At the conclusion of Episode 10 of Ask Mantik Intikam, I was ready to move on from the dramatic turn in events. From a love confession at the beginning of the episode to Ozan’s impatience in getting together with Esra for their happy ever after to a selective eavesdropping trope that upends Ozan’s world and leaves him proposing to Cagla instead, left me reeling to say the least. I wanted to step away from this dizi trend of taking an enlightened, articulate man and turning him into an angry imbecile who loses touch with all logic and can only shout and scream, while the female protagonist is left grappling with the aftermath.
Perhaps, part of my impatience comes from needing lighter entertainment when it comes to love and relationships, as building and nurturing a real life one is a lot of mindful, hard work. I want an escape into the promises of happiness and easy joy. That said, once I removed myself from the uproar on social media, a few themes stood out to me that placates my raging heart. I will not watch the show live until I am ready to, but I do want to see how the writers recover from this dramatic plot shift.
Ozan always knew that he couldn’t love anyone but Esra. Still in the dark about the real reasons that drove Esra to divorce him, he became distrustful and believed that she had come to his door because he now had money. Ironically, he worked hard for his success so that someday she would finally see him but, when she does come, he distrusts her intentions. To him, her parting words of never being in love with him, her repeated, overt mannerisms that are open provocation for him to fall for her again, make him cautious. He cannot let her trample on his heart again. He only reveals his vulnerability towards her when he thinks she is not looking or paying attention. Otherwise, he maintains his caustic persona as his defense mechanism.
He softens completely once he understands that Esra has finally realized herself that she has feelings for him. He helps her acknowledge her feelings and after they kiss, he is ready to push the past aside and make sure that she never leaves his side again.
This rush was always doomed to fail. Both of them are still deeply scarred from their past experience without the truth on their side. Esra understanding her love is merely the first step. Without addressing the reasons why they could not make their marriage work, without healing these past wounds, without addressing their deepest insecurities, Ozan underestimates how affected either might be to events or choices that stoke those insecurities. Their relationship has too much baggage for them to simply pick up where they left off.
So what seems like a reconciliation of two broken hearts is really a band-aid moment of them thinking they are ready to start on a clean slate.
Neither Ozan nor Esra are yet good about being open with each other. Electrifying chemistry and passionate desire for each other is not the only things needed for love to survive. Both still hide facts from each other. Ozan has left Esra completely in the dark about Cinar’s intentions, and tries to get her to decide a certain way by presenting it as being important to him. This approach disregards and disrespects Esra’s own desires, and perhaps may even be an indication of how Ozan engaged with her in the past as well.
It’s possible that part of why Ozan never understood the hardships Esra undertook to support their life is because he almost saw Esra’s pursuits as a hobby or a way to keep herself busy while he worked the ‘real’ job. He could not understand her resentment when he didn’t pull his weight, even though from his perspective he did. As an entrepreneur, he was investing sweat equity to build his product, believing that the big payoff will come soon. However, living is today and now. They had present cash needs that Esra had to take responsibility for because that practicality did not occur to the brainiac Ozan.
Similarly, Esra expresses her jealousy about Cagla but does not give Ozan the full picture of how Cagla provokes her. Ozan does not develop a clue about Cagla’s intentions and, as such, doesn't realize how poor his decision is to leave Esra in favor of Cagla.
With neither fully open with each other, coupled with Esra still not sharing the depths of her concerns about rekindling their relationship, it is no wonder that when Ozan overhears only slices of the conversation between Esra and Zeynep, he is devastated. Esra’s emphatic agreement with Zeynep’s leading words about Esra entering the company to make Ozan pay for what he did to her, make him fall in love with her again and have him fall to his knees, hits a raw nerve. His deep insecurity about Esra and her ability to hurt him was forgiven but not forgotten.
After he walks away, he convinces himself that he saw in Esra what he had wanted to see and not what she had really felt. Her hesitation to restart their relationship becomes proof of her callous attitude towards him, and he decides to burn all bridges to Esra by proposing to Cagla.
He does not do this out of a desire to be vindictive, but out of a desire to protect himself. As such, even though at first blush it seemed Ozan acted out of character, he really didn’t. He is traumatized by what he experienced with the divorce and feeling that Esra abandoned him. Only he knows how far he had to reach within to claw his way out of that darkness. At the first possible threat that Esra might do the same again, he took the most drastic measures he knew to take care of himself. He doesn’t yet feel enough assurance from Esra that her love for him transcends all.
Without more honest discourse between them, their interactions will remain reactive to the other’s actions, without much introspection on their true intentions.
Whether Ozan is designed this way or not and whether Ilhan is making mindful decisions to play Ozan this way or not, I can shed some light on the male psyche that make them so obtuse about the situation around them.
Several folks have questioned why Ozan does not ponder on the role he played in their divorce. Why does he think it is all Esra’s doing? For him to understand he was at fault would require him to understand that he neglected Esra. In his mind, Esra was always the all important reason why he pushed himself so hard to succeed, because he wanted to make her happy. He worked day and night towards a goal, even though it wasn’t bringing in regular money in the short-term. That is his ultimate show of his love for her. To make the best use of his natural talents so that he can be the best provider for Esra and fulfill her materialistic dreams. And, as such, he didn’t feel he was neglecting her.
He has been raised in a household with no father figure, and a mother who indulged him as the boy in the family. He was probably excused from participating in chores and well taken care of. Spoilt without understanding that he was spoilt, it doesn’t even occur to him that he has to pull his weight as a partner when sharing a home with a spouse. He takes the daily chores by Esra for granted because he never had to worry about them.
This lack of situational awareness becomes Ozan’s blind spot during the marriage. With Esra being so harsh at their last meeting by the courthouse, Ozan’s self-righteousness is further validated because he was willing to work through their obstacles while from his perspective she left him mid-way.
These scars incurred during the marriage, divorce and beyond get hidden under the heady feelings of rediscovering each other, and Ozan once again loses sight of the situation. He doesn’t see that Esra is trying to take the healthier approach of setting up rules of engagement between them that reduces miscommunication down the road. That her hesitation is rooted in her new vulnerability to Ozan and his choices. He doesn’t understand the power he can now have over her because, ultimately, he doesn’t fully believe that Esra loves him as much as he loves her. His hope for a reconciliation was so strong that he let it drown out everything else.
This binary way of processing the world around them seems a particular trait for many men and, until I understood this in my own life, I also suffered from believing that I was not heard nor respected appropriately. It is only through communicating our expectations, articulating our desires (coupled with an insane amount of patience), that men handicapped by unhealthy childhood experiences can slowly learn how to be a real partner. Expecting them to just ‘figure it out’ on their own is really setting ourselves up for failure.
I am not excited about Ozan selfishly drawing Cagla into this chaos as a way to put distance between himself and Esra. Only bad things can come off this hasty decision unless it is shown that the proposal is not real. Even if it is real, much as I dislike the unfairness towards Cagla, I realize that no one acted out of character. Ozan has had a self-absorbed perspective on love and relationship, and until he develops more situational awareness, more faith in Esra’s words and actions, and not be so skittish about interpreting Esra’s choices in a negative way, he will not understand that Esra loves him just as much as he loves her, if not more.
Ozan and Esra need to rebuild their trust in each other as both remain fragile in the face of any example that seems a repetition of their deepest fears. For Ozan it is the fear of abandonment; for Esra it is the fear that he will overlook her again. Coming together on this journey will be a process. It cannot be startled into action through fits of jealousy or in a competition with other people. It has to happen organically between the two of them, with the willingness to confront their past and heal the wounds inflicted by each other.
The first trailer for the upcoming episode is heart-wrenching. As the audience we have more insight into Esra's psyche than Ozan does, and it is easy to empathize with her while losing all patience with Ozan. But, as I wrote this piece, it was a reminder to myself that these two are both flawed characters with their own blind spots and their own inner demons. There is a lot left for them to work on in way of finding a healing path towards each other.
I can only hope that the writers will utilize meaningful plot mechanisms along this journey. The build-up to their second chance was very well done but the first break-up seemed hasty and choppy. As the fall season prepares itself with heavy hitting competition on Friday nights, I hope the show will be able to reposition itself to a place of strength, where the audience remains vested in growing with Ozan and Esra. Minimal drama from Cagla and Cinar is preferable but obviously that is an unreasonable ask of diziland.
DISCLAIMER: I stopped watching the show after Episode 10. The dizi writers take too much creative license in a remake and shape characters such that I can no longer root for the couple. Please watch at your own peril.
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