as in puzzles. He has a prodigious memory and particularly loves the hot homemade soup which is always available in our home, together with fresh crunchy bread, during the winter. Riza is beyond belief in his creation of Alico. 


Written By – Judith Kelleher


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