by Joan Hiver
Without a doubt, Yargı created a sensation in the 2021/2022 dizi season. It was not long before Yargı managed to top the Sunday evening line-up. Every week, for thirty-four episodes, domestic and international viewers were riveted to their screens.
The reasons for this degree of success lie in the brilliantly conceived scenario and writing of Sema Ergenekon, and the incredible calibre of acting by and chemistry among all cast members, not just the leads. In addition, the mystery/ judicial type drama gave audiences a different genre to view. Further reason for success was the exploration of judgement and its consequences. However, nothing was more magnetic than the unforgettable love story which developed between the very different personalities of Ceylin and Ilgaz.
Under the skillful direction of Ali Bilgin, all of these instruments played together like a well-rehearsed orchestra to make Yargı feel like a symphony.
Plot: A Different Genre
Yargı resembles a Turkish version of Law and Order. Immediately, the dizi presents a crime scene, scenes at police headquarters, scenes at the court building and in prosecutors’ offices.
The audience becomes privy to the professional jealousies, personal conflicts and character traits of those persons representing the different areas of the legal system. On the one side are Prosecutors Ilgaz Kaya, Pars Seçkin, who represent the state, as they collaborate and interact with Homicide Chief, Metin Kaya, and Inspector, Eren Duman. These professionals, called upon to investigate and solve the murder of a young woman found dead in a dumpster, demonstrate the interdependent roles of police and prosecutors as the drama begins to unfold.
Simultaneously, the audience is shown how the defense lawyers operate within the legal system through the works of Ceylin Erguven and later that of Yekta Tilmen. However, when the prime suspect for the crime turns out to be Çınar Kaya, the younger son of the Homicide Chief and brother of Prosecutor Ilgaz Kaya, the circumstances become personal and untenable for Chief Metin and Ilgaz. The situation is not helped by the fact that Çınar refuses to speak at all except to reiterate that he did not kill the victim.
Ilgaz, recognizing the need for a resourceful and unrelenting avukat (attorney) for his brother, selects the young, but highly effective Ceylin Erguven as Çınar’s defense lawyer. However, when the victim is identified as Inci Erguven, Ceylin’s beloved younger sister, the case becomes doubly personal and a bomb seems to explode in the hands of the police, the prosecutors and the defense. Emotions are high. Conflicts of interest become evident, accusations about duplicity are hurled and judgements are rampant. The hall of justice itself is under scrutiny to conduct a transparent investigation for an indisputable verdict.
So began the plot of Yargı (which in English means ‘judgement’): to prove Çınar innocent of murder and to find the real killer.
Yargı surprises the viewer by the swift resolution. In a very short time, Inci’s killer is discovered and so is the identity of the person who committed the murder and why. However, the shocks do not stop with those revelations. Just as quickly, a second and then a third murder occur, like a domino effect. For most of the thirty-four episodes, the viewers are in a state of suspense.
The lead characters and the secondary characters are caught in the shock, the turmoil and consequences of these murders. As is foreshadowed by the forward in time scenes, the second
season will commence with yet another interconnected murder.
The Allure Of The Human Relationships
No doubt viewers were captivated by the intriguing, suspenseful plot twists regarding the crimes. What also brought viewers back every week was the intensity of the human relationships between colleagues and among the members of the Kaya, Erguven and Tilmen families.
In addition, fellow prosecutor Pars has had a long-standing professional rivalry with Ilgaz, the relationship further strained by Ilgaz’s recent break-up with Pars’ sister Neva, who herself is a judge. This friction from Pars provides much plot conflict for many episodes and contributes to the exploration of professional relationships and ethics, friendship and family loyalties.
Pars becomes a pivotal and integral character, both to the unfolding murder investigations and to the developing relationship between Ceylin and Ilgaz. However, he is not a stock or stereotypical character. Pars is ever changing and growing before the eyes of the audience. We see him evolve from an idiosyncratic, jealous colleague determined to embarrass, even harm, Ceylin and Ilgaz, into an understanding, co-operative, supportive one. Pars turns into a valued friend sympathetic to their love, willing to risk his own reputation in order to assist them in uncovering the truth and protect them. The audience is drawn to his wit, strength of character and humor, which he displays especially in awkward situations. His idiosyncrasies endear him to us and make us feel as though we know him personally or would like to. We are delighted to observe the beginnings of a romance between Pars and the new Prosecutor, Derya. Underneath his cranky facade lies a heart of gold.
Although used as an important foil character to further plot and listen to the inner thoughts primarily of Ilgaz and Ceylin, Inspector Eren Duman is also an alluring personality. He is like another son to Chief Metin and like a brother to Prosecutor Ilgaz. When Chief Metin disgraces himself by his unethical behaviour in the murder of Zafer, Ceylin’s father, Eren feels as betrayed as Ilgaz that his father figure and beloved icon of professionalism has fallen from his pedestal. Eren tries not to be judgmental in spite of his intense disappointment. His tolerance is never more evident than in his acceptance of Ceylin’s faults and by his willingness to bend the rules for her. He excuses her actions even though she tests his patience and disregards his advice.
Eren’s character is used to balance the conflict between Ceylin and Ilgaz when they argue about procedure and when their relationship suffers due to her distrust or impatience. He is the character who can identify with Ilgaz’s by-the- book methods but comprehend that Ceylin’s bending of procedure should be accepted as part of her human nature. Until almost the end of season one, Eren’s support for Ceylin is unconditional. She is the queen, as he calls her, even when his empathy lies with Ilgaz. However, in the fast forward in time scene repeatedly presented in the last several episodes of the season, Eren displays true anger and contempt towards Ceylin for what appears to be her role in a murder.
As in the case of Pars, Eren is not a stock character. He, too, is shown to develop as the dizi progresses. The writer gives Eren a personal life where he discovers that he has a teenaged daughter. He has to struggle with his emotions and the ensuing life changes at the discovery of this news. Eren must confront the girl’s feelings, those of her mother and her mother’s husband. Giving Eren’s character this personal dimension enhances his appeal to the audience as well as presenting a different type of familial dysfunction found in most societies. The writer cleverly ties this event from Eren’s life with the main plot.
Pars and Eren are only two examples of alluring characters whose acting produces that excellent chemistry with which to attract the audience. Writer Sema Ergenekon sticks to one main plot but provides the key secondary characters with struggles in their own personal lives. Their conflicts serve as little sub stories which make these characters more real. Their experiences create human drama which make them more interesting. Moreover, they reinforce themes of the dizi and provide background and motive for events in the main plot.
Of specific interest in Ceylin’s family is the sub story of her sister Aylin, that includes her husband Osman, daughter Parla, and neighbor/relative Zumrut. While in Ilgaz’s family, grandfather Merdan Kaya offers a dark, significant dimension and background to the character of Metin. Later, Merdan is pivotal in important events that impact the plot.
Likewise, Lacin Tilman’s long term affair with her driver Murat plays an important role in revealing Yekta’s brutality. Cuneyt, Yekta’s right-hand-man, is also not without allure and of pivotal significance in the outcome of Ceylin’s revenge and Yekta’s demise.
The Consequences Of Dysfunction And Judgement
The series showed us how little we know of the very people we share the same blood with or in whose presence we spend countless hours, days, years. We might discover that we have been co-existing with what amounts to a stranger, without a clue about their true thoughts and feelings or their activities beyond us. Such is the case in all three families.
The Erguven family had no idea about the secret life Inci was leading and the illegal activities she was involved in. Zafer only discovered Inci’s resentment toward him just before she died. While Inci was growing up, her father had wrongfully been sent to jail. The resulting financial burden on the family and Zafer’s absence, even after his release, negatively affected Inci. Ceylin’s concentration on her law studies and need to financially support the family left little time to communicate and spend time with Inci. Aylin’s marital problems and her depression over losing her little boy stopped her from seeing her youngest sister’s own problems. Gul’s own depression and marital frustration precluded any quality attention, as a mother, to the adolescent and later young adult in her midst.
When faced with the truth, Zafer, Gul and Aylin refuse to look to their own shortcomings as a reason for the secret life Inci led. Instead of introspection, they seek vengeance against Çınar, and in spite of Ceylin’s warnings, continue to blame and judge Çınar despite the evidence which points to his innocence. Cunning manipulation by Yekta and their own inability to suspend wrongful judgement lead to dire and tragic consequences for everyone in the story, as they would in real life.
Equally sad was how the Kaya family were struggling with their own form of dysfunction. Metin Kaya carried a heavy load. He felt an inherent sense of shame stemming from his father’s criminal past and spent a lifetime in atonement. Thus, he set high moral bars for his children, colleagues and himself.
When circumstances arise which lead him to participate in the unlawful imprisonment of Zafer Erguven, Metin is plagued by guilt. He attempts to assuage this guilt by secretly aiding the Erguven family while Zafer is in jail. Even though he felt immensely proud as the father of Ilgaz for Ilgaz’s stalwart character and exemplary career, he felt anger and humiliation by Çınar’s involvement in drugs and brush-ups with the law. His disappointment in Çınar’s inability to get on a good path cloud his judgement. When Çınar becomes the prime suspect in the murder, Metin has already decided to believe in Çınar’s guilt. In addition, he will not be seen as doing Çınar any favors. Ilgaz is left alone to uncover the truth and exonerate his brother.
Although Ilgaz is aware of his brother’s sins and repeated failures, he does not pre-judge him as guilty of murder. Later in the dizi, Metin’s guilt for not believing in Çınar and protecting him as a father should, causes him to over-compensate for his disapproval of his younger son. Metin’s actions prove just as fateful for the family as believing in Çınar’s guilt. When the circumstances surrounding Zafer come to light, the greatest consequence of Metin’s wrongful judgements and decisions surface. Any hope of a relationship between Ilgaz and Ceylin are extinguished. The two families cannot co-exist.
If the Kaya and Erguven families are examples of upper and lower middle-class families with problems, the Tilmen family represents a wealthy family with its own set of problems. Engin Tilmen, Ceylin’s law practice associate and college friend, is the son of a powerful, unscrupulous and well known defense lawyer, Yekta Tilmen. Engin refuses to work in his father’s huge law practice because he and his father do not see eye to eye on the practice of law. Yekta, who falsified his own law degree, manipulates evidence and the truth at will. His power-mongering ways left Engin as a victim of Yekta’s verbal and emotional abuse since childhood. Even though Yekta belittles Engin, he is determined to have him work with him.
When Engin is accused of Inci’s murder, Yekta pulls out every dirty trick possible to defend his son by planting the evidence of the murder elsewhere. He hopes that by doing so, he will finally be able to lure Engin away from Ceylin, whom he blames for Engin’s refusal to work with him. Ceylin is devastated by the knowledge that her best friend and confidant killed her sister. How could she not have understood how unbalanced and psychotic he was? She attributed Engin’s occasional strange behaviour to Yekta’s abuse.
This plot twist leads to the major conflict of the dizi: the battle between good and evil. Yekta’s need to destroy Ceylin, and Ceylin’s need to destroy Yekta. They each intend to extract their pound of flesh. Ceylin wants Yekta punished for his many sins over the years. Primarily, she wants him to pay for his role in manipulating Zafer to murder, which lead to devastating consequences. In addition, she wants him behind bars for his role in trying to cover up evidence in Inci’s murder and his role in trying to frame Ceylin for Engin’s death. Once again, the writer points out the consequences of familial dysfunction, the destructive results of judgement and the lethal outcome of revenge.
The Wisdom Of Every Episode
Every week the episodes are prefixed by relevant quotes from famous people. Writer Sema Ergenekon uses this device to provide a philosophical context for each episode as well as a significant reinforcement for the general theme. Before the commencement of an episode, the quote directs the audience to the focus of the individual episode and the actions of the characters in that episode.
In episode one, Ergenekon uses Friedrich Nietzche’s words that “An executioner glances out of every judges’ eyes”. She introduces the harsh, fatal nature of judgements as she and Nietzche imply that a judge can be anyone, not necessarily one who delivers verdicts in a courtroom. As we watch how Çınar’s father easily accepts, judges and personally sentences his son for Inci’s death, we realize the truth of the saying. Likewise, Ceylin readily accuses Ilgaz for duplicity and deceit in choosing her as the defense lawyer, believing he did so knowing that the victim was her sister.
In another episode, as the truth surfaces about Inci’s secret life, Antoine de Saint Exupery’s words are used to underscore how “The essential is invisible to the eye”. Moreover, how can the audience ignore the wisdom of Plato who remarks: “When the water rises, the fish eats the ants; when the water recedes, the ants eat the fish. The flow of the water decides who will eat whom” (episode 7). What better commentary on the human condition and the importance of circumstance. The audience is invited to contemplate the veracity of the quote both in the context of the story and on a more general plane. A brief study of the thirty-four quotes conveys general wisdom on life, love, morality, human behavior and human relationships. Since the sources of the quotes are mostly from famous or well-known philosophers, playwrites and authors, their use lends importance and a truth or levity to what the writer is attempting to convey through the script.
For example, considering Yekta and Ceylin’s respective missions of vengeance, the prefix for episode 13 from Confucius is most appropriate: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Without a doubt, many characters can be found in the story who face the following conundrum: “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn” (episode 19, David Russell).
Now that the season has ended, perhaps the most significant prefix to examine is one by Yahya Kemal Beyatli used for the season finale: “When a chord breaks, the harmony ceases forever.”
Near the end of the episode, Ceylin and Ilgaz unite again in a beautiful wedding celebration, as ostensibly, the wide canyon which had opened up between them had become bridged after Yekta’s defeat and Ceylin’s acceptance of the proof that Çınar was not her father’s murderer. Her quest for revenge satisfied, Ceylin admits that she cannot live without Ilgaz.
The wedding should be the high point; however, where we thought we were observing the climax, we are aware that it is just an anticlimax. Harmony and disharmony are presented as scenes just after the wedding foretell the future to follow. Scenes we have viewed before. Six months down the road, Ceylin is going to be arrested for a murder. A cliffhanger, to be sure, but presented in an unorthodox manner. “When a chord breaks, the harmony ceases forever.”
The Love Story
More than anything, the magnet that drew the audience every week to Yargı was the relationship that progressed between Ceylin and Ilgaz from a professional one to a romantic one. The sparks of opposition were present from the moment Ceylin tried to surreptitiously sneak information from Ilgaz’s office about a case. First-hand experience proves to him her resourcefulness and recklessness. He is forced to jail her for contempt to make her contemplate her illegal behavior and reconsider her methods. In spite of her faults, Ilgaz knows her strong points. She is acutely intelligent, she works on her cases with verve and conviction, and he needs this kind of lawyer for Çınar’s defense.
Although they differ greatly in how they each believe Çınar’s defense should be run, they both decide to prove Çınar’s innocence or guilt together. Ceylin has the opportunity to observe Ilgaz at close quarters where she discovers for herself how principled and moral he is. How his integrity is beyond reproach. How loyal he is to his family and friends and how sensitive he is. How much insight and sound judgement he has. How much courage he has to take tough decisions. The audience can find several examples of what Ceylin calls his “light” which prove Ilgaz’s indisputable perfection.
Collaborating to find the real killer exposes Ceylin to Ilgaz, and he to her. They discover that they are naturally comfortable revealing their true emotions to each other. Whatever Ceylin feels about her sister’s loss, only he is capable of helping her face her guilt for not knowing about Inci’s secret life and taking time to help Inci understand her problems. In the middle of the night, when she runs into the street drowning in grief, Ilgaz is there to quietly hug her and support her. When her parents denounce her, it is Ilgaz who picks her up and gives her emotional and physical shelter. As Ilgaz learns about Çınar’s stash of drugs and reports such to the police, it is Ceylin who stands next to him. On several occasions, they literally and metaphorically give each other water to quench the other’s thirst from the drought they feel inside or to recover from emotional blows they have received.
It does not take long before the marriage they entered into to protect each other legally, turns into a real one. The chemistry and the true love are present. However, Ceylin possesses tragic flaws: a volatile temperament, lack of patience, an inability to forgive and forget. As strong as she appears, she cannot reject unrealistic familial pressure and expectations. On numerous occasions she displays poor judgement in her obsessive desire for revenge. In this pursuit, she demonstrates her willingness to risk it all, even Ilgaz. Ceylin’s drive to expose Yekta and bring him to justice becomes the most self-destructive of her pursuits. Her inability or unwillingness to defy her mother’s rejection of Ilgaz after the events surrounding Zafer’s disappearance are revealed, speak volumes of Ceylin’s weakness from within. Ilgaz must take the inevitable decision even though his heart reflects the words of Turgut Uyar in the prefix to episode 32: “My heart is a broken clock, it always stops at you…..”
As hard as she tries, Ceylin cannot overcome herself. Her inner darkness, as she calls it, where she still feels anger, distrust and betrayal jump into her throat. They make her say and do hurtful things. She will have no peace until the monsters are silenced within her. While Ilgaz has reached a higher level of maturity where he is able to assess, hope, stay silent, not judge and stay true to himself, Ceylin is not at that stage yet. She repeats the same mistakes, and it appears that another one will be made in six months.
“Three things tire a person the most: to forgive, to keep silent while they burn inside, and to dream even though they know it won’t happen” (Chuck Palahniuk, episode 31). Although they love each other very much and do not want a life where one is without the other, a journey together might not even be possible if Ceylin does not learn from her mistakes and change. How many times will Ilgaz burn inside? Even if he forgives Ceylin countless times, as he has in season one for her decisions and her darkness, will there ever come a time when she will be able to conquer herself?
A festive wedding unites Ceylin and Ilgaz. However, it is difficult to ignore signs from the writer, Sema Ergenekon. “Putting something together after you broke it doesn’t make it whole again” (Ibn Rushd, episode 30).
Season two will open dramatically with the arrest of Ceylin. What will have motivated the crime? Who will be the victim? These questions can only be speculated upon at this stage. However, one can state for certain that Yargı will continue to allow us to see for ourselves the many truths about humans and their nature and as Gautama Buddha said, “Three things cannot be kept hidden for long: the sun, the moon and the truth.”
Season two of Yargı is coming back on Kanal D on September 18th!
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Joan Hiver
Author: Joan Hiver is a retired English Literature Professor who has taught English Literature at both secondary school and university levels. For many years Joan also served on the Board of Directors of an International Private School. At the moment, she is trying her hand on writing a children’s book. A native of Canada , Joan moved to the United States after her marriage. She is the mother of three children. Joan discovered the Turkish dizi when she and her family lived in Europe. Besides being a die-hard fan of Turkish dizis since 2006, she enjoys sewing, needlepoint, gardening, cooking and detective fiction of any kind.
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