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"Masumlar Apartmanı": Episode 1 Review


Let me begin with a cheery round of applause. This is an intelligently written and brilliantly executed production. 

Based on Dr. Gulberen Budayicioglu’s novel, The Inside of the Coin, Masumlar Apartmani tells the story of Han (Birkan Sokullu), his three sisters, Safiye, Gulben and Neriman, and their diabetic father.

On one fateful night, Han gets into a car accident, swerving to avoid hitting Inci (Farah Zeynep Abdullah). Inci accompanies Han to the hospital, and stays with him during the night to ensure that he has no complications resulting from his concussion.

In the short time they spend together, Han, who has thus far been focused only on providing for and managing the health of his family, begins to yearn for Inci, the ‘angel’ beside him. She, too, despite having just broken up with her boyfriend, and hopeful fiancee, admires Han.

An encounter that changed everything

Although they part ways the following morning, they meet again, at the entrance to the apartment building that Han’s family owns, where Inci has just been refused her lease by Safiye. Han arrives moments after Inci’s grandfather has threatened to call the police. 

There are so many powerful scenes in this first episode. Fans of Dogdugun Ev Kaderinder and Calikusu will enjoy this dizi. It is hauntingly powerful in its portrayal of the fine line between sanity and insanity, and the sacrifices one makes for the family.  

Birkan Sokullu as Han

Han is determined to protect his youngest sister, Neriman, from the influence of Safiye and Gulben. He also wishes to ensure that his father’s health is properly managed. Ashamed of his family's circumstances, he refuses to reveal any details about his home to anyone, not even to his closest friend, former roommate, and coworker. 

So, what is Han hiding? What happens in his home that he cannot discuss? To put it lightly, Safiye ‘happens’ in his home. Raised by her very strict mother, Safiye has adopted all of her late mother’s habits. Chief among them, she is compulsively obsessed with cleanliness. She must wash the dirt off of produce precisely 4 times, she must scrub her skin until it is raw and red, and she must ‘clean’ Gulben’s soiled bed linens. 

Ezgi Mola as Safiye

Throwing the soiled linens away will not work because a curious onlooker may witness their 'shame'. So, dressed in protective armor, she enters another suite in the apartment building, where she ‘disposes of’ the neatly tied garbage bag. 

It is painful to see the struggles she undertakes to hide this 'filth'. She believes that she is protecting her sister, no matter the stench and the frequent complaints from other tenants. She is firm in her belief that there is no way to ‘clean’ soiled linens; they must simply be removed. This was one of the most powerful scenes in this episode. 

Reminiscent of Franz Sedlacek’s Ghosts in the Tree. 

Of course, Safiye is not acting alone in her ‘cleaning brigade’. She has enlisted Gulben to help her. Just as her late mother trained her, Safiye believes that she is duty-bound to help Gulben ‘clean’ and ‘be clean’. So, Gulben obediently does as she is told.

Nevermind, the toll this has taken on her. It was heartbreaking to watch Gulben’s tears flow as she overhears her father advising Neriman to leave this ‘mental hospital’ and save herself. If only Gulben could be ‘saved’ as well.

Their father’s advice, it turns out, was well-founded. Neriman, who suffers from asthma, has an attack, brought on by the powerful chemicals in Safiye’s cleaning products. Fresh air, as Safiye explains, will only bring dust and dirt into the apartment, so she prohibits Neriman from opening the windows. Luckily, Neriman receives her inhaler in time and is able to breathe again.

On the other hand, we have Inci. She lives with her grandfather and younger brother. Farah does an exceptional job translating Inci’s warmth on-screen. 

Accepting fault for the car accident, she is determined to do right by Han and waits with him as he is treated for his injuries. It is in these small moments in the hospital room, where Inci is buzzing around Han, arranging his pillows, removing his shoes, and unbuttoning his shirt that Han notices her - I mean, really notices her. 

The chemistry between the leads is fantastic. All of these scenes were truly heartwarming. I cannot say enough positive things about the simplicity and elegance of their interactions. 

Inci and Han

However, after Han is released from the hospital the next morning, they part ways by exchanging a simple handshake. There is so much left unsaid between the two, but Han for his part knows that he has nothing to offer to her, except for life in a ‘mental hospital’. So, our burgeoning duo goes their separate ways. 

Luckily, fate’s hands are not quite as hesitant as Han’s, and these two do meet again, albeit in very different circumstances. 

However, prior to their second meeting, Han returns to the apartment building, entering into a new suite. This room is seemingly empty, safe for a wardrobe filled with crisp white shirts, and a pair of dirty sneakers. As the camera leaves Han, we see the horse, rocking slowly in the shadows.

The haunting musical score suggests that perhaps, Han is not as ‘normal’ as we thought. Does he manifest his mother's habits in subtle ways too? The elegance and suspense in this scene were captivating. 


As we near the end of this episode, in the penultimate scene, Han returns home to save Neriman from the ‘punishment’ that Safiye has imposed upon her, after seeing a ‘love’ note in her backpack. Han threatens to throw Safiye’s clothes (their late mother’s clothes) out, if she does not give him the key to unlock Neriman’s door. Safiye protests, but eventually does allow Han to rescue Neriman. 


This dizi reminded me of why I was initially drawn to Turkish content. There is an old fashioned, theatre charm to the story. It almost feels like a play, where the audience is watching one act after the next, awaiting the journey that these characters will embark upon. An insightful and thought-provoking tale of family, love, and illness, this drama has my strongest recommendation.  


Last Updated: Sep 18, 2020 05:00 am (UTC) Filed Under:
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