by Maya Kanga
The future is here, and with it, a young generation coming up in the workforce. As the old ways disintegrate, industry fixtures begin to crumble, uncertainly making way for the new.
In Netflix’s original Turkish series, Kuş Uçuşu (in English: As The Crow Flies), viewers are asked to consider modern structures of power: who has it and who is on the hunt. As the powerful Gen X clashes with power-hungry Gen Z, we wait to see if one will come out on top. Luckily, the streaming platform’s release format allows us to binge the series as quickly as we’d like, versus the usual week-to-week dizi schedule.
The show’s plot is fairly straightforward. Lale Kıran is a prominent broadcast journalist who has built her career over decades and now hosts Turkey’s top evening news program, Öteki Taraf. Aslı Tuna is a young journalist who has admired Lale since childhood and desperately wants to make something of herself. But after a chance encounter leaves Aslı disillusioned with her professional hero, a game of cat and mouse begins to unfold as Aslı attempts to dethrone the woman whose attention she used to crave.
Spanning eight 45-minute episodes, this fast-paced and intriguing mini-series keeps viewers at the edge of their seats, watching as Lale’s and Aslı’s lives spiral in and out of control.
A Strong Execution
Objectively, the story isn’t anything new. One could argue that the show is a Turkish take on All About Eve, or any number of stories about professional jealousy. Yet the way Netflix handles the story’s tropes and thematic subject matter is notable and well worth the watch. We’ve all seen stories of people chasing fame and using questionable ethics to advance their careers, but Kuş Uçuşu manages to keep these ideas fresh and topical in today’s climate of social media and instant gratification.
The writing is tight and the plot jumps deftly between character points of view. Every scene has a narrative purpose without dragging or feeling empty, and the artful cinematography creates an aesthetic mood that pulls viewers in.
An A-List Creative Team
Penned by Meriç Acemi, whose resume includes Kiralık Aşk, Erkenci Kuş, and Netflix’s Aşk 101, Kuş Uçuşu brings together a seasoned cast of fan favorites that command the screen. Birce Akalay gives life to Lale, the sharp, by-the-book journalist in pursuit of truth in a world where influencers and clickbait are on the rise. Miray Daner (Kara Tahta, Vatanım Sensin) plays her adversary Aslı, an ambitious Gen Z journalist who cons her way into an internship at Lale’s network.
Turkish household name İbrahim Çelikkol also features prominently as Kenan, Lale’s business partner, show producer, and first love. Defne Kayalar (Netflix’s Bir Başkadır), Burak Yamantürk, İrem Sak (Çukur), and Demircan Kaçel (Üç Kız Kardeş) round out the rest of the ensemble.
The Clash Between Old And New
At its core, Kuş Uçuşu is about two women at odds, both with each other and the times they’re living in. In one of the show’s frequent voiceovers, their struggle is deemed a “war between a great ego and blind ambition.”
Aslı and Lale are not the same— both want to make that clear. Lale is famously analog in her pursuit of the news, while Aslı embodies the flashy present day of sensationalized narratives catering to short attention spans. All Lale wants is a sense of stability in a world that keeps her under a microscope after fighting her way to the top of her field, while Aslı seeks notoriety from her current place of invisibility.
Where Lale has talent and a passion for truth, Aslı wants power. She isn’t thinking about career longevity or even excelling as a reporter. While her final goal is sometimes hard to make out, she is adamant about one thing: she has to become somebody. It’s this desperate need to be known, to not fall into obscurity, that allows viewers to sympathize with her character just enough to keep from writing her off simply as Lale’s crazy stalker. But even then, she’s hard to like.
Lale accepts that she is more old-fashioned than the new journalists in present day. She knows where she started and has worked hard to get to where she is. She believes that in order to succeed, everyone needs to climb this ladder. Even as we watch Aslı try to disprove this by taking the fast track, Lale doesn’t seem wrong.
There is even a point, in the climactic moments of episode 7, where Aslı tries to unmask Lale. She is convinced that the older woman can’t be what she seems, that there has to be a conniving person under all of her poise and professionalism. Because Aslı cannot see that it’s possible to attain her goals without any trickery. In her mind, the older generation has made prestige inaccessible and if she can only steal it for herself, she will be respected and secure among their ranks.
But Lale knows what Aslı has yet to find out: no matter the path to it, someone will always be vying for your crown.
This isn’t the first time Akalay and Çelikkol have starred opposite each other. The 2017-2018 hit Siyah Beyaz Aşk catapulted the two to dizi acclaim where their electric chemistry as the show’s leading love story has stood the test of time. Fans have spent five years waiting for an on-screen reunion, and Netflix finally delivered.
Kuş Uçuşu isn’t a traditional love story, which may be a disappointment to fans of the pairing. Fortunately, it is still a Turkish series and what would a Turkish series be without love being a major through-line?
As ex-lovers turned professional partners, Lale and Kenan are a departure from their former characters Aslı and Ferhat. Instead of the sweeping enemies-to-lovers romance they portrayed in the past, Kuş Uçuşu shows a different sort of love. While the romance of their youth burned fast and bright, Lale stepped away from the relationship when their intensity became too much. Kenan reluctantly let her go, watching from afar as she marries her husband Selim (Yamantürk), but remained prominently in her life as her business partner and show producer as their careers began to take off. When we meet them at the beginning of the series, the two have a noticeable connection, the kind only history can bring.
Love, Power & Purpose
Kenan and Lale’s mature love story, past and present, contrasts with the young Aslı’s romantic entanglement with Yusuf (Kaçel), the network’s disgruntled office boy she enlists to help in her campaign against Lale. For Aslı, love is power: a tool she can use to her advantage. But for Lale, love is safety and comfort, and leaving Kenan’s intensity in the past was Lale’s way of looking to the future. She needed a place to retreat into from the power her position brings.
In the beginning, Kenan sees his partner’s dedication to traditional journalism as something that’s stunting her growth. It takes the entire season for him to realize he is the one actually stuck in the past. The old love he has held close to his chest is actually holding him back in the personal aspects of his life, while Lale has been able to move on. He recognizes that prestige alone won’t make him feel fulfilled.
As they sit drinking on Kenan’s rooftop terrace one night, Yusuf gets the courage to ask, “What’s at the top?” Kenan’s answer? “Fucking nothing.”
Overall, Kuş Uçuşu is a strong addition to the Turkish Netflix canon. Where some of these limited series’ have fallen short in terms of story execution, with writers having difficulty creating intricate plots adjusting to writing 45-minute episodes, Acemi has woven a complex web of drama and intrigue. It’s a relevant, intergenerational tale of the human need for recognition and importance.
While having a richer narrative than some of its predecessors, the series isn’t perfect. There are places where viewers need to suspend disbelief, and questions about the story’s overall messages are left unanswered. While Aslı is cut-throat and calculated, there are still moments where we wonder how she is allowed to get away with so many of her schemes. She is presented as a master manipulator but what we see is a childish petulance that’s more than just a generational difference. She also displays a disinterest in work, which is surprising considering that she’s fighting for a career. She gets as far as physically assaulting Lale in her own home and still isn’t prosecuted, the reasoning being that Lale doesn’t want attention from the media.
As Aslı ascends to Lale’s position in the show’s final moments, the audience is left to wonder, “Is this truly a victory?” Is Aslı’s succession to a job she doesn’t seem interested in actually doing a successful evolution of Gen Z into the work force? And for Lale, is her graceful exit from a position she was forced to give up something we should feel good about? Is going home to her loving family a satisfying ending for a woman whose career makes up so much of her identity? How enjoyable is it to watch a struggle where no one overtly wins?
Despite the suspense and excitement it brings, the ending is more a cop out than a resolution open to interpretation. While it’s clear the story wants to show the cyclical rise and fall of power, when the two competitors don’t measure up equally, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Nevertheless, the show illustrates one thing for sure: Change is always coming. That can be expected with time. But not all that is shiny and new can replace the institution of truth.
Maybe the next generation will be able to bridge that gap.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Maya Kanga
Author: Maya Kanga is a writer, filmmaker, and traveler based out of Seattle, WA. She loves all things language, culture, and media. She discovered Turkish dizis in 2018 by accident and has been hooked by the stories and narrative style ever since. In her spare time, she co-runs The Dizi Breakdown, a podcast discussing all things Turkish TV, focusing on a new show every episode. When not in front of her computer, Maya can be found out and about in the city with a cup of tea and notebook in tow.
All pictures and video clips belong to their original owners. No copyright infringement intended.