I fell in love with Serkay Tütüncü during his appearance on Bay Yanlış. I first watched him in Afili Aşk. He was a goofy kid playing wingman to the main character Kerem there, and he was fun, but certainly not someone who stands out. That all changed in BY. Ozan was such an amazing character and he had this easy-going personality while maintaining a level of confidence that just draws women in. Or at least it drew me in. I think that all of us that watched BY can agree that Serkay and his screen partner Cemre Gümeli totally stole the show. So it was no surprise I was super excited when it got announced that he will be joining Fox's new show.
That excitement didn't last very long. As the premiere date neared more and more details came out about the plot, a 35-year-old rich guy seduces an 18-year-old girl and of course, it does not end well. To me, this was just another Turkish drama that glorified abusing women that RTÜK was gonna do nothing about while continuing to fine shows like SÇK for scenes that were "contrary to general morality of the Turkish family structure". Thanks, Dizilah for the quote.
The premiere date came and I found myself tuning into Fox's YouTube live feed. Serkay's pull was that powerful. I was half watching the premiere episode, mostly playing on my phone, I didn't even finish watching it right then. I scanned the rest of the ep later when they uploaded it to their channel. All I saw was a manipulative guy, who broke a chair over his pregnant "girlfriend's" head, beat her almost to death and then dumped her on the side of the road. Add that to my very limited understanding of what they were actually saying during the episode and there was nothing to keep me interested in the show.
Nothing except Serkay of course, and his co-star İlayda Alişan, who I was quick to realize is extremely talented and beautiful. There was something about them on-screen that just continued to pull me in. So I continued to fast forward through clips and scenes on YouTube and b**ch to my dizi friends about the direction of the plot and the whole premise of the show in general. I hated it, yet I kept coming back for scarps.
And then all changed last Wednesday when I saw that final episode three scene. The look on İlker's face (Serkay's character) when he walked into that hospital room, taking Ela (İlayda's character) into his arms, looking all tortured and holding onto her for what looked like dear life, just shook me. Deep. I was like, "hold on, this does not look right". I felt like I was missing something, so I did the only logical thing. I watched the first episode. And I loved it.
So hi, welcome to the story of me, the hypocrite who trashed a show, judged the book by its cover, based solely on a few YouTube videos I skipped through and my own prejudice. For me, this show has so many layers, so many things going on below the surface. I was glued to the screen for all three episodes and the two-plus hour duration of each one just went by in pretty much the time it takes me to snap my fingers. I was that sucked in by the plot and the characters.
Dikkat! Spoilers ahead...
First of all, it's not what it looks like. After watching all of the episodes that are out as of the moment I am writing this, I can say with almost complete certainty that it wasn't İlker who almost killed Ela and dumped her at the side of the road, even though the evidence against him is overwhelming. Had it not been for that final episode three scene, I never would have doubted it was him who did it. That moment made me doubt everything I thought I knew about this show. I went into a deep dive, rewinding and watching scenes in slow motion, and here is what I found.
First, let me start by saying that even though I believe İlker is not guilty of physically abusing Ela, I think he is guilty of doing it mentally. He seems super one-dimensional, just your typical playboy abuser, but there is so much more going on underneath. He plays hot and cold towards Ela, and she is not stupid. She sees feels it, but she is so in love (more on that later). İlker is aware of it and also knows just how to turn it to play into his favour. He gives her just enough to keep her, but he does it so well and so convincingly that even I, the outside spectator, find myself believing that he actually has real feelings for her. In the span of three episodes, there are multiple confrontations between İlker and Ela, where she begs him to leave his fiance İrem, who he claims he doesn't love and is only with her because she is psychologically unstable. They have known each other since kids and have been in an on-again-off-again relationship for six years. İlker claims he is just waiting for the right time and I honestly can't tell if he is telling the truth, he just likes to keep his options open, or he is with her because that seems to be what his parents want.
Ela is jealous and insecure. She is İlker's dirty secret, she knows it and she doesn't like it. She starts hatching up plans behind his back to get them caught by his fiance, which ultimately blows up in her face and causes İlker to break up with her because he doesn't want to be with someone he can't trust. While I understand his reasoning and admit that she was not innocent in that particular situation, I'm just baffled at this guy's guts. Like, what the hell man?! After Ela's little game is revealed he pushes her away, literally, she bumps against a table and we see İlker is not afraid to get physical.
Their story is told through flashbacks starting six months before the night that changed both of their lives. The timeline is super confusing. In the first episode, we see them coming together and Ela finding out she is pregnant. In the second episode, we see they broke up at some point, but they seemed to be back together when she told him about the baby.
Anyway, every time Ela confronts İlker about their relationship, he looks bored out of his mind and dismissive while listening to her. Up until the moment where she breaks out in tears and he starts to look at her like he enjoys her getting jealous over him. He then takes her in his arms and is just the most gentle and romantic man ever. He really loves her, and both Ela and I believe him. Ela and İlker's ultimate breaking point is on the night of her nineteenth birthday. Just before she is about to blow the candles on her cake she sees an Instagram story İlker's fiance posted of her wedding dresses. For her wedding with İlker. The next day. Ela loses it, ditches her own birthday party, and goes to İlker. İlker who just a few hours before had told her that he wants him, her and their baby to build their family together.
When we last saw İlker before 'that' scene at his secret house, which he mainly uses to get some time alone and spent time with Ela, he was in his office, looking out the window, her pregnancy test in his hand. He was clearly in deep thought. His phone rings, he picks it up and is İrem, his fiance. The scene gets cut there and the next time we see him is in the house, drunk out of his mind. Ela comes in and starts berating on him, screaming, hitting his chest. Pushing him much like the way we saw him push her away after she tried to expose them to İrem. She cries about the fact that just hours before he told her he wants them, her and their baby. İlker snaps at her, rage sipping out of his pores, screaming in her face that she will not give birth to that baby. At that moment his phone rings, it's İrem, and Ela being the impulsive girl that she is, decides that picking up the phone and spilling everything to her is the perfect punishment for İlker and the pain he has caused her. At this point, and in his extremely drunken state, İlker completely loses it. He grabs a chair and just as he is about to smash it over Ela's head, the scene cuts. But we do hear the sound of said chair crashing. And here is where things get interesting. Though the scene is cut at the perfect place to make you think he did hit her with that chair, when you rewind it in slow motion about twenty times you start to notice some other things. First, Ela saw the threat and we can see her potentially getting out of the way. Second, when we heard the sound of the chair breaking over something, it sounds more like it hit the ground, not a human body.
We are spared the details of Ela getting beaten, but when we see her get thrown out of İlker’s car, she is in really bad shape. Blood all over, deep cuts on her arms and legs, her face looks like it was punched repeatedly and she has a head injury. Later in the hospital, she seems to also have a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm. She undergoes five surgeries and is kept in the ICU for twenty-one days.
İlker goes home, to the house he shares with his parents, his sister and her daughter, all sorts of freaked out. His mother greets him at the door, and when she tries to take off his coat, he stops her. He goes to his room, takes the coat off and we see his shirt covered in blood. He hears Ela's voice in his head crying out, "yapma, don't". We see the blood on his chest, but what we don't see is any sort of marks or scratches on his arms. Even the knuckles on his hands don't look even a little bit bruised. Ela doesn't look like the kind of girl who wouldn't even try to fight back. His hands not bearing any evidence of him hitting Ela is very weird.
Another thing worth mentioning is Serkay has very distinctive tattoos that cover his entire right arm. When Ela gets pushed out of the car, İlker's car, we see a glimpse of what appears to be a man's right arm. The thing is, there are no tattoos on it. I suppose the arm might be a left one, but reaching to open the passenger door from inside the car with your left arm is a bit trickier. Also, İlker wears a watch on his left arm, always. It's there when he swings that chair at Ela. The only time the watch is not on his arm is in that scene in his room. To me, this shows extreme attention to detail from the writers, because the arm that reaches out to open the door did not have a watch on it. I believe the writers are working to confuse the audience, and where I am concerned they are doing it very well. Another small thing, and I'm afraid I'm about to take the superficial road here, the arm pushing Ela out of the car looked very hairy, while honestly speaking Serkay's arms are waxed better than mine. And these folks are my biggest arguments against İlker being the one that did it. The ones I can present as actual physical evidence. The others are more gut feeling than anything else.
Now, the question is if it wasn't him, then who did it. After the first episode, I thought it might be İlker's mother. She looks like that type of dizi moms that are ruthless when getting things to happen their way and their way only. She seems hell-bent on marrying her son off to the rich heiress İrem, and she very much doesn't look like the mother who will allow him to have a relationship with a teenage nobody. But seeing her sheer horror in episode two at the prospect of her son spending his life in prison, I don't believe it was her doing anymore. She loves him, he is her golden child.
My second suspect was Ela's cousin who spent her life in Ela's shadow, wearing her hand-me-down clothes and being aware that she is not the princess of the family like Ela is. She is the kind of spiteful selfish girl that started mean hashtags about her barely alive cousin while she was in the hospital and then was super proud to share with her the mean comments people were writing about her on social media. Seeing her hating and being envious of Ela I thought, okay she is the one that arranged the attack. But after Ela almost committed suicide right before her eyes and she showed herself as the coward she actually is, I think she does not have the guts to do such a thing. She is very brave on Twitter and Instagram, but not so much when push comes to shove.
An obvious suspect should be İlker's fiance İrem, but she looks more occupied with building her social media presence and keeping her followers posted on what she ate for breakfast than masterminding plans to kill her fiance mistress and throw him in prison for the rest of his life. At the very least him going to prison will seriously mess up her plans for living happily ever after with him. Even though she was all too happy to humiliate Ela when she found out she has feelings for İlker, with his help I might add, she doesn't look capable of orchestrating such a thing. Not to forget, she is being buried under so much psychological abuse, courtesy of İlker's mother, she is more a shadow than an actual person at this point. Aside from those three, I have absolutely no idea who else it might be.
The theory of Ela doing it to herself is floating around the show's social channels and the script sure seemed to go along with it in the most recent episode. In it, Ela is being portrayed as someone who suffers from erotomania. The definition of the disorder, according to Wikipedia is: "a relatively uncommon paranoid condition that is characterized by an individual's delusions of another person being infatuated with them".
In court, evidence is presented that Ela harassed, very heavily, İrem on social media from numerous fake accounts. Ela even got arrested for it, but İrem dropped the charges after İlker insisted rather rudely. İlker's lawyer exposed R-rated photos Ela sent to him with messages of her begging him to love her. The thing is she was sending those from her personal phone, and he was contacting her through another phone he gave her. So her "love" messages all appeared to be one-sided.
The lawyer painted such a perfect picture of Ela imagining their entire relationship, that even Ela herself started doubting it. Suffering from retrograde amnesia as a result of her injuries, Ela is having trouble making sense of everything that happened. She has no recollection of the night she was attacked and her memories of İlker and what they had are not complete. She doesn't even seem to remember her baby, a baby she wanted and was happy about. Ela is afraid the lawyer is right and she does have said delusional disorder. Later she says to her therapist in tears that she remembers doing all the things they say she did, but she doesn't remember why. And İlker calling her crazy during that coffee meeting his fiance arranged, did not help.
One thing that draws the viewer's attention during the court scenes again is the way İlker keeps looking at Ela. It's the first time he has seen her since the attack and there are tears in his eyes when he does. She is in a wheelchair, her arm broken, she hasn't spoken a word since she woke up in the hospital. She sits there, silently crying, taking the lawyer's blows. And while her pain seems to hurt İlker just as much as it does her, he says nothing either.
Just like Ela, İlker does not remember the night of the attack. Everyone keeps asking him if he did it, while he just stays silent. There are two particularly powerful scenes with him while he is in prison. One of them is İrem visiting him in their first conjugal visit after his mother arranged for them to marry inside the prison, to give the press something else to focus on. Inside the room, İrem is fuming because up until now she has lived with the notion that Ela is an erotomaniac who stalked her fiance, that’s what İlker told her. Now there is all of this hard evidence that there was something big enough between İlker and Ela if he seemingly resorted to such violence. In answer to İrem asking if he did it, İlker looks in her eyes with tortured uncertainty and says, "You tell me. Look into my eyes and tell me if you think I'm capable of doing such a thing". It's in that scene we also see İlker is not totally indifferent towards İrem. She offered comfort and distraction for him at that moment and he took it.
The other moment was when his lawyer went to visit him to discuss strategies for court. It was then that she told İlker that after twenty-one days in the ICU, Ela is awake. His first response to that was to ask how is she. At first, the lawyer thought he is asking if that's good for their case, but after İlker repeated the question and made it clear he was talking about Ela, she answered him. The relief on his face when he hears that Ela is going to be okay is unmistakable.
For me, both of these situations felt like the writers were leaving us easter eggs pointing to İlker being innocent, but just like Ela, he has his doubts. Just like her, he is questioning himself. Questions of whether he did attack her or not, because my guess is he woke up on the floor of that secret house of his, in a pool of Ela's blood, with her already gone, and him not having the slightest idea as to what happened. The only thing he has to go on is his blood-covered shirt and her cries for help, which I'm pretty sure he was hearing in his semi-conscious state after he probably passed out from drinking too much. He doubts himself and we doubt him too. He did once threatened to kill her in one of their fights.
Because here is the thing, both İlker and Ela are very problematic characters. İlker seems to have anger management issues. It also looks like he has an affinity toward relationships with women much younger than him. Ela is a rebellious teenager that is not afraid to resort to cheap tricks and cyberbullying in order to get the man she wants.
Why are they like that? Well, İlker is being constantly emotionally abused by his father. His father tells him that he is an absolute good-for-nothing scum and all that he does is hide behind his mother's back. İlker's father only cares about his company and his image, he pretty much hates his son and is not afraid to tell him that. A dizi friend of mine, asked today if we think that İlker is so emotionally stunted, due to the constant emotional abuse from his dad, that he identifies more with a nineteen-year-old than a woman his age, and honestly, that sounds pretty on point. As for Ela, from everything we have seen from her so far, she is a classic case of a girl with daddy issues. Going for the guy who is closer in age to her father than to her. Acting desperate for the little scraps of love and security he gives her and going absolutely crazy when she loses them. We see her going into a rage when we learn he blocked her from all of his social media, we see her stalking him at his office, at his secret house he used to take her, but now he takes İrem there.
Ela's father is a special kind of a bastard. He seems to love his daughter, but not as much as he loves money. He and Ela's mother had her when they were about her age, now he is at the point where he can't stand his wife, so he is having an affair with İlker's assistant. Ela did not take finding out about the affair well by the way. Oh, and just for more context, İlker is her father’s boss. The assistant has her own agenda and she is all too happy to lead him around by the nose. He covered up his daughter's pregnancy, which actually could have helped her in court, at least in that case no one would have been able to question the existence of Ela and İlker's relationship, he did it because the assistant told him to. If it was up to him, he would have taken the hush money İlker's mother offered them, along with the one-way ticket to the States. And while İlker's father's hate is directed at his son, Ela's father's hate is directed at her mom. He is being emotionally abusive towards her and the way he treats his wife presents an interesting parallel between them and Ela and İlker. Talk about girls falling for men who remind them of their dads.
The dizi is filled with deeply flawed and multi-layered characters, and we have only chipped away from the surface of their depth. No one is completely innocent in this. There are only two characters that for now I can describe as being the "good guys" and that's Ela's mother Bahar, and İrem's father Harun.
So, in conclusion to this thought vomit, as my favourite girls from Dizzy for Dizi like to say, I still have no idea who attacked Ela. I still can't figure out if İlker is only deceiving Ela, or if he has developed feelings for her. Is he a sociopath that gets a kick out of playing with her, or is his EQ so low that he can't process his feelings or lack of such when it comes to the women in his life? This dizi is amazing at keeping me on my toes and surprising me at every turn. I'm proud to say that I have watched a fair amount of TV shows, dizis and telenovelas and there is very little that happens on screen that I don't see coming a mile away. But the main twist that the show is most likely trying to introduce, meaning İlker being innocent, was a very powerful jolt to my system. It's what drew me to the show in the first place and what has me obsessed with it now.
A lot of people on social want İlker to be guilty, for him to get convicted and I agree with them to a degree. Making him take responsibility and actually paying for his crimes will be a very powerful and poignant story to tell. However, right now the plot is so beautifully set up for him to be innocent, that I might be disappointed if he is not. All of the signs in all of the three episodes lead to him, except a few very clever and subtle clues here and there. The writing of it is simply genius.
While it will send a better message for İlker to go down for his crimes, the dizi watcher in me really enjoys this incredibly smart writing. Going the obvious road will ruin the intelligence of it, and along with that will probably kill my interest as well. With that in mind, to say that I'm looking forward to episode four on Wednesday is an understatement.