Show Reviews, Turkish Dizis, TV Shows

Review: Yargi, Compelling Courtroom Drama

Next to period dramas, my favorite genre are courtroom dramas. Throw in a little mystery with good detective work and I’m in heaven! Laugh if you like, but I would watch Perry Mason religiously (along with my dad) as a youngster. Alfred Hitchcocks The Wrong Man, Presumed Innocent starring Harrison Ford and the courtroom drama/comedy My Cousin Vinny are always on my rewatch list. And even though it’s not a courtroom drama, I’m a fan of the Amazon series, Bosch, mainly because he is an extremely meticulous detective. So when I saw that Turkish television was coming out with a courtroom mystery series Yargi, which means “judgement” or “discernment”, I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t holding my breath though because, while the Turks are good with romance dramas, I haven’t seen too many indications they are as good with mysteries.

Kaan Urgancioglu

I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised with the four episodes of the series that I have seen so far. The series plot, the acting and the incorporation of Turkish culture and law into the story are outstanding. The Turkish dizi industry’s ability to highlight the character strengths and flaws shines in this series. And just like most Turkish series, due to the length of the episodes, we become intimately familiar with the characters as new revelations are made in each episode. But unlike other Turkish drama, interestingly, we are introduced to what appears to be all the main characters in the first episode (some in more depth than others). The script proficiently adds layers to each of the characters at the appropriate time. The acting is also very good. Kaan Urgancioglu (the bad guy you love to hate from Kara Sevda) is brilliant as the no-nonsense prosecutor who does everything by the book and Pinar Deniz (Ask 101) shines as the animated and clever defense attorney.

The Plot

The story begins when a street dweller rummaging through a public trash dumpster (think Alico in Cukur), discovers the discarded body of a young girl in a suitcase. In comes the police commissioner, Metin, an elderly, dour looking man, and his faithful deputy Eren (Ugur Aslan who played Asli’s brother in Siyah Beyaz Ask). The murder case lands on the desk of prosecutor Ilgaz, who happens to be Metin’s son and very good friends with Eren. We immediately notice the high level of integrity exhibited by both the father and son. And from all indications, they are both well respected and admired by their colleagues and friends. The prosecutor, Ilgaz, has already had a run in with the fiery and brilliant defense attorney Ceylin, who is not averse to bending the rules to get her client off. You immediately sense the tension between the two counterparts who couldn’t be any more different in character. You also learn Ilgaz has just broken off his engagement to a judge (Neva) whose brother, Pars, is also a prosecutor in Ilgaz’s department. If you’ve watched any Turkish series at all, you won’t be surprised to learn that Pars bears a deep grudge against Ilgaz for this “humiliation” of his sister.

Ilgaz, Cinar and Metin
Pinar Deniz

As the investigation proceeds, all signs point to the involvement of Metin’s younger son Cinar, in the case. As Ilgaz realizes this, he is compelled to pass the case on to his colleague Pars. Right away it becomes clear that Cinar’s in big trouble. And of course it doesn’t help Cinar’s case very much that he refuses to speak other than to say “I didn’t kill her” repeatedly. His uncooperative stance enrages his father who insists that everything be done by the book and turns in his own son complete with whatever evidence he’s discovered. He then recuses himself from the case just as Ilgaz has done. Ilgaz knows his brother is involved in some fishy activities but he does not believe that he is guilty of murder. Acutely aware of his father’s stubborn righteousness and his own integrity, Ilgaz turns to his friend Eren to take on the case and asks him to proceed fairly and according to the law. He also asks Ceylin, whose clever tactics he’s witnessed inside and outside the courtroom, to defend his brother.

One surprise after another awaits us as the story unfolds, both in terms of the characters in the story and of the circumstances of the murder. The end of each episode throws us in a different direction. The script is tightly written and the characters are brilliantly portrayed. There were actually times that I wanted to reach into the screen, throttle Cinar to make him speak! I’ve always been a sucker for the strong and silent type, and Ilgaz is the perfect embodiment. He’s a man of few words and even fewer emotions. He’s calm and collected while under tremendous pressure, exceedingly meticulous in collecting evidence and fair in his assessments. But you can sense that underneath the serene exterior roils a torrent of emotions. He pursues the truth doggedly despite the fact that what he uncovers is likely to implicate his brother. And not only does he pursue the evidence, but he also presents them to law enforcement to ensure the case is complete. At one point in the series, Ceylin finds evidence illegally (inadmissible in court) that would perhaps exonerate Cinar. When she tries to present it, she is stopped sternly by Ilgaz. She’s aghast but he tells her “I know my brother is innocent and I will prove that he is, but I will do it the right way, the legal way.”

It is clear that the scriptwriter Sema Ergenekon (Kara Para Ask, Siyah Beyaz Ask) is a mystery buff and one who pays close attention to detail. I haven’t found any holes in the story yet but, just as with all Turkish dizis, there are weaknesses. They are primarily in the ridiculous expectations of families and the requisite loud yelling and crying and jumping to conclusions that are ubiquitous in every Turkish drama.

Ceylin is a brilliant attorney, ambitious and clearly self-made since she comes from a poor background. Due to unfortunate circumstances she was forced to be the breadwinner of her family for several years. By day she navigates the courtroom like a pro, presenting arguments and legal objections in defense of her client, but by night she converts to a little girl seeking the approval of her family. She is constantly rebuked by her older sister (which she takes without resistance) and held to account by her father (who seems to be a self pitying old man). It’s as if she is two people.

And then there’s Pars, who right now appears to be the nemesis of the series. The one who will do whatever it takes to make Ilgaz miserable. And why? Because Ilgaz had the misfortune of NOT loving his sister.

Silly plots like this are annoying in what is shaping up to be a very intriguing and sophisticated series. But like other Turkish drama fans I take the good with the bad, and in this series there is more good than bad.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Note: Madd Entertainment promoted this series at MIPCOM under the name Family Secrets. The series is directed by Ali Bilgin (Cesur ve Guzel, Menajerimi Ara, Kuzgun) and produced by Kerem Catay. The unique soundtrack of the series is composed by Toygar Isikli.

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