With Sen Cal Kapimi, I am back to being with my twitter posse since the conclusion of Her Yerde Sen in November. There is something beautiful about bonding over romance and laughter, with friends from all over the world, especially at an unprecedented time in human history when finding joy has become a challenge.
I have been in love with Ayse Uner Kutlu’s style of writing since I watched the first episode of Erkenci Kus, which was her first major writing credit after a brief stint with Donme Dolap in 2004. She weaves her characters with a perceptive grace that feels as though the characters can whisper into our ears late into the night, becoming a part of our consciousness, as that is how real they seem. Her stories are like the marriage between Cupid and Psyche in Greek mythology, that gave birth to Voluptas, the Goddess of Bliss. And our experience with her stories is nothing short of blissful.
Ayse’s characters are dynamic that morph as the story progresses, and they do so in relation to the changing circumstances and to the rest of the characters in the ensemble. There is a natural pace to the characters’ emotional growth, punctuated by understated humor and sense tickling passion. In the creation of Serkan and Eda, Ayse is at her best in showcasing two individuals who are complementary equals in so many ways.
Both the characters have internally consistent layers, that give depth to their history and believably creates their personas in the present. Within the bright, lively, stern, rigid characteristics of their personas, there lies vulnerabilities and life wounds that the characters have learnt to cope with and thrive beyond. This consistency of building the characters a little at time, with relevant and important details unveiled as the show progresses, draws the audience into the fictional world as though we are reading a well-crafted book that is rife with intrigue and intricacies that persist till the end.
SERKAN: A MAN OF CONTRADICTIONS
Serkan Bolat is a workaholic, a strict but fair man. He guards his personal space with an iron fist, and we are given brief insights into surmising why. There is unknown tragedy in his family’s past, which leads to an eccentric mother and a father who wants to mold Serkan to his vision of an ideal son. Alptekin Bolat has built his empire and wants his son to take the reins. He wants his son to settle down with Selin, his business partner’s daughter and Serkan’s ex-girlfriend, so that the empire continues as it should.
Alptekin is the sole judge, jury and executioner of the boxed life he wants for Serkan to live, disregarding the need for Serkan’s own artistic expression as an exceptional, award-winning professional architect. As a result, Serkan straddles the fine line of being a son to his parents and fighting to establish his own identity. He carries the burden of never seeing failure as an option, as any loss seems an imminent danger to losing himself.
When Serkan meets the feisty Eda, he sees a kindred spirit who wishes to live her life on her own terms, but she does it with an open passion he doesn’t feel he can afford to have. She is direct, intelligent, talented, compassionate, as much of a perfectionist as himself, but still approaches life with a gracious humor that Serkan lacks in his life. She challenges him without remorse or fear, which opens doors within himself that he didn’t know he had.
Knowing that they will definitely part ways in two months’ time, it makes him nervous how quickly Eda has managed to integrate herself into his psyche, and how much she can impact his sense of being. On the one hand, he wishes to protect himself, but on the other her personality finally gives him air he can breathe that makes him feel alive. We see this repeatedly in the ways she makes him smile in spite of himself, as he gives into her demands and needs. He is finally with someone who sees and understands his soul, who is unafraid to be his equal rather than be an obedient puppet, and who does not feel a sense of shame in accepting responsibility for her mistakes.
For a man like Serkan, who harbors a deeply introspective intellectual mind behind his rigid exterior, to find someone who has a natural curiosity about life is as rare as astronomical events that can only happen once every few thousand or few million years. The scientist in him is well-aware of the rare probability of finding someone like Eda but survival instincts restrain him from giving into his passions. As such, he takes refuge in the ‘rules of the game’ and the ‘contract’ whenever things begin to feel too real.
EDA: A KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLORS
Eda Yildiz is no stranger to loss but she has an inner grit that pushes her to reach for the stars with no holds barred. She is determined to complete her education and become a top-notch landscape architect, and she wants to do it on her own merit, without being beholden to her Mardin based, yet unseen, wealthy grandmother. Losing her scholarship from Serkan’s company halts her education in the last year, and she makes Serkan the figurehead obstacle between her present and the future she wants.
When Eda sees him in person for the first time, her initial reaction of “he’s even more handsome in person” gives away her fascination with the man. She is angry at her impression of him but as she begins to discover his personality, she feels an invisible pull towards him. Due to the string of events put into motion by her ever impulsive choice to handcuff herself to him, she’s now living a fake engagement with Serkan so that it eventually pushes Selin to part ways with her fiancé, Ferit, a man Serkan does not trust.
Being much younger than him in years, knowledge and in experience doesn’t make Eda feel any less of a person, as she stands up to him again and again to state the obvious or the imperceptible. She is not cowered by his abrasive personality, having experienced his kindness and compassion when he feels his mask is not required. She has a healthy respect for his professional prowess even though she is unimpressed with the lack of his social graces. She understands that she has an impact on him and, on the one hand, she wants to move on with her life once this charade is over, while on the other, she derives great pleasure from provoking a response from him.
Her impetuous choices keep getting them into precarious situations, which also create occasion for them to draw closer together through various enchanting circumstances that are filled with a bubbling sexual tension and a natural humor, captured magnificently by Kerem Bursin as Serkan and Hande Ercel as Eda.
Eda is aware that Selin is jealous of her. More than Eda herself, Selin is affected by Serkan’s natural reactions to Eda, which are not all an act. Whenever Selin chooses the path of playing a passive aggressive game to keep Eda in her place, Eda reacts by feigning closeness to Serkan that a betrothed couple in love would be expected to have. Somewhere along the way, this line of playing a game becomes blurry and we already begin to see that.
SWIMMING POOL: REVELATIONS
In Episode 4, all the skits are very funny, made more so by Serkan’s growing closeness with Eda as they find friendly rapport in how they exchange ideas. Under the guise of enforcing another inane clause in the contract, Serkan forces Eda to take up swimming. Eda loves to annoy Serkan and wants for him to be less of a workaholic. She pretends to not know how to swim, thinking he will take time to teach her. She invests in a provocative swimsuit but when she discovers that Serkan has hired an instructor instead, she does her best to provoke Serkan by being coy and flirtatious with the instructor. Kerem’s Serkan’s reaction to the whole scenario is hilarious, possessive and mixes maturity with a boyish charm that is nothing short of fantastic. Credit to the owner on twitter who created this clip:
We see them in the pool again, when Serkan jumps in to save Eda, thinking she’s about to drown. Someone who does not take a single step without assessing its merits, Serkan has been reduced to just as much of a spontaneous imp as Eda, and her glee is so evident on her face when he realizes his folly. In the many ways Eda plows through Serkan’s defenses, their growing feelings for each other is as natural as it is dangerous within the game they have chosen to play.
SELIN: THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
Later in the day, while he asks Eda about what she finds attractive in a man that leads to another well-enacted skit, he is also glib about Selin certainly leaving Ferit as a result of the game they are playing.
Selin seems ever present in their dialogue, almost as the invisible reminder for both as to why neither can cross the lines they have established: he cannot touch her physically without her permission and she cannot touch his soul.
And Selin is also used as the plot device that shape the trajectory of their relationship. Serkan wants Selin to break up with Ferit, and enacts the contract; Eda wants Selin to be jealous and lies about living together with Serkan; Eda wants to provoke Selin further and lies about redecorating Serkan’s home. With each such plot device, we see Eda and Serkan get closer together and Selin become more unbridled about inserting herself into their spheres.
Even though it would be easy to vilify Selin, Ayse’s magic is to create a character who is vulnerable within her limitations. Growing up within the family expectations that Selin will marry Serkan, she shaped herself as someone whose job is to please Serkan. This choice cost her dearly as Serkan wants a partner and not a puppet. In the present, as Selin sees the breadth of emotions on Serkan’s face when he is with Eda, she is devastated that she had failed to garner the same. Within these disappointments, her actions are understandable.
Just as Serkan does not trust Ferit, Selin does not trust Eda and feels that there is something amiss in the relationship. Perhaps she had hoped that Serkan loved her enough to demand her to come back once she got engaged with Ferit. Instead, with his engagement to Eda and his obvious rapport with her, there is salt added to Selin’s wound. This story arc will fester for some time until Selin recognizes and appreciates the love Ferit has for her.
New take on old tales
The rich boy-poor girl romance trope is overdone and, in Turkish fare, having meddling adults or relatives shoving the main pair together while their relationship is shrouded in lies is also overdone. Within these two tropes, Sen Cal Kapimi/ Ayse take a refreshing detour. Eda is not really poor; she has chosen to turn away from her inheritance. Drama remains to unfold within her Mardin connection, and it will be interesting to see how Ayse entwines that plot into the blossoming relationship between the main pair.
Serkan and Eda are both confident, self-assured individuals who made the decision to couple on their own terms. Instead of meddling characters suffocating their relationship, they are the ones creating disorder in their loved one’s lives. They are living a lie but there are no lies between them and key people are aware of the situation.
Women of Strength
All the women in the show are well-defined, strong characters and each represent a different personality archetype. We have Ayfer and Melo as the Champions, Ceren the Supervisor, Fifi the Mastermind, Piril the Architect, Selin the Inspector, Aydan the Protector, Leila the Crafter, and Eda who is a unique mix of characteristics that is not easy to capture within one archetype.
All of them possess a strain of self-determinism and assertiveness in how they live their lives and it is done beautifully without creating extreme characteristics to make points about feminism, which is often done to illustrate gender inequalities. We have women who are equal business partners and capable professionals, and we have women who have chosen artistic and mild professions such as being a florist. Neither is depicted as being more inferior than the other, which creates an aura of women being comfortable in who they are and choosing their place in life.
The engagement party shows a dramatized version of social disparity rooted in one’s identity as defined by their materialistic accoutrements, calling attention to the foolishness of such vapid notions. By focusing on Eda’s sense of self, coupled with Serkan’s sensitivity to her needs, there is an important message to be learned. It is not one’s worldly wealth and degrees that make the person, but their inner qualities and strengths. Ones who are astute enough to appreciate these qualities will have a far richer life. Eda, as the simple florist, stood taller than any of the other fashionably clad women.
Burdens of the past
Both Serkan and Eda are running from their past in some way even though we do not know the full details yet. Familial expectations often harm the children in irreversible ways. Alptekin Bolat is using his financial muscle and power to sabotage the choices Serkan has made. Either to get him into the holding or to provoke him with Selin and Ferit, it is insensitive of him to create scenarios that add stress to his child’s life.
For inexplicable reasons, Eda has a similarly contentious relationship with her grandmother.
Both create situations where the child is cornered into fighting to make life choices that allow them to thrive in spite of the shackles put on them. The elders using money and power as ways to control the next generation is a cross-cultural phenomenon. Illustrating assertive ways for the children to side-step such pressures is well done by Ayse, through Eda and Serkan. One doesn’t have to lose themselves completely to live a life of their choice.
WHERE WILL WE GO?
We are only into the fourth episode and I could have written a few more chapters on themes and arcs that are memorable and well-done. There is an intelligence to the show, characters and the production value that will endure over time. Ayse seems more confident and assured in how she is building her story, and her Eda has so much potential in her to unfold a narrative that is rich in exploring family dynamics and character growth. Serkan’s slow peeling of his layers of coping mechanisms to reveal the real man underneath also has so much potential, especially with Eda being the key to unlock the mystery puzzle.
Ayse makes us believe that passion lies within daily connections, in the mundane, in a glance, in a soft touch, in the obvious. Paolo Coelho said in his book The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” With every reel in the show, watching Serkan and Eda's story leaves me with this overwhelming feeling that I am witnessing the unfolding of such a conspiratorial universe.
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* To rewatch your favorite Sen cal Kapimi scenes or skim the series, check out this episode guide on Ginger Monette's blog