[These reviews were originally published on Cagatay Ulusoy North America website as the show aired in 2021, but I'm also posting copies here for my records. Maybe my readers will someday enjoy finding this show, which is one of the most intelligent Turkish series I have watched]
This episode, with the title meaning Small, Big Wounds, is an expose of the fractures in our relationships, whether we are aware of them or not. Yesilcam invites the creation of fake relationships, whether it is for survival or for the socially upwardly mobile, and lays bare the ways bonds of the heart get tested. We get more insight into the bond Semih had with his Uncle Costa, what he shares with Mine, what Mine pursues, and how Tulin thinks she is pursuing her love. Reciprocity seems elusive in Yesilcam, as people chase their vested interests, be it in politics, sexual pursuits, chosen dreams or broken dreams, and a path to happiness.
A River Runs Through It
We start the episode with the revelation that Semih saved Uncle Costa’s life as opposed to the insinuation thus far that he was responsible for his death. In order to protect Uncle Costa, Semih possibly beats a looter to death, and then carries Uncle Costa all the way to the hospital. An incredibly picturesque but heart-wrenching scene demands the title for this section.
War and political tensions benefit a few but adversely affect the masses who had no problems getting along with each other despite differences. The Istanbul Pogrom of 1955, where Turks of Greek descent were persecuted, was politically motivated and was a result of staged events designed to incite such local violence. It was a redirection from deeper economic issues the government should have had better answers for. As Semih carries Costa through the pillaged streets, we see a symbolic red fabric on which he walks. As though it is an artistic portrayal of the river of blood that would have flowed through the streets, while the common folk stood by the sidelines, looking dazed and confused with the aftermath instigated by their fellow countrymen. Paraphrased from Frank Gifford’s words, “in war, there are no winners, only survivors.”
Carry on, Mandrake
Uncle Costa’s wounds are too lethal for a crowded hospital to help him, but he gives Semih the gift of cinema with his dying breath. Not only did this kindly projectionist instill a love for cinema in Semih, he also hands over his life’s savings to Semih so that he can continue to tell stories, as “Mandrake must live on.” Mandrake, a comic superhero character from the 1930s, was the king of illusions in overcoming his enemies, and his reappearance in various ways in the series showcase the personalities in Yesilcam who are the true magicians.
So far, the honor has been bestowed upon Uncle Costa, who introduced Semih to Mandrake, and then Semih, who has Mandrake’s poster in his office, has his own top hat, and has his colleagues marvel at the ways he pulls rabbits out of his hat in his bid to thrive in Yesilcam. The third character to pay homage to Mandrake is Tulin, when she shows up to Semih’s office and dresses up as a magician while waiting for Semih to come back. Subliminally, all three characters seem to be some of the most authentic personalities in Yesilcam, and it is once again a clever choice by the scriptwriters to artfully connect them to this mythical superhero.
Smoke & Mirrors
While creating ‘illusions’ is the name of the game, we see this in varying degrees across all the characters. We have Semih feeling gratitude about the wealth he received from Uncle Costa but also shame for the secrets he needs to keep hidden. We have Izzet terrorizing Hakan but pretending to be his benefactor by visiting him in the hospital. We have Reha creating problems for Semih’s movie at the censor board, but pretending to be his savior and creating the opportunity to send Semih to Adana.
We have Mine back with Semih, adding fuel to his flames of love for her, but lying to Reha until she realizes that his protection over her may be in jeopardy. We have Aysel selling herself to Izzet with the hopes of a secure future, even though her affections lie with Hakan and she knows Izzet may be responsible for Hakan’s beating. We have Tulin who is under the illusion that one needs to stay away from love but who gets swayed by Belkis to find the courage to reach for Semih. And with each illusion, the dice gets thrown on choices each character is forced to make, leading their paths to converge with or diverge away from each other. Yesilcam is anything but authentic, and survival in this world is tested constantly. There are two sides to a coin and everyone wins some and loses some as well.
Levent Cantek had mentioned Yilmaz Guney as an inspiration for their story in Yesilcam. Yilmaz was a film director, screenwriter, novelist, and actor, who hailed from Adana. Many of his projects amplified the needs of the ordinary, working class people, and often ran afoul with the reigning government. It is fitting in this episode that Yilmaz comes and congratulates Semih on his new movie, and encourages him to tell stories that are not always about money. Where the message is important. Viewers who may not have known about Yilmaz Guney might have missed the reference, but Yilmaz is shown to be an authentic filmmaker with a conscience. A man who does not have the time for sleazy characters such as the photographer Faik, but who kindheartedly invites Semih to another session together at a later time.
It is a beautiful thing when men of honor find and support each other. Maybe the series will show more of such interactions, through real life and fictional characters from Yesilcam. Will Lutfi Akad also make an appearance?
A Lasting Love Story
Mine has resumed a surreptitious love affair with Semih, who seems to want nothing more than having her back in his life. She remains aloof in public, and eventually tells him that even though she loves him, sometimes love is not enough. She is convinced that she will lose again if they try to get back together.
In love, what is loss? If it is unmet expectations, was it love in the first place? On the one hand, Mine says that she loves how Semih looks at her, how he cherishes her, but on the other she has taken his string of failures as a sure sign that he cannot provide for her – in the way she wishes to live. Her ‘survival’ has standards and the love from a passionate but unsuccessful man is not the answer she wants. Leaving Semih broken hearted, Mine leaves his hand yet again. She is driven by an ambition and cannot fully appreciate the strength behind the words Belkis says to Tulin. Which is, “There are men who are not afraid of brave women who can say whatever they want…they would be happy to find someone they could share with. If you find such a man, never let him go.” Mine makes a conscious choice to leave a man who treasured her essence, and instead traded him for a man who treats her like a property. We all become the victims of our own choices.
It is painful to watch Semih’s pain. As mentioned in the reviews for Episodes 3 & 4, both Mine and his mother rejected Semih because he appears to be an obstacle in the kinds of life they wish to live and the power they wish to possess. We are yet to see much of Tulin and Semih’s interactions but as Semih comes closer to discovering the truth about Mine’s life with Reha, one hopes that Semih finds in Tulin a capable woman who will value him for his essence. Who will be willing to stand next to him, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. And that Semih also learns that sometimes it is better to settle for simple truths than for more passionate lies.
We end the episode on Aysel lying limp behind the steering wheel of a crashed car. Izzet had harshly rejected her after finding her next to Hakan and asked her to leave his life because he was bored with her. We will need to wait until next episode to understand whether it was suicide, murder or a genuine accident. North America TEN’s recent interviews with the scriptwriters Levent Cantek and Volkan Sumbul help greatly to have a deeper appreciation for the various layers they have consciously woven into the narrative. All the characters and their plots are well thought out, and Cagan Irmak’s execution is truly perfect. Set design and costumes certainly capture the spirit of the time, but the tight framing and close ups also make it a visual story where the attention does not get diverted by a world greater than the struggles and challenges of thriving and surviving in Yesilcam. We eagerly await this week’s installment!
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