Look. I'm not about to tell you this book has a tragic ending. I already said in the very first line how it was my favourite in all the world. But there's a lot of bad stuff coming. William Goldman - The Princess Bride
Change in Storytelling
Okay, so listen, I think of myself as a relatively positive person and I have actively tried to be fair and balanced in these reviews. Sure I have my biases, but overall I try and see where the story is going and take the good with the bad.
I cannot do that for episode 25.
So, I am going to take this one review to be as negative as I want and next week I will try my very best to be back to being positive and trying to see all the aspects of what shapes the show. Having said that not everything I have to say is negative, there are some aspects of the narrative that I appreciated but unfortunately, they are strongly out weighted by the frustration I feel at the plot devices being used to keep Eda and Serkan apart.
Two parts of me are at war, the heart and the head. The heart part that says Sen Çal Kapimi is a love story and the head part that says it’s a television series. These two things are not necessarily compatible. One wants the most beautiful story to continue and make sense and keep our characters true to one another. The other part recognizes that it is a show that must continue and so history says that the lovers can’t be together yet. It’s why some people will have stopped watching SCK by now and others are happy with the show until the bitter end. Just because I understand the mechanisms and necessity of the plot devices used in Turkish television writing doesn’t mean I won’t mourn the loss of the integrity of this story.
I understand the intent of using the new characters, they are there to create drama and conflict and keep the lovers apart. I have watched a lot of television, Turkish and otherwise, and know this well. However, what the new writers have introduced, embodied by Balca, Semiha and Seymen, is too ridiculous to be acceptable. What we as the SCK audience expect is something more logical, more inventive, or more realistic, or at least one of those things. We are instead expected to swallow two dimensional, unbelievable and/or laughable new villains. Balca is a joke, Babanne’s reason for going after Serkan only vaguely makes sense, and don’t even get me started on the Prince.
The other aspect that is frustrating viewers is the lack of movement in the love story between Eda and Serkan. You lose the audience when things are drawn out for too long. If you introduce increasingly ridiculous plots or characters (or in this case both), or the characters are increasingly miserable, the audience doesn’t want to watch anymore. There is in Hollywood a premise called the “Moonlighting Curse”. The thinking is that once the romantic characters are finally together, the audience loses interest in them. Turk dizi strictly adheres to this premise. There hasn’t been one Turkish romcom that I have watched that hasn’t suffered from this idea, so many of them have had rushed reconciliations just as the show ends because the shows get canceled and they have to quickly get the main characters back together, heck Kiralik Ask and Erkenci Kus had to do this after 69 and 51 episodes respectively, after multiple break-ups.
This isn’t good storytelling, this is letting all the outside forces and preconceived notions of what will make good ratings dictate the pace and direction of the story. And maybe that ultimately is why this happens repeatedly, the Forces that Be have always done it this way so that’s how it is always going to be done, but for viewers it is maddening. And who is to say that the audience would be bored with a couple that is together and happy? We never get to see it for very long so there isn’t any concrete data that shows that is true.
The message coming out of the production company wasn’t very helpful, producer Asena Bülbüloglu tweeted that we have to be patient. Well, no we don’t, it’s been 11 episodes of separation and we are getting tired of it. I frankly find this attitude patronizing but it speaks to the production's knowledge that the audience is becoming increasingly restless and unhappy with the story pace. For some, this is fine, they are happy to go on whatever journey the writers cook up because they know at the end that the lovers will be back together. I get it, it’s a rom-com, the lovers will be reunited. However, for those of us who came to the story because of the writing it is very difficult to be so zen about the inane direction the show is currently taking. It’s like queuing up to watch Pride & Prejudice and getting Pride & Prejudice and Zombies instead. Both have their merits but they are not the same kind of story. And maybe there is no changing it as long as Turkish television format is the way that it is without seasons or delineated series lengths.
What I liked and disliked (I’m lumping it all together)
The three new characters, Balca, Babanne and the Prince Seymen are each insane in their own way and two dimensional in their deluded and vengeful way. Was it necessary to introduce three characters to be an impediment to Serkan and Eda? Couldn’t you have come up with just one character who had a logical reason to try and break them up? None of what the three of them bring to the story makes any sense whatsoever, except for Babanne and even then her reason for going after Serkan is a little thin. Balca thinks Serkan is her soulmate because of astrology and fails to see that he has shown zero interest in her. Babanne has come to break them up because the whole Bolat family has to bear the burden for Alptekin’s crime. And I’m sorry, with all her power and connections she never found out it was Alptekin who was responsible after all these years? And now the Dubai prince who wants Eda because she looks like his dead wife?? It’s too much ridiculousness for one show at one time.
I think we can see that the new writers are struggling with how to proceed with the plot by the fact that the secondary characters had the bulk of the screen time. Never before has there been less time spend with Serkan and Eda. I think the screen time where Eda and Serkan were together was less than was spent on Ayfer’s scenes or Eda with grandma. Piril’s father is being introduced, Melo got a haircut, Engin and Piril had some of the team to their home, we have never had to suffer through so many side character scenes before.
Serkan goes to jail and then is out the same night and it’s all a misunderstanding manufactured by Babanne to show Eda how powerful she is and what will happen to Serkan if Ed defies her. Unlike our previous villains, she is a force to be reckoned with and does provide some actual conflict for Serkan and Eda. Eda is scared of her grandmother after witnessing both the lengths to which she will go to ruin Serkan and her ability to create circumstances that jeopardize Serkan’s life, livelihood, and reputation. She is actually a threat and Eda realizes this, which causes her to bend to her grandmother’s will and break up with Serkan. I am holding out hope that Eda and Serkan are actually working together to take down Babanne, and we will see flashbacks of them conspiring in the next few episodes or so. Otherwise, it looks like Eda is trying that on her own.
Ayfer spends the whole episode freaking out about Chef Alexander and ignores her niece whose life is falling apart. While I appreciate that she is getting some storyline of her own, the timing for this is questionable. She has practically no interactions with Eda this episode and doesn’t seem to have any idea of what her mother is putting Eda through. Ayfer should know her mother better than anyone and be on red alert about her intentions in being in town and having Eda work for her, but she doesn’t seem to give it much thought and it makes her seem shallow and selfish. I’m not saying she can’t have her own life and a romance if she wants, but check in with Eda maybe and see if she’s okay. She also has her head in the sand about how much Eda loves Serkan.
Ayfer and Aydan are fighting (physically next week) over Chef Alexander. This is after weeks of episodes of Ayfer telling the kizlar that you don’t need a man to be happy. And what is up with Alexander after inviting both women to dinner? This is just filler mess and counter to what we have seen of both women previous. Aydan doesn’t even see Serkan for most of this episode, you know, the son that just went to jail. I did like that both she and Seyfi have Balca’s number and won’t stand for her trying to get in between Serkan and Eda.
Balca is still delusional and I just can’t spend any more brain power on how ridiculous she is in pursuing Serkan. Yeter. Prince Seymen is in Istanbul to build a new house but also at the end of the episode it is revealed that Eda looks astonishingly like someone named Esra that he has a painting of in his hotel. Dead wife, maybe? This also is just too much, where they go with this I don’t know but it is more than a little silly. I can’t help but think that Babanne on her own is more than enough of an impediment to Serkan and Eda, I don’t know why the writers have felt it necessary to add these two other characters in to cause problems, maybe this will become clear in late episodes.
Melo seems to be growing up and is very skeptical of the attention paid to her by Grandma’s bodyguard Tahir. She got burned with Kaan and has learned to not trust so much.
Ferit continues to be a good friend and business partner to Serkan. I really want a scene of Serkan apologizing to Ferit for misjudging him.
Eda carried the bulk of the narrative this week and, of course, Hande Erçel handled it beautifully. She was initially determined to stand up to her grandmother but after seeing the power that she wields and the lengths she is willing to go to to get what she wants, Eda acquiesces to her grandmother’s demands. This is painful as it means that she has to end things with Serkan just as they are finally coming back together. He is aware of her true reasons, that her grandmother is forcing her to do it not that he reminds her of her dead parents, but is tremendously hurt anyway that she isn’t willing to fight for their love together. So, we have break-up number two before they are even officially back together which is a bit of a kick in the teeth.
I struggled so much to write this because I know this is people’s livelihoods. The actors and crew of Sen Çal Kapimi have worked tirelessly through a pandemic to bring us this show, I have nothing but praise and love for them. My complaint is with the writing and production side of the equation and the uninspired, trite story direction they have chosen. These are new writers coming in, they haven’t been working around the clock for 6-12 months to bring us this story, they are starting this fresh and this is the best they came up with? I will come back to my greatest bias, Ayse Üner Kutlu’s writing, which has launched two internationally popular shows, it is a disservice to her spectacular writing to continue it in this way. I don’t want the show to be canceled but I do want it to be good. I want good storytelling and not just a story to fill in the time.
So, here is what I’m going to do about it. I have no delusions that my words will reach anyone in charge of SCK, or if they did that anyone would care. So, I have no say in changing the direction of the show. What I can change is my own attitude and so that is what I will do. From the next episode on, I am going to pretend that this is a completely new show, with characters with the same names, and try and view it without the shadow of the show it used to be. I have no idea how successful I will be, but it is my fix to my problem. I will then hopefully just be able to enjoy the great acting, funny scenes and the angst of the story without pining for what might have been. And yes, I get that I’m being a bit melodramatic but I am not a casual viewer of this show.
( A picture of what should have happened in episode 25)
A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders. John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent