by Paola Cesarini
"The Protector" still manages to surprise, even after four seasons. From shifting the set to Ottoman times to recreating a time-loop worthy of Groundhog Day, and revealing the Immortals' origins within the Nika Riots of 532 CE, the final installment of "Hakan; Muhafiz" is much more ambitious than most would have imagined when it first started back in 2018. This review unravels the complex tale that has just come to a satisfactory conclusion, with a particular aim to dispel any lingering confusion that the last action-packed installment of The Protector might have left behind.
Throughout the three seasons of the first Turkish original from Netflix, the audience has been witness to the adventures of Hakan Demir, who goes from being an ambitious but luckless young man to an unlikely hero who suddenly discovers his lineage linked to an ancient order tasked with being the Muhafiz ("The Protector") of Istanbul. With a ring, a dagger and a talismanic shirt all of which have special powers, he is bestowed with the responsibility of keeping the city safe from the shenanigans of the Immortals, another ancient order who thrive on wreaking havoc on humankind. He is helped by the Loyal Ones, who are mortal human beings tasked with protecting his life at all costs. With training from Zeynep, one of the leaders in his army, he must become a worthy warrior within a short period of time, as the threat of a reprisal of the full set of Seven Immortals looms large.
As part of a superhero fantasy genre, if you are looking for a formulaic story of a superhero who ends each episode with yet another successful escapade, you will be disappointed. The Protector is far more about Hakan’s journey of becoming the Protector than it is about being one. We see Hakan struggle with loss after loss, ranging from plot devices that push him to rise up to the role of the Muhafiz to bungled plans that test his emotional intelligence and leadership skills. And through each loss, we see him come out stronger on the other side, having learnt from his mistakes and grief.
This process of exposing a character, during both his moments of weakness and glory, is a trait in Turkish drama that its fans love. The actors must express a range of emotions as they strive for the higher moral ground while their passage to the epic love interest is usually fraught with obstacles to be overcome. Cagatay Ulusoy as Hakan and Hazar Erguclu as Zeynep, the head of the Loyal Ones, portray this journey with a sensitivity that is rightfully expected of such committed, experienced young actors.
Unlike the typical monogamous protagonists of Turkish drama, we see a promiscuous Hakan who falls in love with women who are precariously close to or within the world of the Immortals. Time and again, he faces away from the love of Zeynep, a worthy partner in crime. This is despite several clues in the series that suggest that the Protector always marries a Loyal One, as they can fully appreciate the Protector’s moral duty. It is also next to a beloved Loyal One that the Protector can restore his lost powers. However, as the Oracle tells Zeynep in her customary cryptic words, the relationship between the Protector and the Loyal One can be as powerful as it can be dangerous. Which may be why we keep seeing Hakan and Zeynep weave in and out of a hint of a relationship, leaving us once again to question their future together at the dramatic end of Season 3.
While Season 1 ends with the re-emergence of the full fleet of Immortals and Season 2 ends on a vastly weakened Loyal army, Season 3 ends on Hakan emerging as a lone warrior as his friends fall prey to devious machinations by the Immortals under the most powerful of them all, the Vezir. As we discovered in our interview with Director Umut Aral, Season 4 will bring closure to many important questions that have plagued the fans since the conclusion of Season 3. Will Hakan be able to solve the key to changing the past? As Netflix prepares to drop the final season in a few hours, we hope you will tune into the 10 episodes and witness the conclusion to this epic journey taken by Hakan, The Protector of Istanbul.
At the end of this amazing journey provided by the production team, and enjoyed by the international fandom, we leave you with an excellent visual representation of the story so far, which has been created by @414rl (IG, Twittter, YoutTube) for Cagatay Ulusoy North America. Thumbnail credit goes to: cagatayulusoy_hazalkaya01 | IG. The fans, as much as the production team, have delivered on this success for Netflix and we look forward to many more!
You can also head on over to the Cagatay Ulusoy North America YouTube channel that has a series of fan videos that capture different elements of the story so far. More materials to be found on all our other platforms on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.
Article copyright CUNA and mh/ @entrespire | twitter
All pictures belong to their original owners, where applicable. No copyright infringement intended. Please ask for permission before reprints.
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The Protector, starring Cagatay Ulusoy, has been a phenomenal success story for Netflix, registering more than 20 million views for its 25 episodes across the past three seasons. As Netflix prepares to drop the fourth and final season of The Protector on July 9, North America TEN, the umbrella organization for Cagatay Ulusoy North America, is delighted to have the opportunity to connect with Umut Aral, the award-winning lead director for the franchise since Season 1.
With insightful answers about the origins of the story, his vision, localization of the production and more, the following interview provides some great information about the pioneering work done in the first Netflix Turkish original, which explores a new genre for the Turkish market, better known for its dizi format. Our deepest gratitude to Mr. Aral for providing such thoughtful discourse on the process of film making for The Protector.
Read the full interview here.
Article Copyright (c) North America TEN
by Paola Cesarini
The 4th and likely final season of "The Protector" will be released on July 9, 2020. This is earlier than anyone predicted, since most had anticipated a Fall/Winter release. Indeed, this is the shortest interval to date in between seasons for the first Turkish Netflix original production. The anticipation is likely due to a wish to prevent any confusion with the "Barbaros" project, where Çağatay Ulusoy will appear featuring another historical character from the 15th century Ottoman Empire.
The official trailer opens with scenes of continued chaos in Istanbul, where Vizir and Faysal rule, and Zeynep and Aylin are in their power. Hakan apparently manages to get back to the present from his past and rejoins what is left of the Loyals' gang. The new plan is to use the ancient key, which Hakan recuperated in S3, to travel back and forth to the 15th century and change the course of history to prevent the Immortals from conquering the present. In the past, Hakan will also seek a potion to free Zeynep and others from the Immortals' spell and thus recuperate his lost love.
A welcome surprise of Season 4 is the unexpected reappearance of Boran Kuzum as Okhan the Immortal. Remember, in fact, that Hakan had killed him early in season 2. Hakan will apparently awaken Okhan in order to gain a precious ally in his fight against Vizir and Faysal. The Oracle, Rüya and others, including a few characters who had perished in previous installments, will also reemerge. Whether they will do so in the present or the past remains to be seen. We also have yet to know whether Burak (interpreted by Taner Ölmez) will make a reappearance, since he was nowhere to be found in the S4 trailer. Amidst so many surprises and uncertainties, the final season of "The Protector" promises to be full of action, excitement and coups de théatre leading to what is certain to be an epic conclusion!!!
The news of the release of Season 4 arrives at a time of increased media activity around "The Protector." In recent days, the show's official IG account invited viewers to contribute an alternative finale for Season 3. Also Director Umut Aral has been active on social media providing additional details about the next installment of the series. Needless to say, there is great anticipation among fans to find out exactly what happens to Hakan/Harun after he emerges from the Bosphorus waters back into the 15th century's Ottoman Empire.
@ Article Copyright by CUNA and Paola Cesarini
All pictures and video clips belong to their original owners, where applicable. No copyright infringement intended.
by Paola Cesarini
It has been almost one year since we last saw Çagatay Ulusoy on screen, but Season 3 of "The Protector" was absolutely worth the wait. Dark, eerily current, and cleverly reminiscent of several cinematic masterpieces, it is by far the most substantive and spectacular installment of the Turkish superhero saga to date. This article will explain why, but will carefully avoid spoilers for those who have not yet seen the show.
The most welcome surprise of Season 3 is the show's more complex, elegant and meaningful script. It marks a significant improvement over the past and especially over Season 2. While still enjoyable, previous narratives in "The Protector" offered a peculiar combination of "Aladdin", "The Da Vinci Code" and "Jurassic Park." In particular, Season 1 introduced Hakan as a not-too-bright, ambitious delivery boy from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, who is suddenly burdened with a demanding legacy. Watching him being dragged against his will into an extraordinarily dangerous adventure inspired a mix of compassion and exasperation, especially when he proved somewhat inadequate for the mission. Season 2 offered a more confident and responsible Hakan. However, it regrettably eliminated the welcome comedic interludes found in Season 1. After an interminable succession of calamities, the last season concluded with Hakan holding a moribund Zeynep in his arms and three dangerous immortals on the loose.
Surprisingly, Season 3 (which appeared on Netflix screens on March 6, 2020,) belongs to a completely different league. To start with, it displays cinematic references that are far more substantial than in the past seasons. For instance, Hakan's tangible isolation in his desperate fight against evil is reminiscent of Neo's condition in "The Matrix", while his attempts to extend his consciousness into the past bear clear reference to the early 1980s science-fi thriller "Altered States". Finally, the concluding sequence offers a spectacular cliffhanger that might well belong to the "Outlander" saga. It also hints at a more onerous mission for Hakan than anyone can imagine. What will come next for our Turkish superhero is truly anybody's guess.
The script of Season 3 delivers additional welcome surprises in the area of character development. Hakan is no longer the impulsive, lost boy we first met. He appears now as a more mature, determined and responsible adult. At the same time, he retains enough of an anti-superhero quality to maintain his character's credibility. In Season 3, Hakan's new persona is cleverly juxtaposed to Burak. A no-pretensions thief with a hidden personality, Burak appears to take on the savior qualities that one would expect of Hakan, while at the same time providing him with some serious competition in the romance department.
Through a series of well-executed flashbacks, Season 3 brings Hakan together with his "First Protector" ancestor. In the process, we learn a great deal about this fascinating character and begin to understand that Hakan's destiny is part of a much larger saga dating back to the 15th century Ottoman Empire. Already an admired, fierce warrior-hero before Sultan Mehmed tapped him to become the "First Protector", Harun Bey is a larger-than-life creature. Unlike Hakan, he appears perfectly suited to the mission. As a result of his close encounters with his ancestor, Hakan is radically transformed in more ways than one. Season 4 will reveal just how far this transformation goes.
One of the most interesting features of the "The Protector" consists of dismantling age and gender stereotypes often associated with fantasy/action movies. In Season 1, Hakan's mentor was not an elderly wise man, but a young, sassy, leather-clad, motorbike-riding, and incredibly smart young woman (Zeynep). In Season 2, Hakan's principal nemesis is not an ominous-looking, powerful male figure but a clever, diminutive, beautiful woman (Rüya). Season 3 continues to push the boundaries of the genre's stereotypes in interesting ways.
Last, but not least, in Season 3 "The Protector" becomes philosophical. Several key topics receive more than a passing reference. Life and what makes it worth living. Immortality vs. death. Duty and responsibility. Sexual promiscuity and gender-related double-standards. Leadership and the isolation that often accompanies it. Betrayal and its unexpected consequences. And the paradox of time. While "The Protector" does not rise to the complexity of "The Matrix", the introduction of more substantive themes into the script elevates the show and provides an extremely satisfactory viewing experience.
The latest installment of "The Protector" also delivers more significant roles for the protagonists of the series. As mentioned earlier, Çagatay Ulusoy's brings to life a character with significant acquired depth. Hakan is more reflective and thinks strategically in lieu of acting impulsively. No longer reckless and cocky, the former Grand Bazar boy is fully aware of his responsibility, which he appears to carry as an impossibly heavy weight on his young shoulders. In addition, the talented Turkish actor plays both the "First Protector" and Hakan's nemesis -- i.e. Vizir, who interacts with our hero through his reflection. These characters are notably different from each other, and Çagatay is to be commended for a veritable acting tour de force that finally gives justice to his considerable talent. Because of Vizir's remarkable power to communicate with others through their reflections, other protagonists in Season 3 also play a double role. Once again, the show delivers a solid overall performance by a cast that predominantly features young Turkish acting talent.
Another notable feature of the latest "Protector" installment is the reunion of several leading characters from "Medcezir" (I counted at least six.) There is an unmistakable camaraderie among these actors, which gives to their performance the quality of a well-oiled machine. On the other hand, this situation can be disorienting for the viewers, especially since Çagatay, Hazar, Taner, Miray, and others are called to perform roles that are almost diametrically opposed to those they played almost seven years, ago.
This review would not be complete without a list of drawbacks. For Season 3, such a list is thankfully brief. First, the show opens with an apocalyptic scene of Istanbul in the throes of a massive epidemic. In light of recent news around the world, which no one could have predicted during the shooting of Season 3, the first two episodes are quite uncomfortable to watch. However, these sequences are necessary since the events and characters associated with the epidemic introduce clues that later acquire great importance.
Second, those who expected a substantive and satisfactory resolution of the Hakan/Levent relationship will be disappointed. Regrettably, the screenwriters only weakly outlined Levent's character in Season 2. They completely miss the opportunity to flesh it out in Season 3. This is rather disappointing, especially to those who remember Içerde's splendidly moving sibling saga, and Çagatay's brilliant performance alongside Aras Bulut Iynemli.
In this blog last year, I wrote a candid review of Season 1 of "The Protector" highlighting in roughly equal measure the merits and drawbacks of the series. Following a relatively lackluster Season 2, I chose to write an episode guide in lieu of a review. It is thus a pleasant surprise to have once again enough material to pen a substantive review. In conclusion, Season 3 represents a marked improvement over the previous installments of "The Protector" because of the remarkably upgraded script, the skillful performances, and the spectacular visual effects. Most importantly, it finally gives Çagatay Ulusoy and his colleagues a significant opportunity to showcase their considerable talent.
More than ever, "The Protector" is an unapologetically ground-breaking show that successfully targets a younger demographic, both in Turkey and abroad. The over 20 million households that tuned into the show during the past two seasons will surely continue to enjoy this remarkable saga, which promises to deliver even more exciting surprises in Season 4.
@ Article Copyright by North America TEN and Paola Cesarini
All pictures and video clips belong to their original owners. No Copyright infringement intended.
*Heartfelt thanks to Mary Bloyd for her invaluable editing support.
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