Episode 27 is laugh out loud funny, light-hearted and happy. After weeks of wading through layers of sorrow and nothingness, to have a RomCom be true to its genre feels like an effortless watching experience, where there is no apprehension about impending emotional or physical catastrophes. Even when Eda gets kidnapped at the end of the episode, the trailer allays any fears of this plotline consuming more than a few minutes of the next episode. And the relief that comes with knowing that the next episode will also have a united #EdSer, and flashes of the same comic writing we got in this episode, is indescribable. There is something reassuring in the familiar.
Given that the writing style has changed significantly, I wanted to highlight a few themes in the storytelling and thematic choices that I either agree with or would like to see differently.
TRANSFORMATIVE POWERS OF LOVE
Serkan is ecstatic with Eda’s proposal and they happily exchange their rings, while the last obstacle of Babanne’s threats are laid out in the open. A reserved man by nature, Serkan is like a little boy when he tells his friends that they are getting married, and later tells Eda that he wants to shout to the whole world about their love.
This transformation in Serkan is one of the biggest highlights of this love story and perhaps what draws us to the romance genre in general. We admire the transformative powers of love that turns a shell of a person into an expressive human being, who cannot get enough of what he did not believe in. And, true to his character and personality, even though it is Eda who technically proposes first, it is Serkan whose counterproposal captures the depth of his journey and his love. He serenades her and compares her to the brightest star in his life, after years of searching the skies. He asks her to continue to be the light of his life and invites her to keep throwing him off-kilter. He also becomes the first one to say that he will love her and make her happy until his last breath. And by repeating what he said, Eda says her ‘I love you’ for the first time in more than six months.
This scene brought a lurking thought to the surface for me. Most of the romance books or stories portray a similar journey in the couple, where the man walks a longer path of change to meet the woman somewhere towards the middle. He professes his love more eloquently and expresses his emotions more profusely, and be it through shyness or social conditioning, the women remain far more repressive in their expressions.
In a show such as Sen Cal Kapimi, where we see liberated, modern women, perhaps it is an opportunity to change the narrative and show the women to be self-assured and courageous enough to express themselves verbally, and let the man feel just as loved as the woman herself expects to be. Have her express actions and emotions that go beyond being the first to say the words “will you marry me”, lacking any of the romanticism layered into the man's proposal. Maybe have her try to steal into his home in the middle of the night because she cannot be away. Have her be the one waiting for a kiss while he is busy and in the middle of chores or be the one willing to take on life’s tests to win his favor. By feeding the narrative that men are the only ones who need to woo a woman, we sometimes strip women of the power of truly rising up to being an equal partner.
In modern tales that are trying to break the gender stereotypes, it might be enlightening to see the girl portray a multi-dimensional approach to how she builds her life and love.
As you can imagine, I am poking a little fun at the following exchange where the lovelorn Serkan ends up at Eda’s door and looks like he has struck gold with the quick peck he receives as his consolation prize for being shooed away by his oh-so-busy betrothed. It is cute that he teases her about the mahalle like she had mentioned earlier, but my underlying point is the same – it would be illuminating to see both the boy and the girl miss each other equally.
UNITED WE STAND
The layers in this week’s installment are not profound. Serkan and Eda make a united decision to be together, come what may. When Babanne fails in her strategy to influence the two mother figures to believe that the children uniting will bring disaster to both families, she seems to take the tact of frustrating Serkan into submission by putting a mountain of unnecessary requirements he must fulfill in order to claim Eda. She wants to make it obvious that Eda comes from a set of cultural customs that are different from his, and Serkan has to adapt in order to fit in. Both of these tracks lead to some great comic moments. My favorite has to be Serkan’s grandpa underwear, where Ayfer and Babanne merely manages to undermine themselves whereas the gifts Aydan sends are far more tasteful.
Thanks to Alex’s sermons and rubbish Turkish, the two cougars not only agree to the children’s wedding, but also draw their claws on the night of their engagement when there is a mistaken notion that Alex asks for Ayfer’s hand in marriage. This entire skit seemed to have a number of improv performances by several of the actors. Neslihan/ Aydan’s “What?!” is so spontaneous and affected, I felt it wasn’t scripted.
In a number of the subsequent moments, in their smirks and laughter, I felt Kerem, Melisa, Sitare and Cagri gave themselves away as well, but the best was how the team waited to clown the fandom by taking a selfie that had been released earlier in the week as a mirror image to what we saw during the episode. The whole fandom had been up in arms about how #HanKer has been lying about “ask yok” when, in fact, they were still in character in the photo. Good one!
This interactive relationship between the production and the fandom seems quite unlike what we had come to enjoy with Ayse’s storytelling, where in the earlier episodes every touchpoint seemed intentional in how the characters unfold.
Now the show has the feel of a sitcom performing in front of a live audience rather than a dramedy and, if this style persists, I can see how that can begin to draw in more people to watch. One will not need to invest heavily in the story but the characters will be consistent enough that the comic skits will make sense to anyone dropping in on the show in a given week.
Thus, the show and the fandom can truly support each other in how long the series continues.
There are some rumors about the direction of the show changing from Episode 29, when a scriptwriter behind Istanbullu Gelin will join the team (Neslihan was part of that cast as well), but I will keep that for another day.
CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG?
The overarching theme of the episode is ‘learning to get along’ as Serkan and Eda try hard for their families to meet in the middle regarding their desired wedding and Engin jumps through hoops to be accepted by Piril’s father. Anil Ilter is simply fantastic as the comic relief as he runs through the woods, allows himself to be tied upside down, gets shot at with paintballs and eventually makes his victorious way back to his beloved, only to face plant on the floor in front of a room full of people. His physical comedy and well-timed delivery of his dialogue had me laughing out loud, including his sheepishness when Erdem, of all people, reminds him that he got an upside down view of the world thanks to the depth of his love.
The fact that several of the themes are shown through light-hearted skits is a refreshing change of pace. I am again reminded of the symbiotic relationship between the producers and their consumers. Just a couple of weeks ago, tensions were high and hurled remarks were so distasteful that one of the episodes had to be removed from YouTube. To be able to bring the storytelling to where the fandom can reunite in cheer and laughter, showcases a mutual respect between the two factions where the producers made an effort to listen to the fans’ desires, and the fans make room as the producers shift gears midway during a race.
The end result is a win-win for both.
Even if the promise of the story we fell in love with changed its destination from what we had imagined, much like life, we are willing to enjoy the journey even if the scenery is not quite what we had expected.
It is endearing to watch each of the characters begin to find their pair. With Serkan and Eda leading the pack, we have Engin and Piril, Ferit and Ceren. We also have the quirky Erdem stalking the quirky Fifi, who will probably eventually give in because who else will love her prickliness in the blind way Erdem adores her? And now we have a hint of something brewing between Melo and Tahir. In this pairing, I cannot help but see the pattern in the romance genre of how there is a ‘class system’ in the chosen pairings.
Serkan is at the top of the totem pole and he gets Eda, the queen bee of her little coterie. Engin and Piril are peers and well matched. Ferit and Ceren are social peers through their upper class family status.
Melo is shown as such a beautiful human being, with such great faith in love, that I find it to be a disservice that her chosen pair is Babanne’s chauffeur. The choice to keep her as the distant second fiddle to Eda, even though they are best friends, doesn’t sit well with me. Melo also deserves her Prince Charming and I think it powerful to show someone of Ferit and Serkan’s social status find his love in her. Not a Kaan looking to exploit her, but another Serkan who is accomplished and understands the value of who she is.
These subliminal conditioning of what kinds of girls deserve what kinds of men have a lot of room for improvement, and I look forward to the day when some of these seemingly cliched stories begin to take some unconventional risks in how the tales are told.
THE FOREHEAD KISS OF DEATH
At the end of Episode 3, I had posted this on my twitter account:
I was making fun of the skit where Eda asks Serkan to kiss her on her forehead when the crowd is demanding for them to kiss. And, of course, they eventually kiss during their fake engagement.
Here they are getting engaged for real, and what does lover boy Serkan do? He kisses her on the forehead.
For a couple who have a sexual and sensual relationship, one assumes this is only for the benefit of Babanne, as everyone else has seen them kissing. I take that back - if Babanne follows the news, she also saw them kissing. So, why the sudden reversion to conventional behavior? Probably, this is the production bowing to the TV Gods for the night, knowing they are about to break the Internet with the trailer they will release later in the evening.
I made a comment on my twitter account this week that how the entirely bizarre character that is Balca reminds me of the modern slang of ‘lipstick on a pig’.
In this episode, her styling has been changed to give a sleeker hairstyle and bright red lipstick on her full lips. I do NOT think the actress looks like a pig and as a Muslim I am very sensitive to using such a slur on a fellow Muslim, but the definition of the phrase fits her character to a t.
"lipstick on a pig" means making superficial or cosmetic changes to a product in a futile effort to disguise its fundamental failings - Wikipedia
Unfortunately, that is how her character is being treated by the script and the stylists. And if her styling wasn’t bad enough, the actor is trying too hard to fit the bill of a deranged character and affects a tone of voice that really makes me wonder why she hasn’t been committed already.
Her delusions aside, a point I wanted to make is that I don’t think Eda’s kidnapping is done in cahoots with Babanne, Balca and Seymen. Babanne seems to be really enjoying making things difficult for Serkan and Aydan, and her character has been folded into the comedic style of the rest of the script. She seems genuinely knocked out after her drink, just like the rest of the group. Only Balca doesn’t fall asleep because she never drank the serbet and she looks bewildered when everyone is falling asleep one by one, as though trying to stock of what’s going on. When she hears footsteps, she pretends to be sleeping, and will be the only one to know what happened to Eda.
Given that the trailer shows Eda being back and in the midst of all the drama again, I can only hope that Balca redeems herself a little by helping Serkan and his merry men be the knights in shining armor in rescuing Eda from the thugs. Maybe during this exchange, Balca learns that the Prince’s name is Seymen Bedouin and that she’s been chasing the wrong S.B. all along. And Seymen also realizes that he doesn’t wish to repeat the mistake of marrying the same woman twice and sees Balca as the angel he has always been waiting for. Two crays with one stone can be gone for good!
[I surprise myself with the imagination I can have when it comes to getting rid of Balca!!]
Over the last several episodes, the story has become less about the meaningful relationship I had hoped for Serkan and Eda, and more about watching how a story can move forward with dynamic characters. Part of why I have abandoned my initial aspirations is because Eda simply did not evolve in a way I had hoped, and with each passing episode I find less I can admire about her. Setting aside the expectation of an incredible female role model is the better decision in enjoying the journey to a different destination than what I had imagined, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I still enjoy watching the camaraderie on and off screen, and having a weekly sojourn to laugh over with friends is a beautiful thing.
Till we meet again.
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