Updated: Dec 1, 2020
If you are like me, you spent most of the episode either smiling or laughing out loud through the various skits. It is beautiful to watch a romantic comedy be what it is meant to be and this is such a happy episode. As I tracked the reactions on twitter, on a personal level, after the televised political debacle of where our country is headed with the November elections, it felt a much needed restorative exercise.
On the surface, it’s an episode that celebrates Serkan and Eda’s love now that their walls have crumbled but I also found several undertones that provokes life questions about fairness, choices, consequences, karma, the timeless one of ‘what is love?’ and more. The layers are not accidental and it is the culmination of the small details that contribute to the feeling we are left with at the end of each episode.
ACTS OF LOVE
As Eda and Serkan find joy in each other’s arms, furtively keeping their relationship secret until they are ready to tell Ayfer who is still incensed by Serkan’s contract, the portrayal of their love is playful and sensual, a mixture of the coyness of a youthful, new relationship and the maturity of a relationship between two consenting adults who have made a mindful choice to be together.
The latter is often lost in recent Turkish dizis trying to adhere to RTUK rules and penalties about physicality on television, and instead of sensuality we get the juvenile, with awkward pecks on the forehead and an unnaturally forced socially distanced relationship that has nothing to do with COVID. Within the same constraints, Sen Cal Kapimi has not only poked fun at some of these growing norms in filmmaking (“kiss me on the forehead” in episode 3 really tickled my funny bone), but has also demonstrated that one can still push the artistic boundaries to portray a sensual love that leaves the audience satiated with a love story well told.
Translation credit: www.expressdizi.com [at 0.53 sec, it should say I'm not your type anyway]
This particular scene, out of the several presented, is sheer perfection in this regard. There are many elements to sensuality that goes far beyond the act of kissing. It can be captured in full body language, suggestive glances, soft touches, words shared during those moments, tonal modulation and many other subtle cues that can make the whole picture seem a natural progression in the relationship, aglow in a growing sense of comfort and desire. Acts of love are not just sexual; it is a physical and emotional experience.
This is the third of Altan Donmez’s work that I am watching and he really knows how to get the best out of his actors in such moments. Combined with a script that develops the characters in a coherent way as it does in Sen Cal Kapimi, the introduction of the sensuality in Serkan and Eda’s relationship does not feel sudden or out of place. Throughout the show, they are shown to have a mutual admiration for each other’s physicality, which is at par with the depth of their admiration for each other’s personalities. This blend is what makes the slow burning passion in this relationship be something that pulsates on screen, creating a chemistry that is relatable and desirable. Kudos to all the players who bring this to life with such finesse.
DECLARATION OF LOVE
Serkan is finally able to coax a confession out of Eda but it is interesting that he mentions his insecurity about Eda’s love because a part of him still believes that someday she will fall out of love. It is telling that Eda declares she would never tire of her romantic robot because much as his robotic ways are Serkan’s weaknesses, they are also his strengths in how he analyzes and deals with complex situations. More so than to say that she loved him back, I felt this was a greater declaration of love, where she fully embraces what he thinks is his weakness. This entire scene while they enjoy their time as a couple is beautifully done, choppy editing and all😊
Translation credit: www.expressdizi.com
One might argue that Turkish shows have a responsibility to remain true to Islamic values and minimize sensuality between a couple. At its essence, the Quran has verses that promote a meaningful celebration of union in a dedicated relationship. Over millennia, the cultural norms have evolved in patriarchal societies such that women are taught to repress their sexuality, either in its understanding or in its expression. As a Muslim woman who grew up in a patriarchal society, I appreciate and support these opportunities created by the Arts, for women and youth to learn how to celebrate love through such tasteful expressions.
BEING HUMAN IS A SPECTRUM
I have long held compassion for Selin’s predicament but do not always care for the choices she makes, including choosing to wait for Serkan for hours. As I have said before, people will treat you the way you allow them to treat you. It is callous of Serkan to leave her hanging that way but pushed to make a decision between saving his love versus what seems right, he chose love.
Even though formulaic storytelling trains the audience to assume Ferit is a dormant sinister character, he is presented as entirely human who fell in love with a girl and wants desperately to be a part of her life. Despairing, unreciprocated love creates heartbreak and begs the question of “what is love?’.
By Selin’s own admission, she was in love with her dreams of Serkan but she wasn’t happy in her relationship with him. This is a subtle but such an important statement and acknowledgement by a woman. Love ought to be mutual, where the relationship inspires the best version of both people to come to light. If the personalities do not align, the fissures become apparent naturally, either through disengagement from one party or both. Once the dysfunction in the relationship has started, it is common to fall into the pattern of wanting the relationship to continue because it’s convenient, or quitting is not in our vocabulary, or it is too big of a hit to the ego to be rejected, or many other subtle or acute issues that keep us from a healthy path for ourselves.
I find both Selin and Ferit to have an ego-centric approach to love. They decided who and how they wanted to love, and both want the other to love back almost as an obligation to the apparent selflessness of their own love. Selin’s willingness to be an apologist for Serkan’s insensitivity is less about Serkan than it is about her. A goal-orientated career woman, she finds it hard to accept that she wasn’t good enough for the man she wanted, which is coupled with childhood notions of Serkan naturally becoming her life partner as an adult. Love cannot be a compulsion that is trained with logic or brute force. And this important issue is handled in an incredibly sensitive manner through the heartfelt conversation between Serkan and Selin who are, above all, very good friends who understand each other well.
I loved the dignity in their exchange, and Serkan’s acknowledgement that it takes courage to reach for one’s love, something he and Eda didn’t have for a long time. I also love Selin’s desire to fully move on and focus on Ferit, and her willingness to finally do what is necessary to close the chapter with Serkan. Some friendships simply cannot continue regardless of length and depth.
It is good to see Ferit finally take a stand against Selin’s choices. He is unaware of her emotional journey and growth where she has finally elected to prioritize him but it is important to showcase that sometimes we end up doing too little too late. Maybe Serkan will help calm things down and help Ferit see that Selin chose Ferit, but Ferit will always feel that he was the hand me down only because Serkan rejected Selin.
Much as we learn to protect our boundaries, it is not without cost. The deep chasms in their relationship is hard to overcome but not impossible. If Ferit truly loves Selin, he will understand the earnestness of her intentions and will embrace what he has been running after. The bigger hurdle will be trust. Can he reliably trust her after she played with his emotions for months, while being engaged to him and living with him? Can he trust his own love? This will be another realistic and interesting dynamic to be explored.
The theme of metamorphosis is a continual quest in how I approach life. We can choose to reinvent ourselves every day, regardless of what life may throw our way. Our fundamental traits are what they are, but we can continually push the boundaries of our habits and choices. An additional requirement is that this change is driven by my own choice and not forced by someone else.
I have read many comments about how Eda changed Serkan. I beg to differ. Eda did not change Serkan. Eda inspired the emergence of dormant qualities in Serkan that find a home in her personality. He wants to be a different version of himself because of how she makes him feel. And vice versa. Eda also mentions a couple of times that she is learning traits from Serkan. This is the reality of a mutually respectful relationship. We assimilate the qualities we admire in the other person, because it pushes us towards a version of ourselves we can be proud of. Which is why he says, ‘when you are there, it is only about you’. No other in the room inspires him the way she does and then we do things because it makes our partner happy as our happiness lies in their happiness.
Translation credit: www.expressdizi.com
We are all destined to be with someone in a world full of people, and to recognize what draws us to a particular person like a moth to flame and inspires us to hold on is a worthy exercise for anyone. I like that Serkan and Eda are shown to be introspective, mindful personalities whose journey of discovering these clues about each other and learning to value them is what brought them together against all odds. And herein lies the biggest strength of the script. There is intelligence behind both the subtle and obvious exchanges, and I see the foundational patterns that hold them together to build the relationship dynamics, be it between lovers, colleagues, parents or friends.
A lot of these details would be lost if not for the performances by the actors. Special nod to Kerem Bursin for capturing the nuanced transformation of Serkan as he morphs over time, from a seemingly insensitive shell of a man to a sensual lover, without losing the core traits of Serkan’s character. In contrast, Hande’s Eda did not require as drastic a change even though much was required off her during episodes 8-11, most of which she enacted to perfection.
PAST SHAPES OUR FUTURE
We get more insight into the Alptekin involvement in the demise of Eda’s parents and learn that Kadir was the culprit who paid his social dues by serving time in prison. This does not absolve Alptekin of his guilt and he finally discovers that Eda is the orphan left behind from this tragic accident. We already know from trailers that Alptekin and Aydan are conflicted on Serkan being informed about the truth. Whereas Alptekin sees it as his moral duty to inform Serkan, once again Aydan is in self-preservation mode and does not wish to ruin her family’s balance by giving Serkan more reason to hate his father. I look forward to growth in Aydan’s character where she can view the world beyond herself and her needs.
Feeling of moral debt and guilt is debilitating. Alptekin does not know how he can ever pay back Eda for what she lost, but perhaps the beauty of it is that in the cosmic nature of the universe, Alptekin’s son Serkan’s path crossed with Eda so that he could be the one to fulfill the caverns of her soul. We cannot change the past and the path it puts us on, but we can shape our future. The elders should allow Serkan and Eda to heal together against the backdrop of tragedies neither had anything to do with, but we can already predict that they will face many impediments stemming from this history. I see it as an opportunity for the script to delve into showcasing what it means to be in love. As William Shakespeare writes in Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
A sidebar note: the interweaving of the families’ past and how the youngsters gravitate towards each other in the present is a little like the impossibility of the love between Romeo & Juliet. All the interconnections among the small set of characters is also reminiscent of the many family dramas out of Bollywood, which illustrate the strength of destiny in how our lives unfold. The nostalgic that I am, I have enjoyed these parallels more so than I should😊
WOMEN, CAREERS & LOVE
Piril tells Selin that after working so hard to get to where she is, she should not give up her PR position so easily. No one deserves to push her into that position. Though this was a light touch on a perpetual dilemma for working women, it upholds the difficult balancing acts for women whereas for a man the choices seem better established. Women have to push hard to be treated as an equal in the professional space, while they also carry the heavier burdens of parenthood and home management. The dynamics are changing for the better, but the constant fight for equality also shapes our rules of engagement in our romantic relationships. We see this contrast in the relationship between Serkan and Eda versus Engin and Piril.
Eda will remain a professional mentee for Serkan until she proves herself otherwise, whereas Engin and Piril are professional peers. The innate expectations off each other on who takes a back seat in the career have the potential to settle differently for the two couples. Financial parity also plays a part in how that dialogue evolves. It will be interesting to see whether we get more insights into these dynamics.
Another theme lies in how female peers respect each other in the professional space. Since Selin and Piril grew up together, in complementary professional capacities, they support each other. When women are vying for similar positions, they are often not as gracious. As an example, Piril tries to insinuate that Eda only has her job because of Serkan’s favor, but he corrects her by reminding her of Eda’s talents. This arc also needs more attention such that young women can see how to hold one’s own in professional scenarios. From my vantage point, merit, self-confidence and an assertive attitude trumps all.
Adile Sultan Palace
Last week, we had the gorgeous compilation from The Little Prince and how the themes are interwoven into the EdSer story. This week, we are given the story of Adile Sultan, who probably inspired Ayse’s creation of Eda as an orphan who wants to impact the lives of orphans. Adile Sultan is an important Ottoman princess who was a poet and philanthropist, and who left a lasting impact on girl’s education. She donated this palace to be used for girl’s education, and it was converted to a high school for girls until the school moved to a new building. It is now an Education and Cultural Center. To get insight into a Turkish cultural heritage site through such an exchange was interesting and relevant, as we also get insight into a forceful female personality just as Eda is shown to be. History repeats itself in various ways as we go through generations.
GUARDIANS OF LOVE
One of my favorite characters is Seyfi. He is an old soul who seems to naturally see things with his heart and not with his eyes. Perceptive far beyond his station, he is the silent champion of the Serkan and Eda relationship. The way he cheers for them is not lost on Serkan, who naturally expects and gets his support in managing the idiosyncrasies of his mother. I love the addition of such a character to the script. Unlike many other shows where a quirky character quickly slides into slapstick comedy, Seyfi is an understated but steady guardian of the Serkan and Eda relationship.
I would put Melo in a similar bucket as well. Her great friendship with Eda notwithstanding, I love how Melo is shown to be this indomitable spirit whose faith in love cannot be shaken. Characters like Seyfi and Melo symbolize hope in the human spirit as they seem to emanate positivity without trying.
A special shoutout to Sarp Bozkurt and Ilkyaz Arslan as Erdem and Leyla, the office gossipmongers. Erdem’s efforts to hide under the table and then his dream sequence were laugh out loud funny, his expressions picture perfect. It is really nice to have several comedic elements throughout this episode, doing justice to the genre it is meant to be.
* * *
A number of readers have recently shared how much my interpretations inspire them to see the show through a deeper lens. It is my joy to share what I see but I also believe that the lens of the beholder is tinted with filters. For me, I watch all the Turkish shows with cognizance of the grueling working conditions the teams maintain in a very competitive, but not necessarily an immensely lucrative, environment. I happily overlook flaws or plot holes because I appreciate the intent and the effort behind them. I deeply value honest hard work and integrity, and these are evident on and off screen, by cast, crew and the broader production team.
As such, I would characterize my filter as being a loving eye, as opposed to a critical one. I watch the show for and out of love. To me, finding ways to embrace love is so fundamental to perpetuating a kinder world that this journey has felt meaningful at multiple levels. Watching a story beautifully told by a team that is congenially bonded, along with kind-hearted fans across the globe, breeds hope for a world where we can continue to overlook differences and come together in love. I am grateful that Sen Cal Kapimi came and knocked on my door when I most needed it.
Till we meet again.
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