A spoiler-free review of the series by mh-musings
If you are willing to invest in the emotional journey of rising and falling with the characters, you will love the time spent on this 2014-2015 Turkish dizi Seref Meselesi that boasts a great ensemble cast.
- Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
- Length: 26 Episodes
- Lead Actors: Kerem Bursin, Sukru Ozyildiz, Burcu Biricik, Yasemin Kay Allen
- Rating: 9/10
There are some stories that move you and some that destroy you with the power that lies within. Seref Meselesi is one such story that grips you heart, body and soul, and makes you journey with the angst of each of the characters as they navigate a life filled with choices between right and wrong, power and justice, love and regrets, purpose and meaning, and more. A remake of an Italian crime drama, L’Onore E Il Rispetto that ran for four seasons with 24 episodes, the Turkish version is masterfully done such that in addition to the elements of a mafia story, it also captures familial and relationship nuances that are particular to Turkey and its culture.
For the attentive viewer, one can be overwhelmed with emotions as life unfolds for the Kilic brothers, who take divergent paths in life to avenge the misfortunes that befall their family after they move to Istanbul from the small town of Ayvalik. As Yigit (Kerem Bursin) follows the path of vengeance and goes deep into the underworld to amass the power needed to cut the system at the roots, his younger brother Emir (Sukru Ozyildiz) rises in his legal career to curtail evil with the rule of law. As they clash with their values and principles, what seems the stark difference between black and white at first bursts into multiple shades of gray as the story unfolds. And what we get is a tale that is skillfully told while exploring the human possibilities for love, honor, justice, sacrifice and atonement.
When the newly emigrated Kilic family falls prey to the tricks of the shady Sadullah in their new neighborhood in Balat, Istanbul, it pushes Yigit’s father to commit suicide and his mother to lose her mind. Yigit, the street smart, sharp-witted elder son, quickly realizes that the swamps of Istanbul define justice in its own way and to survive in the murky waters, one needs power. He starts to ingratiate himself to the kingpins within the criminal organization where Sadullah is a sentry, with the goal of vengeance on his way to the power that would make his ambitious mother proud. As part of his plan for vengeance, he sets his sights on taking the honor of Sadullah’s daughter Kubra (Burcu Biricik), who had obviously fallen for Yigit during their first encounter.
An innocent, kind-hearted girl with a slight disability, Kubra is flattered with Yigit’s platitudes and gives herself to him mind, body and soul. When Sadullah discovers the relationship and Kubra’s pregnancy, he disowns her and throws her out on the streets. Yigit is unable to see Kubra as anything other than Sadullah’s daughter and cannot imagine being father to his grandchild, and in his thirst for vengeance, he turns Kubra away even though her innocent ways touch a chord in him.
It is Emir, his self-righteous younger brother and a lawyer, who offers her refuge in the Kilic household and Yigit leaves home, angry at Kubra for giving birth to the baby. He sets his sights on the beautiful and haughty Sibel, Kubra’s childhood best friend, without knowing that Sibel and Emir had a brief fling when the family first moved into the neighborhood. Sibel, a sassy and ambitious model, has been attracted to Yigit from the beginning and eventually relents to a relationship where the two share a mutual passion.
Once baby girl Elif is born, Yigit resolutely chooses not to acknowledge his daughter and Emir provides his name as her father in the legal paperwork. Also to keep neighborhood tongues from wrangling, Emir marries Kubra with the understanding that their relationship will remain platonic but will allow Elif to grow up with a family until either of the adults decides to decouple to start his/her own families for real. In the meanwhile, as Yigit’s criminal career flourishes with him rising in the ranks quickly and Emir follows the path of becoming a prosecutor, setting up for a showdown between the brothers, Yigit actively ignores Kubra and Elif and openly pursues Sibel. On the eve of his departure to Paris to propose to Sibel, Kubra (aware of Yigit’s feelings for Sibel from before she gave birth to Elif), finally discloses to Yigit that Sibel had had a prior relationship with Emir.
These set of events unleashes a saga that beautifully explores and questions themes of what love can be, the ways brotherhood and friendships can be tested, how what we see is hardly ever as it seems, how the concept of justice can be fluid even for those with a strict moral compass, what it means to be a father, how can one atone for one’s mistakes and so much more.
The show will leave one with many questions that have room for interpretation but the mark it leaves on the soul is undeniable. The subjective nature of the various themes is at the crux of why I find the dizi to be exceptional. The answers are not fed to the viewer, and as the characters evolve, particularly that of Yigit, one learns to see the world through the filter of someone who is willing to accept his sins and give his love in the most unselfish ways possible.
Often misunderstood, almost always vilified, Yigit walks his path hoping those around him will love him with his flaws, but real life is such that many of our loved ones are unable to comprehend the depths of our integrity either because they are unwilling to delve beneath the surface or they have vested interests that make them turn a blind eye. The journey leaves the viewer feeling bereft for the many unfinished roads and stories in his life, especially as we better understand his motivations and choices. Life and circumstances are often weighed in unfavorable ways but at every junction one’s choice will define how that narrative will unfold, and so it does for Yigit. The most obvious question at the end that lead to many debates is “Who did Yigit love between Kubra and Sibel?” and the storytellers weave in leading details, omissions of choice and unspoken emotions that lead to heavy camps on both sides.
As Yigit transforms from an untamed ruffian to a self-sacrificing protector, Kerem Bursin as Yigit Kilic does a brilliant job of capturing every nuance of this complex character, bringing to life one of the best male characters I have encountered in the Turkish dizi world. I define best as one where the viewer can believably evolve with the character as opposed to being the portrayal of an ideal man with pristine qualities. All the other characters have their shades of grey as well, but Yigit has the most breadth in capturing emotions and personas as he navigates the criminal world as well as his familial relationships as a bereaved son, a responsible brother, a father and a man whose love is ridden with past mistakes that shape its future.
With only 26 episodes, Seref Meselesi from Kanal D is a tight story that is cohesively told, supported by a fantastic soundtrack that has been adapted from its Italian original by the maestro Yildiray Gurgen. The story, music and performances, particularly by Kerem and Burcu Biricik as Kubra, will make one believe that when you trust the actor, the story becomes clear as water even if the script leaves it ambiguous. Director Altan Donmez (Siyah Beyaz Ask, Sen Cal Kapimi), brought the perfect blend of ominous frames that define the criminal world, along with the color and grime of a bustling middle class neighborhood like Balat in Istanbul, that provide the backdrop against which the major relationships unfurl.
Needless to say, I loved this dizi and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys complexity in the character development and plot narrative.
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