Ramo is a family crime drama that premiered in the winter of 2020, its run cut short by the pandemic with only eleven episodes were aired. It follows fairly well established plots of a lot of mafia stories, betrayal, murder and revenge. However, with good acting, writing and interesting sets, it is elevated above the usual mob story. Having the narrative switch gears with both a location move to Istanbul and shedding an important portion of the original cast for season two, let’s take a look back to the original premise of Ramo.
The story is a family drama set in the Adana, in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. The titular character Ramo, played by Murat Yildirim, is a son out to avenge the death of his father from years ago. His other focus is both to keep his family safe and expand the criminal holdings they have by eliminating the bosses under which they are toiling, who happen to be the very people responsible for the death of his father. He must go against his own feelings, however, because the woman he loves, Sibel, played by Resurrection: Ertugrul alum Esra Bilgic, is the daughter of one of the men he must kill.
The series is interesting aesthetically as it is shot in sepia-toned colors, and if it wasn’t for the ubiquitous cellphones it would be easy to assume that the series is set in the 1970’s. Costumes, cars, settings all could play the nostalgia of an earlier era. However, the attitudes and relationships are surprisingly modern, especially in the attitudes and demeanor of the many female characters who are refreshingly not relegated to strictly wife/girlfriend roles as is usually the case in crime dramas.
The main story is the conflict between two mafia families, one of which is the generational crime family of Sibel; her grandfather, her father, Sibel herself and her younger brother Neco. This is what we are used to in the traditional mafia family, mostly run by the men with token women who are usually a daughter or girlfriend of the main guy. Ramo is initially working for Sibel’s father, and meets her when he is tasked with protecting her. We find out through a series of flashbacks that Sibel’s father and grandfather are responsible for the death of Ramo’s father when Ramo was a child, and it was not a subtle mob hit either. They put him through a wood chipper in front of his family and friends as a deterrent to anyone crossing them.
The other family is Ramo’s, and the dynamic within his family is very different. They are the leaders of a neighborhood known collectively as the ‘Pumpers’, who steal fuel and sell it in the neighborhood at a lower price than at the legal fuel stations. They work as a collective and protect the neighborhood from anyone who would try and infiltrate or harm them. The interesting thing about the family is that it is run by committee and the committee is made up of all the members of the family equally, men and women.
His father’s death and his mother’s subsequent mental decline are pivotal forces that shape Ramo’s character. As an adult, Ramo’s fixation is to kill the men responsible for his father’s death and also to take over their criminal enterprises. This is more challenging than he anticipates as he falls in love with Sibel and the family is only one part of a much larger organization.
The titular head of the family in the earlier episodes is Ismail, main character Ramo’s paternal uncle, but the true leader has come to be Ramo himself, much to the discomfort of Ismail’s sons, especially his older son Dogan. Due to the loss of his own father as a result of a decision by Ramo, Dogan eventually betrays Ramo but feels the consequences of doing so.
The Female Characters
Ramo has many peers in the family – brother Hasan, cousins Dogan and Sahin, but it is his aunt, Fiden, who is his main confidante and cheer leader. Fiden is easily smarter than everyone in the family save Ramo himself. Fiden is an unmarried sister to Ismail and has seemingly devoted her life to the welfare of the family, but in later episodes finds a connection with Yavuz, the right-hand man of the crime boss that Ramo is trying to replace. Her role of mentor and confidante would usually be played by a man and it is one of the most pleasant surprises of the series that it is a female character who plays this role for Ramo.
Fiden is smart, calculating and brave, and serves as both a sounding board for Ramo and the voice of reason for him. Ramo is very much a daredevil risk taker and Fiden is one of the few people he listens to. She is seemingly a woman only interested in the warfare of her family but as the story progresses we see her attracted to Yavuz and this throws her off a bit. She doesn’t know if she can trust him and the audience isn’t sure either. Her uncertainly both about her feelings and his play out in quiet conversations between the two and it creates a layer to a character who would otherwise be seen only as the main character’s Yoda. The actor playing Yavuz, played by Yigit Ozsener, is always great to watch. If you have watched his previous work in Cesur ve Guzel, it is hard not to think of him as a psychopath, but we are still not sure at the end of 11 episodes where his true loyalty lies, if he truly cares for Fiden, or whether he’s a good guy or not.
Ramo has a beloved younger sister, Fatos, who is strong and feisty and is fully involved in her brother’s illegal business. She is also in love with Ramo’s best friend Boz. Boz has a bad temper and gets in trouble when he beats up Sibel’s younger brother Neco, which sets off a chain of events that ultimately leads Ramo to kill Sibel and Neco’s father. Fatos is then forced to marry Neco to prevent a war between the two families. She is adamantly against the idea at first, and Ramo eventually says that he won’t force her into the marriage, but Fiden convinces her that it is the only way to save the family from destruction.
The wives, both Ramo’s uncle’s wife and his brother’s, are part of the committee to run the family and have a say in the proceedings. His uncles’ wife doesn’t like him very much, as he has eclipsed her own sons in the leadership of their family but his brother’s wife is a support to every family member, especially Ramo’s mother who suffers with dementia. They also arm themselves as the men do when their neighborhood and family are threatened.
Sibel is the other main female character and while brave and intelligent herself, she plays a more subservient role to her father, her grandfather and occasionally to Ramo himself. For me she is the least self-actualized of all the female characters especially given that she is better educated and has had more opportunities than the women in Ramo’s family. She has an unfortunate tendency to feel sorry for herself and is taken advantage of several times in the story. Her love for Ramo though is real and is one of the main driving forces for the story in the later episodes.
Part of Ramo’s tale is the Romeo and Juliet-esque story of the love of Ramo and Sibel. They fall in love when he is tasked as her bodyguard, they decide not to pursue a relationship given her family’s objections, she is unaware at first that her father and grandfather are responsible for the death of Ramo’s father. After Ramo kills her father, they are forced to marry and Sibel moves in with the Pumpers, her goal in this is to take revenge on Ramo for her father’s death. She almost succeeds in killing him but can’t finish the job because she really does love him. By the end of season one they are committed to each other and have moved in together but her brother has other ideas.
Fatos is madly in love with Boz, Ramo’s right-hand man but the family isn’t thrilled with the idea of them being together. Ramo is angry because they had been hiding their relationship for months, if not years. Unfortunately, due to a showdown caused by Ramo and Boz, Fatos is forced to marry Neco, as mentioned earlier. Neco is a compelling character, a wannabe tough guy who is actually a very scared and tormented young man. He is part aloof, pseudo-psychopath and desperate charmer. He falls in love with Fatos although she can’t stand the sight of him. This was a dynamic that I loved. He tries his best to woo her, in his own psychotic way. He brings her gifts and wants to spend time with her but she is completely unimpressed and takes every opportunity to tell him how much she hates him.
This is a scenario we have seen countless times on screen and in books and eventually the heroine comes to fall in love with the cad too because of a combination of Stockholm syndrome and necessity. Not here though. They have the ubiquitous scene where the heroine is trying to leave and holds a gun on the hero while he tells her that she won’t shoot him because she loves him too. Except, Neco takes one step too many towards her as she has a gun on him and she shoots him in the chest. He forgives her and later says that he still loves and wants to be with her even though she is now pregnant with Boz’s child. She reacts like a normal woman would and doesn’t fall at his feet, instead tells him that he is crazy. I thought that this particular evisceration of a clichéd romantic trope was very refreshing and I particularly loved the obvious befuddlement and repulsion of Fatos about Neco’s obsession with her. She reacts as most of us would with disbelief and derision. Sadly, we won’t likely know how this would have been resolved as the actors playing Fatos, Neco and Boz have all been dropped from the cast.
The last of the romances is my favorite, the quiet but no less poignant one between Fiden and Yavuz. We have very little back story on either character but we are presented with the idea that both are very lonely people. Fiden may be the backbone of her family but she has never married and she doesn’t have a peer within the family, save Ramo, who shares her mental or emotional intelligence. When she meets Yavuz there is an instant attraction and, while she doesn’t necessarily trust him nor him her, they are drawn to one another. This relationship likely saves Ramo’s life on at least one occasion as Yavuz is the majordomo of the larger organized crime syndicate and has the power to significantly help Ramo.
Season one of Ramo was well done and entertaining, I particularly enjoyed the involvement of the female characters in the main plot of the story which is not usual for a mafia drama. Murat Yildirim and Esra Bilgic have good enough chemistry to keep us interested in their relationship, and have us come back to see what happens to them. For season two, they have moved the drama to Istanbul and have lost the actors who play Neco, Fatos, Boz and Sibel’s grandfather, who have all moved on to other shows, but the rest of the cast seems to be intact. How this move to Istanbul and the loss of the cast members impacts the story and uniqueness of the show remains to be seen but the recent trailer looks great and I am looking forward to tuning in to Ramo to see what happens next.
Season two of Ramo begins Friday, September 18th on Show TV.
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