Episode 25 went in a direction that added salt to the wounds of a fandom who have been patiently waiting for a long time for Eda and Serkan to reconciliate. Angst within love is understood, and expected in a televised series, but as I have tried to articulate for several weeks, if the angst is based upon reasons that seem unconvincing in face of the strength of love we have come to believe in, then it becomes difficult to keep rooting for the plot direction.
In addition to lingering communication fallacies between the lead pair, a number of ill sketched out characters have been introduced by the new writers, whose sole job seem to be to create further impediments between Serkan and Eda. A combination of variables has led to a very disappointed fandom, translating into emotional outbursts all over social media.
As such, while I understand the immediate explosive reaction the fandom had to the episode, I tried to remove myself from debates and take an objective look at the characters and the broader plot, with a focus on what they were trying to portray, even if execution could have been tighter. Today’s post will be relatively short as I dig into a couple of themes that floated to the surface for me.
MAGICAL LOVE TO IMPOSSIBLE LOVE
As soon as we got hint that Alptekin is at fault for Eda’s parent’s death, I had jokingly said how dramatic it had become, Bollywood style. A magical love story made in the stars had taken a turn for an impossible love, like Romeo and Juliet, who will have to pay the price for the mistakes and egos of the elders. This is from my review of Episode 12:
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😊
Eda and Serkan are the casualties of a proxy war between Alptekin and Babanne, an epic battle between the Bolats and the Yildirims, while neither is proud of their surnames.
When Serkan learnt the truth, he imagined that Eda could never look at him without accusation and out of fear of losing her, of not being enough for her, and becoming the reason that her free spirit becomes tormented, he lets her go. He cites the one convincing reason he knew she would believe: he cannot de-prioritize his work for her. He feels he has saved her from her life’s resolve to stay clear from anything that touched her parents’ death.
He tries to stay away for weeks but, even though deep down he knows she loves him, when he realizes that there may come a day when she turns to someone else, he decides to risk it all and tell her the truth.
With her trust in Serkan badly broken, Eda can neither leave his side nor really move on with life. When she learns the truth, she is angered by his lack of trust in their love and tells him that they could have overcome this together if she had known the truth. Serkan trusts in Eda’s love, accepts responsibility for his mistake, and tries to demonstrate to her in every way he knows how that despite his error in judgement, he is willing to change and be the man she can trust till the end of time. With her by his side, there isn’t anything he cannot take on.
Babanne, as the head of the Yildirim enterprise, is hell-bent on staving off a personal union between the Bolats and the Yildirims. She is even willing to entertain a temporary, expensive business partnership if it allows her to keep Eda and Serkan separated. Serkan is aware of this and reassures Eda that if they are together, they can handle anything Babanne can throw their way.
But Babanne is no fool and she uses all her tools at her disposal to come and meddle in her estranged granddaughter’s life, threatening Eda with her biggest weakness – Serkan. Babanne demonstrates all the ways she can completely destroy the Bolats, including Serkan, if Eda does not cut off everything with Serkan. And, after many of Eda’s sermons about trust in the relationship, 10 episodes later, we have Eda decide to keep the truth from Serkan and take a page from his playbook. She uses his biggest fear against him and tells him the one thing that will convince him of her disinterest: she cannot look at him without being reminded of her parents’ deaths.
This heartbreaking scene aside, where both actors hit it out of the ball park, at the end of the day, after weeks of a yo-yo ride of them coming closer together, and then not, and on the verge of a new restart, for Eda to resort to this as the cited reason for a break-up of a non-relationship, broke the camel’s back on a fandom that has held its breath for a better turn in the story. However, if we view what I present above as the backbone of how their relationship has evolved, taking away the long weeks it has taken them to tell the story replete with side plots that have lost the ingenuity we witnessed in earlier episodes, then the saga is better understood.
Serkan started with a contract and when the relationship falls apart, Eda starts with a contract. He struggles deeply and eventually chooses to hide the truth from her in order to protect her, she does the same. He changes to gain back her trust, perhaps the next phase shows her doing the same. They have a karmic approach to the yin-yang of their relationship, which will eventually settle when they decide to join forces against all that is thrown at them.
The change in writers brought back a momentum in their relationship that had gone missing, and maybe we see a more intelligent and faster navigation of the impossibility of their love. Spinning on the trust issue while using different plot mechanisms is boring to a discerning fandom who understand what forward movement in a relationship means. What could be a saving grace at this point is not only for the couple to unite, but if the script begins to weave back in many of the magical elements into their relationship – them learning from each other through literature, through challenging and complex work situations, through them understanding and tolerating each other’s habits better, through their united acts of kindness, through their passion for each other and the family they may wish to build. All this was the promise of the #EdSer we fell in love with, and it would be wonderful to be back on that journey before the story comes to a natural conclusion.
“Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible.” - Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American female elected to the US Senate
Through Semiha, Ayfer and Aydan, we get a view into mother figures and I think it important for the writers to remember that beyond being just a colorful character, these women represent various facets of motherhood.
Semiha has been an unyielding, steely woman from her youth, who approaches life with a compartmentalized and controlling brain. She could not accept Eda’s mother and cut out her son from her life. That did not stop her from blaming everybody but herself for his demise, and now out of the bitterness she feels, she will keep Eda from reaching for her happiness. She is a shrewd and calculating businesswoman, and while the average person will not appreciate such a cutthroat person as a mother, she also has her strengths as someone who is objective and goal-driven when navigating complex situations. She commands an uneasy respect from Ayfer, who obviously felt it better for her mental health to stay far away from her mother.
Bitter women like Semiha do exist, and their mothering leaves a trail of crumbled and confused hearts. She produced the mild- mannered Ayfer, who chose not to marry and be a mother to her orphaned niece instead, while leading a simple life as a florist with very little sense for business. She is the polar opposite to her ambitious, capable mother who is an astute businesswoman able to hold her own in a male-dominated world.
Ayfer’s sense of womanhood is so confused, that perhaps seeing Eda so in love reminds her of what she missed out on in her own life. And we see in her a giddy teenager as she meets with Chef Alexander. This regression in Ayfer, from a dignified mother figure to a hapless woman-child is a transformation that is difficult to root for, especially at a time her ward is floundering in her own life. And now she has been paired with Aydan, another mother figure who has gone from being a severe agoraphobic to an embittered wife to a middle-aged divorcee who wishes to remain in touch with her sexuality.
I want to be clear that I am supportive of showing middle-aged women burnt by life who still want to pursue a relationship and a life of meaning. It is never too late and, when I watch them through this lens, I enjoy the comedy of their skits on their own. However, when seen as part of the bigger scheme of the story and their primary role as Eda and Serkan’s mothers, their current depiction seems tangential and too far removed from their earlier, realistic characterizations.
With Eda in so much personal turmoil with the threatening return of Babanne, Ayfer should be bonding with her more and trying her best to protect Eda from her draconian mother. With Serkan facing one problem after another, Aydan can focus on solidifying her presidential position at the association instead of running after Alexander. I imagine some of these plot choices are driven by the filming challenges of COVID times, where long-term casting for larger groups of actors is difficult. Nevertheless, it would be good to have a cohesive thread to Aydan and Ayfer’s characters from the time they have been introduced.
CHARACTERS OR CARICATURES
I am a fan of the current team of writers’ work, especially in Dolunay, which I felt had well sketched out characters and plots, except for that last episode full of music and no plot. The villains in the story had good reason to pursue their evil goals, mired with human, relatable flaws. In contrast, the new characters that have been brought into Sen Cal Kapimi are a study in haphazard character introduction, where there is no rhyme or reason to their core essence and how they fit into the story.
The worst offender is Balca, who literally makes my skin crawl each time she comes on screen with an increasing audacity in how she inserts herself between Serkan and Eda. Her sudden love for Serkan is so utterly absurd that I almost see it as an insult to the role the talented Bige Onal had built with the wounded and misdirected Selin. I believe I speak for the whole fandom when I ask for her speedy removal even though, out of respect for a writer’s vision, I had initially defended her introduction. No longer. I am glad her cuckoo friend Suzi also stayed off screen in this episode.
The next one is Prince Seyman. His dubbed but handsome character felt like an acceptable introduction until the twist with his long-lost love Esma, who is a doppelganger for Eda. As everyone gasped in disbelief, I am again reminded of other Bollywood movies where the deepest family dramas ensue due to doppelgangers. And just as the Bollywood-esque Bolat/ Yildirim feud gives rise to weeks of dramatic angst, I fear that this twist may provide weeks of nonsensical interruptions from a delusional character who will want to re-claim Esma at any cost.
I have the utmost love for Bollywood movies, having grown up on an amazing library of movies filled with melodious music that are still my go-to when feeling low. Their clichéd plots fit in with how the genre evolved over the years whereas the recent crop of Bollywood movies is more thoughtful, artistic and gritty in its presentation. In contrast, one of the appeals of Turkish drama is the underlying and yet sophisticated theme of reality as we explore family and moral values, relationship dynamics and more. To suddenly see such hackneyed plot arcs, that neither fits the genre nor this story in particular, feels jarring and I am hoping that the writers will deal with these characters in a satisfying fashion – and soon.
DREAMS ARE OUR DESIRES
One of the scenes that led to a major uproar is Eda’s dream sequence, which had been presented in the trailer as a possible reality. When I watched it, I saw it as an artistic depiction of Eda’s inner dilemma. Her dream was a manifestation of her heart’s deepest desires, where not only does Serkan propose to her, but where she is also able to verbally express her love for him without feeling the burden of family feuds. Where she may also have realized that it is important to make the most of the moments they have together and perhaps it was wrong for her to keep him at an arm's length before the dragon lady arrived on the scene with her threats and ultimatums.
At the end of Episode 25, when they are on the balcony, Eda describes something from the movie she and Serkan had watched that would allow her to erase her memories. The memory loss reminds me of the device the Neuralyzer from Men in Black.
“This is called a 'neuralyzer'. A gift from some friends from out of town. The red eye here isolates and measures the electronic impulses in your brains. More specifically, the ones for memory.” - Agent K describing the Neuralyzer to INS Agents.
After the major mayhem in the fandom at the conclusion of Episode 25 and the first trailer that just shows more angst, we have been unexpectedly delighted today with a second trailer that shows Serkan and Eda uniting in the most beautiful way. All I can say is, “Thank you, MF Yapim, for your neuralyzer.”
I live by the adage that I cannot change other people, I can only change myself. In the last few weeks, I have been surprised by my own growing and palpable dissatisfaction with a work of fiction, and over the last 10 days I took a step back to understand myself better. Why would a show affect me so much when it has been clear to me for a few weeks that the characters and plots have deviated significantly from what I was looking for? Under any circumstances, I am quick to abandon shows or books I am not enjoying as I am acutely aware of my opportunity costs of investing my time. As a professional mom with young children, I have plenty that demand my attention. So why could I not move away from this show and why did it pain me to abandon this journey?
And the answer lies in the fandom, the friendships forged during this time and what my voice has meant in this ecosystem. Especially during our isolation due to COVID, the global sisterhood has been a beautiful thing that helps to maintain faith in humanity. Many people have humbled me with their messages over the weeks, expressing gratitude for helping them understand the themes I saw and how it made them enthused about coming back for the next episode. Sometimes they felt they got more out of what I wrote versus what they experienced with the show. They thanked me for giving them a fresh perspective about Serkan and Eda’s relationship dynamics and, by proxy, giving them a better understanding about life. Many of these same people also expressed how lost they were now that #EdSer was falling apart.
In a very minute and indirect way, what I write made a difference in people’s lives, and I couldn’t abandon the possibility of bringing joy to people. It forces me to dig deeper into the series, sifting out undesirable elements and focusing on the strength of how the story can be interpreted. And I make my commentary in the hopes that the production house will also appreciate the need to nurture this global fandom and bring a work of entertainment that pleases hearts during such a difficult time in human history. Not everyone has been given the gift or the means to bring joy to others, and to be the light during the darkness, but when you have been given the gift and the adulation, please do not take it for granted, MF Yapim.
With my appropriate dose from the neuralyzer, I am looking forward to Episode 26 with great anticipation. I might even watch it live again, knowing how much the fandom will engage in the joy of watching their beloved pair get back together.
Till we meet again.
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