by mh musings
Love 101 is a well constructed story for its journey of choices made and lived. With both seasons now available on Netflix, it is a pleasant teen drama that makes us question the status quo of the world and people as we may know them.
While the end of Season 1 left the audience in the dark about the future of the youngsters from Istanbul Tepebasi High School, Season 2 of Love 101 builds upon the themes of love, livelihood, principles, ambitions, friendship, and so much more.
We continue to follow the lives of the abandoned Sinan (Mert Yazıcıoğlu), the goody two-shoes Işik (Ipek Filiz Yazici), the rebellious Eda (Alina Boz), the ever enterprising Osman (Selahattin Pasali), the rudderless Kerem (Kubilay Aka), and the new addition of musical genius Elif (Ece Yüksel). We watch how their final year of high school experience shapes the trajectory of their lives. Against the backdrop of these youngsters pursuing their sense of selves and fighting for their way, we also have themes of adult machinations as well as the boundaries some need to conquer when building relationships. A clash between idealism and reality forces everyone to dig within and pick the course they are willing to live with.
In short, Love 101 is really a story about the fundamentals of love, intelligently seen through the existential crises of adolescents on the verge of adulthood, and the ways they try to establish their path in life.
After their brave rebellion in Season 1, we start the second season with more insight into how the draconian weasel Necdet (Mufit Kayacan) manipulates his way back into the Principal’s chair, and his plans for keeping the gang of five under pressure. When Işik discovers the sacrifices her friends are willing to make for her, she makes a decision that changes the course of her academic career.
As everyone is preparing for the university admissions exam, the kids experience life-altering events that shake their resolve in the kinds of future they want. Sinan becomes homeless, Eda is being pressured to marry, Işik is banished away from the city, Osman finds love with Elif, Kerem loses himself in Eda. And with each encounter, they must make conscious choices about where their idealism can take them.
In the meantime, Necdet continues his insidious politicking to secure his seat of power and divides the school through an academic strata based on merit. This breeds a toxic, competitive environment among the students. Though not explored in great detail, the insinuation that such imposed structures take away from the joy of learning is illustrated through a number of classroom experiences and their consequences.
The gang unites again to try and rid the school of Necdet once and for all, a symbolic stance against all that they believe to be wrong in the world. They learn to manipulate his strengths against him, but will they win or will the system finally tie them down?
There is also the thread of the idealistic teacher Burcu (Pinar Deniz) and jaded coach Kemal (Kaan Urgancioglu). The couple have confessed their love, but struggle to define their relationship as they battle against their insecurities of staying with the known versus taking a risk with the one they love.
In present day, we see the middle-aged versions of the youngsters, played by a welcome choice of cast, reminisce about their choices and their current station in life. This leaves the audience with a pleasant afterglow from the experiences we shared with them throughout the viewing.
The coming-of-age story is not a new trope. But the way it blends in to school life in Istanbul, the sophisticated details of home life in economically diverse households, the locales experienced through Kerem and Eda’s adventures, and the physical spaces of the characters, all create a visual treat that one can enjoy even without the dialogue. Paired with an upbeat, hip soundtrack, and one is taken back to our teen years when life seemed possible within the impossible.
Kudos to directors Umut Aral and Gonenc Uyanik for maintaining the visual excellence throughout the various spaces used.
The actors all speak with their eyes, and each character is nuanced through gestures and tonality. It’s a great ensemble cast. If I had to, I will have to pick Mufit Kayacan as my favorite, as he does such an excellent job of creating the hateful Necdet. From the brown noser to the dictator, his role demanded a wide range, and he did it very well.
Flow Of The Story
After the pivotal role Işik plays in Season 1 in bringing the gang together, her role in this season is far more passive. We have a deeper exploration with Kerem and Eda, and Osman with Elif, as the latter struggles to take her stance against an overbearing father who is a director in the education system. Sinan’s pithiness, which serves as a major plot mechanism in the first season, is also not as prominent in this season.
Thus, even though the second season is a pleasant watch with layered performances from everyone, the course of the story presented differently than what one might have expected. Season 1 ends on a morbid note, with Sinan’s old home crumbling upon them and the fates of the three boys unknown. We only know one of them knocks on the door, one looks to be in prison, and one was a manual worker of some sort. Segues from these clues are missing in Season 2, as though the writer Meric Acemi (of Kiralik Aşk) picked a different direction than what she had in mind initially. Nevertheless, the series concludes satisfactorily, more cliched and happier than anticipated.
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