A Review of TV series Resurrection Ertuğrul. Language: Turkish (close-captioned in English), Director Metin Güney
A five-season 448-episode (about 45 minutes each) gripping Netflix TV series has plenty of unpredictable twists and turns and cliffhangers that test your willpower for not using your thumb to press “next episode” to continue binge-watching even if it is past midnight. The producers of the series claim, “stories and characters depicted here were inspired by our [Turkish] history.” The stories revolve around the legendary Ertuğrul and his trials and tribulations in resurrecting a nation-state based on Islamic ideals of inclusiveness, freedom of worship, equality, justice, and freedom from oppression.
The series depict the religious, personal and territorial ambitions, and conflicts of Muslims, Knights Templars (crusaders), the Byzantine Christians, and the Mongols, with heroes, whack-a-mole villains (whose demeanor, and eyes and facial expressions fit their roles), spies, and renegades engaging in heroic battles, deception, and treachery leading to mutual destruction of people and property. Ambitions divide kith and kin and unite them momentarily when facing a common enemy. A prominent strategy employed by those jockeying for power was to divide and conquer. The disclaimer “no animals were harmed during the filming of this production” stands in stark contrast to the number of graphic blood-spilling scenes which depict peoples’ heads severed when punishing a captive individual or their throats slashed in sword/dagger fights. Prisoners are shown tethered to poles/trees for extracting information or confessions by torturing them with merciless threats and beatings, their heads repeatedly dunked in water, and eyes and parts of chest burned with red-hot iron rods heated in smoldering coals. In one instance, a villainous character from a neighboring tribe tortures Ertuğrul’s nephew for information and kills him, and then shows up to offer condolences to Ertuğrul making promises of support in avenging the killer. The renegade dead are shown publicly shamed by being tethered to a pole in full view of the community as a lesson to anyone conspiring with the enemy. Sometimes the severed heads of spies/prominent commanders are hung on a rope for public shaming and/or sent as gifts to their chiefs.
The depicted graphic violence may be enough to cause nightmares and trauma in young and old viewers alike or make them immune to violence. People holding power in conflicting entities seem almost always restless to go to war for their causes while their constituents long for peace. Setting traps is a common strategy employed to expose renegades and/or capture/kill the enemy. Martyrdom is a holy sacrifice. The Muslims delight in killing the oppressors (Mongols, Knights Templars, Byzantine Christians), often referred to as “non-Muslims” or “infidels” or “heathens.” The Knights Templars and Byzantine Christians seem equally delighted in killing Muslims (referred to as “sheepherders,” or “the barbaric Turks”) to get them out of their way to establish the supremacy of their religion. Likewise, the Mongols, believers in the Tengri and shamanism, express pleasure in killing, set fire to an entire community, and/or plunder to prove their might. Dialogues among characters often reek of hostilities, threats of revenge, and arrogance of status/ invincibility, with well-acted facial expressions.
Life in the tents of the nomadic tribes is depicted colorfully. We see their beautiful tents with exquisite rugs, women with their colorful clothing and ornamental head coverings, poetic tender exchanges between lovers/family members, playful banter among prominent alps (soldiers), and engagement/wedding ceremonies with feasts, music, dancing by alps, and of course, funerals. You also see men and women armed with swords and daggers while sitting down for family or elaborate communal meals. You see their women’s skill in weaving and dyeing fabric and rugs, but when they show them engaged in their craft, it is often accompanied with a bitter dialogue between some sharp-tongued prominent women trying to drill sense into each other’s head, threatening or accusing each other, or conspiring, and yet another eavesdropping woman lurking a few yards away, ready to pass on information to someone who could benefit from it to seek revenge. The tent walls are too thin to prevent eavesdropping, stealing, or hiding easily discoverable items to frame someone for theft. The prominent tribal and Christian women are depicted as strong, courageous, ready for martyrdom, and skilled in the art of warfare with words, weapons, and deception, and some also skilled in extracting poison from scorpions/spiders/snakes/herbs and deploying it to wipe out an unsuspecting adversary by mixing it in their sherbet at dinner time or lacing a letter sent with a messenger.
The series glorify the thrill of conquering for religious righteousness by might and martyrdom. The obsessive belief in their versions of the dictates of the Almighty is the driving force in the everyday lives and self-righteous battles raged by the different groups.
Have the times changed? The belief in the superiority of one’s version of the Almighty continues to inspire everyday politics internationally and some incidents of domestic and international terrorism. The belief in “justified killing” is still prevalent in the modern-day world, although not always motivated by religious beliefs. Governments of countries continue to arm themselves with a deadly arsenal that can kill without contact and parade their streets with displays of tanks and ballistic missiles. Mercenary individuals are ready to volunteer to follow orders to battle anywhere or engage in terrorism for causes they do not fully care to understand. An African proverb says it well “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” (as noted by Black, 2021, p A 16).
Black, H. A. (February 12, 2021). When those big elephants fight, look out below. In Letters to the Editor, Wall Street Journal, p. A 16.