SEASON TWO : ZEYNEP and MEHDI
DOGDUGUN EV KADERINDIR, brings together in an arranged marriage, two people, who, although born in the same neighborhood, the different circumstances of their lives make them, in fact, members of quite different and distinct worlds. As if Zeynep and Mehdi are from two foreign countries, the differences between them are not only educational and financial, but social and cultural. The tumult which they are facing in season two with a climax of emotions being reached in episode sixteen, results, in part, from the age-old clash between the traditional and the new order.
While Zeynep is a young woman who knows about the traditional ways of life in the mahalle and the role of women in this closed society, she has been brought up in a home where women live by a different set of rules and thus experience a freer lifestyle, quite foreign to the mahalle. Their education opens doors for business and professional opportunities. They are used to sharing in decision making for their family; having independent thought and freedom of movement. The hierarchy of the mahalle society, male at the foundation, considering, deciding, and ordering, is challenged by the new order. In Nermin’s and Ekrem’s house, Zeynep was exposed to a different Turkish reality than in the home of Bayram and Sakine. Episodes fifteen and sixteen are rife with examples of the clash between traditional and new order. Although some characters like Nuh, Cemile and Sultan are able to recognize that change is inevitable and that the past needs to stay in the past, Mehdi is not one of them.
Zeynep, Mehdi and many near to them are aware that the biggest conflicts in their marriage are going to stem from the alternate life which Zeynep has lived. The only persons firmly in favor of Zeynep’s marriage to Mehdi are her biological parents. Partially for their own gain, but primarily because Sakine is part of this traditional order of things, she wants Zeynep to marry Mehdi and return to life near her in the mahalle. Many times, during season one, viewer and protagonists alike have seen close up the differences between their worlds. A blatant example occurs on the wedding day as Mehdi shows a pugnacious and rash side to his character. Similarly, after events at Nermin’s house, when Mehdi and his family are insulted by Ekrem and the real relationship between Faruk and Zeynep is exposed, Mehdi demonstrates his traditional thinking and the degree to which honor is held high and pride prevails. Likewise, the party at Nermin’s country house serves as the epitome of the fact their worlds are as far apart as east and west. Thinking processes, dressing, even the type of food consumed differs. Zeynep’s decision on two occasions during their short-married life to remain with Mehdi are reached because of her intense love for him and her knowledge that he loves her. Her decisions demonstrate that she has put her love for him and her desire to have a family with him above any reservations she might have about the possibility that their differences in outlook will pose a problem. Mehdi’s reassurances to her that he will not use violence as a means for solving injustices in the neighborhood and her inherent goodness and naivete encourage her to believe that she and Mehdi will be able to overcome the obstacles. However, it is not until season two that Zeynep and Mehdi begin to have their relationship and their mettle truly tested.
Mehdi, so far, has been able to keep his promises to Zeynep as there have been no important challenges to their order and as Zeynep has not begun her career yet. Very quickly, events precipitate drastic actions and heightened emotions. Benal moves into their house in response to the danger of her abusive former husband, Serkan, who indeed kidnaps Benal. Burhan Yeter, the eldest son of Mehdi’s father’s murderer , and Mujgan’s former lover, returns from Germany. Burhan buys shops in the mahalle and tries to usurp Mehdi’s influence in the area. He meets up with Mujgan. Zeynep begins working in a professional environment where Mehdi is not allowed, neither literally, nor metaphorically to enter. As each event follows from the other, the peace is disturbed and the values of the order of their world come under scrutiny.
Zeynep’s first significant test comes when she is called upon to actually experience that her husband is having a child by another woman and this woman is living under the same roof as they are.
Mehdi desires just to be understood for wanting to protect his child, the child’s mother and enjoy the feelings which go along with becoming a first-time father. As Zeynep is sidelined, like an unnecessary cog, looking into a relationship that Mehdi will forever have with Benal due to their child, she is unable to stop herself from asking Mehdi to house Benal elsewhere. Serkan kidnaps Benal from the street and Mehdi reacts with potential violence towards Serkan. Had Zeynep not been first to call the police, the viewer is not sure how he would have manifested his anger, judging from the punch he threw as Serkan was being arrested. Mehdi is frustrated at his inability to keep peace and order for Zeynep, Benal and the child. Mehdi is tied by his fealty to the traditional role of protector
The tensions are still palpable in the family when news spreads within the mahalle that Burhan Yeter is back from Germany. Burhan is the eldest son of the man who killed Mehdi’s father. The bad blood between Mehdi and Burhan is compounded by the fact that in the past, Mujgan and Burhan were lovers, forced to part due to the deadly enmity between the families. Mehdi pronounces without possibility of recourse that no one will contact Burhan; his comment aimed primarily at Mujgan. No one will go out without his permission and he will know where everyone is at all times. Zeynep is disturbed and shocked at his authoritarianism. She tries to point out to Mehdi that people change, circumstances change and that he needs to look ahead, re-evaluating the situation surrounding the arrival of Burhan in the mahalle. Nuh tells him pretty well the same things as Zeynep during a discussion occasioned by the selling of Nuh’s coffee shop. When Mehdi finds that Nuh has sold his store to Burhan, he feels completely betrayed by his friend and ” brother ” and inflexible in listening to reason.
Mehdi cannot understand how some people can sell their businesses just for money. He cannot understand how quickly many who previously were helped by him have shifted allegiances from him and accepted help from Burhan. He cannot understand how Burhan is moving the balance of power in the mahalle so easily; a balance that he has given his dreams up for by continuing in his late father’s tradition. Moreover, Mehdi does not trust Burhan. So, when he sees the signals used by Burhan, years before, to summon Mujgan to their old haunt, he runs to the place and discovers his oldest sister with his sworn enemy. As episode fifteen ends, Burhan, putting up no defense, allows himself to be brutally beaten by Mehdi. Burhan is admitted to hospital whilst Mehdi is jailed for assault.
While season one has presented a sweeping look at the differences between Zeynep and Mehdi’s worlds, season two gives us living proof of how philosophically and practically different these are. The opening episodes of season two climax in the intense events and drama of episode sixteen. In an explosive and disturbing way, the episode focuses directly on whether two people from such diverse backgrounds can actually overcome their differences even though they love each other. Zeynep is called upon to deal with Mehdi’s imprisonment. Although she does her duty as a lawyer, she does not stay at the police station overnight or go to see him in his cell. Her disappointment at his brutal behaviour is secondary to her feelings of betrayal and resentment. Not only does she have to deal with her own fears that Mehdi will become like her father, but she worries that she might become a suffering woman like her mother ; a fate, far worse to Zeynep’s way of thinking.
Zeynep’s visit to the hospital to check on Burhan, influences him not to press charges against Mehdi.
Upon his release from jail, Mehdi and Zeynep try to reconcile their differences. Zeynep realizes that Mehdi feels neither remorse nor regret for his actions. He claims that he will do the same again, if necessary. His ongoing defense being that he only wants to protect his family. Zeynep attempts to explain that his impulsive acts resulting from his uncontrollable anger will only hurt him eventually and his family. She expounds that when he does what he does he makes everyone suffer. Zeynep does not hide her fear, her frustration and her anger. When he tries to make light of the matter, Zeynep informs him that it took her a lot of effort to get him out of jail.
Unfortunately, Mehdi reacts by displaying signs of hurt pride instead of comprehension of her message. Once back home, Mehdi’s pride is poked at again during a conversation regarding Kibrit’s school. Zeynep’s announcement that she will pay the school fees forces her to reveal the amount which her salary will be in her position as law clerk. This conversation is not received well but Zeynep holds her ground against even Sakine’s protestation.
Sakine informs her that she has humiliated Mehdi and that Zeynep should remember that a woman must always be one step behind her man. As Sakine continues to give her daughter advice from the old order of the mahalle, which Sakine represents, she explains that Zeynep has planted a grudge inside her husband. Using her own life as an example, Sakine explains that Bayram beat her because she spawned feelings of humiliation within him by her employment when he did not have work. Furthermore, she claims that Ekrem left Nermin because he, too, felt inferior to his wife as Nermin had control of the purse. Zeynep tries to counter by saying that Mehdi is not old fashioned but Sakine insists that in order to feel like a man, Mehdi will beat her. The situation only worsens between the couple as Mehdi makes it clear to Zeynep that he cannot promise her anything regarding his behaviour. If she cannot understand, then she must just accept. Zeynep pleads with him to change. If he has problems with aggression, she requests that he gets professional help. She asks him to do it for her, but he replies that she and he should accept their ” places. ”
A chance meeting with Burhan leads Mehdi to the discovery that Zeynep has visited Burhan in the hospital. Burhan’s taunting that Mehdi used his wife to avoid jail is the final nail in Mehdi’s pride.
He cannot accept Zeynep’s interference and the tension is not contained. Mehdi confronts her ” fault ” and as a consequence seems to find errors in all that she does. He feels the necessity to dictate and to be in control. He picks a fight with Zeynep because she went out without getting his permission. This fight is just a prelude to his eruption over her being driven home from her work, along with others, by her boss. Mehdi’s theme is the same. He sets the rules, and she follows his orders. Zeynep is stunned and frustrated to be fighting with Mehdi. She suffers humiliation in front of her mother and Mujgan, yet she is fearless and defiant in her words and attitude towards him. She shows strength and resolve while she declares that he is her husband, not her master. Mehdi retorts that if she is his wife, then she should act like his wife.
The situation only worsens between the couple as Mehdi makes it clear to Zeynep that he cannot promise her anything regarding his behaviour. If she cannot understand, then she must just accept. Zeynep pleads with him to change. If he has problems with aggression, she requests that he gets professional help. She asks him to do it for her, but he replies that she and he should accept
Sakine and Mujgan believe Zeynep to be in the wrong regarding her stance towards Mehdi. They expect her to follow Mehdi’s rules and show deference to his decisions. Silence and acceptance. From the beginning, Mujgan has resented Zeynep and seen her as an unacceptable wife who will one day pick up and leave. One of the reasons Mujgan resents Zeynep so much is the fact that in Zeynep, Mujgan recognizes the woman she is not. Mujgan was not able to defy her brother, leave home and go with the man she loved. Instead of standing up to Mehdi, she denounced Burhan. Mujgan does not have the courage to do what Emine did. Instead, fearing Mehdi’s anger, Mujgan has tied herself to the old ways of the mahalle. She accuses Mehdi of imprisonment. She throws into his face that Cemile and he have done whatever they wanted but she cannot, and she carries this as her badge of honor. Sakine is totally upset with her daughter’s inability to compromise, accept, and comply. She cannot understand why Zeynep does not reform her character instead of defying Mehdi. Sakine calls her ” Nermin’s daughter “. Unbelievably, Sakine thinks Zeynep should give up her job at this large law firm in order to allow Mehdi not to endure the humiliation and tarnish to his pride.
Everything Nermin has uttered about Mehdi comes true in this episode. Nermin has warned Zeynep that Mehdi would not understand how she dresses; how other men interact with her. Nermin describes how he will think this provocative and likely will pass judgement based upon appearances. She has discussed how the demands of her profession will not be understood. The scene where Mehdi goes to her office to pick her up and is left waiting until late proves the veracity of Nermin’s statements.
During their arguments, he instructs her to watch what she wears to work. He orders her never to use a company car again and under no circumstances is she to accept a ride from another man. He is incensed that he is not allowed entry to her law offices. Later, he shouts that his wife cannot go anywhere that he cannot be. He lacks total understanding as to why she might be inaccessible whenever he calls her, and more importantly, he cannot grasp that she is asked to work so late. He tries to use his lawyer in the mahalle in a comparison by informing her that they take tea breaks and know when to go home for dinner. Zeynep’s explanations about law firms whose clients are from all over the world just fall on stubborn indignation. Mehdi, wounded pride as his shield, entrenches himself further into the traditional role as the lord and the master. Irrationally, he declares that her job changes their routine and tells her that she might have to leave this job. She will not go to work without his permission. She retorts by telling him that he cannot decide that. Zeynep defiantly proclaims that she is only in his house because she loves him and further reminds him that he knew her lifestyle, knew her and knew her life before he married her. The inevitable words are spoken to Mehdi.
Without Nermin there to support the point of view that Zeynep is expressing, Zeynep is left alone to defend her more progressive thinking against the traditional order uttered by Sakine, Mujgan and of course, Mehdi.
Only Sultan embodies progressive thoughts and is representative of the new order. Despite the personal cost which leaving the mahalle will mean for her, she decides to sell her beloved bakkal (store) in order to offer Emine independence and a better way of life somewhere else. Sultan is open minded enough to know that Emine will no longer be able to exist amongst the malicious gossips and the restrictive lifestyle of the neighborhood. Sultan tells Sakine that Mehdi is pleasant and basically a good man but after all he is a man. In Sultan’s book of wisdom, men are unpredictable! She declares that Zeynep needs to be independent. Happily, she proclaims that their daughters should not depend on anyone !
The advent of Burhan to the mahalle with his pervasive actions are a reminder to Mehdi of the responsibilities he must fulfill for his father’s legacy. The pressure from the situation with Benal in his home as well as evolving changes in lifestyle created by Zeynep’s law clerk position unleash a cyclone from inside Mehdi. He smashes furniture, shouts, orders, demands, and subjects his family to some very violent and unreasonable behaviour. When Mehdi visits Nuh to pour his heart out, Nuh admonishes him that he has gone completely off the rails and that he needs to seek the help of a doctor.
Nuh tells him that Zeynep did not grow up on these streets as they did so she does not really understand the old order. However, Mehdi just keeps repeating his chant that Zeynep believes he will turn into an abusive man like her father. Nuh, very honestly, explains to Mehdi that he has allowed his male pride to take over and that he is acting with much unwarranted arrogance. Nuh tries to explain that Zeynep has accepted the Benal situation and many other things in that house for his sake and if Mehdi continues in this manner, Zeynep is sure to leave. However, Mehdi keeps on as if reciting a litany; he claims that he has never felt deep in his heart that Zeynep loves or respects him. Nuh tells him that once again his insecurities are speaking instead of his logic and he is acting out of self pity as well. Nuh cannot believe that his friend continues to suffer from recurring issues of insecurity in his personal life while Mehdi’s unwillingness to take some steps in forward thinking regarding the past troubles Nuh.
The members of his family and the viewer are in a state of disbelief at Mehdi’s displays of rage. As though his upturning of tables, smashing of chairs, beating on this enemy from the past is not enough, Mehdi escalates his intolerable behaviour by locking Zeynep in the house so she will not be able to go to work. Initially shocked, Zeynep cannot believe or comprehend the news that Mehdi ordered Mujgan to lock her in. He sits outside the door listening to her imploring sobs, pounds and screams to be released, as the episode closes.
There is no question that Mehdi has psychologically ” snapped ” under the undo pressures. Certainly, he needs anger management. Violent response is simply plain dangerous for himself and for others and a torment to his family. However, Mehdi needs also to confront his personal insecurities, his philosophical beliefs about life and love. He needs to explore his place in the old and new order and what might happen if he does not change. Mehdi has not been presented to the viewer as an abusive character. He has shown infinite kindness, tenderness and a remarkable capacity for compassion and understanding towards Zeynep and others. He has an uncanny sense of knowing just when to unselfishly do the right thing for her. A case in point occurs during this episode when Zeynep learns from Baris that he has received the video of her graduation speech. Her boss subtly reminds her of what values she holds dear to her heart. Zeynep realizes that only Mehdi could have sent it.
Zeynep, from her part, will have to decide whether she is willing to take the risk that Mehdi will be able to change and maintain the changes which he undergoes. She will have to decide if she is able to forget these tumultuous actions of his and forgive him. Baris tells her that she is enriched and empowered by her diverse background. Having had exposure to the contrasting worlds she has lived has made her a better person. Deep down, Mehdi knows this too. Hopefully, Zeynep and Mehdi will weigh these important issues with reason and heart whilst realizing that life within marriage is full of a variety of emotions and struggles where all is tempered by love.
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.
Article Copyright (c) North America TEN and Joan Hiver
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