“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went — and came, and brought no day …”
Lord Byron, Darkness
If you are a believer of dualism like myself, villains must be interesting to you too. Just like the yin and yang symbol, we all carry both light and dark inside us. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we have an interest in villains. However we’re not interested in all types of villains.
I, for instance don’t find the monstrous villains in horror movies like ‘Halloween’ or ‘A Nightmare in Elm Street’ interesting at all. In real life or on film, what is more compelling is a villain that is a bit sympathetic because then he/she is beyond the usual bad guy cliche.
Good stories include dualism just as real life, so if the protagonist is a hero, like in Maraşlı, then the villain must be a perfectly matched anti-hero. Today let’s take a look at one of the best villains on Turkish television right now, and discuss how his character affects the show.
Life is A War
Our introduction to Savaş happens on the first episode, while he ruthlessly tortures a prosecutor in an old factory and then he kills him. That’s when Mahur sees and photographs him and minutes later Celal saves Mahur’s life while she’s running from his men. Savaş means war in Turkish, but it also means to eliminate. So, what is Savaş trying to eliminate in this story? The Türels?
Savaş is a well written character, and he comes alive masterfully with Saygın Soysal’s laid back acting. He is a total opposite to Celal’s character, with his gentlemanly manners and smooth talk. Yes, he’s evil, there’s no doubt for that, but just like Celal he has many layers that the story peels off as the show goes on.
We find out that his hat, glasses, gloves and umbrella are not choices that depend on his fashion taste. Savaş has a medical condition called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) which is a genetic disorder that causes his DNA to have less ability to repair UV light damage. There is no cure for XP and people who have this disorder are usually bound to stay indoors during the day. If they go out, they must have protective clothing.
Savaş is Aziz’s business partner Ömer’s son. While serving his time in prison, Ömer marries a nurse who is working there. Then they have Savaş who waits for years for his dad to be released. After he is released, Ömer goes to the Türel’s mansion to face Aziz, because he believes Aziz has planted the drugs in his car to get him arrested, which although he denies doing it that particular night, he later accepts when Sedef’s videos surface. That night they argue, Ömer is shot dead by Necati and Sadık buries his body then and there.
So Savaş, after years of waiting for him, loses his father again. With the news of Ömer being killed, his mother Zehra loses her mind and Savaş is left an orphan so he’s sent to an orphanage and then he lives on the streets for some time. We don’t know yet how he manages to survive on the streets with his condition and also how he later makes a place for himself in the crime world.
Dark and Mysterious
Many cinema villains are also victims. Savaş is one of them. First, he has a terrible childhood, as if this is not enough, he also has a serious skin condition that forces him to mostly stay indoors. We can empathize with some of the things he does because he had to face a lot of injustice. However the show also shows us that, he’s not just after revenge. He also wants to climb the ladder in the crime world and make more money.
Savaş is able to control his emotions, act calm and collected and stick to a plan. In this sense he’s a bit different from Celal who sometimes can be blinded by revenge. Unlike Celal, Savaş knows where to draw the line and not react. Actually I think this quality is what makes him more scary and almost a bit inhuman.
Where everything our hero Celal does is clear and understandable, Savaş’s reasons sometimes remain unclear. This makes me think we will find out about these later in the series. After it is revealed in episode 9 that Savaş and Necati are brothers, we begin to see a more human side of Savaş.
His presence and involvement in the story looks accidental until the 4th episode. We think that all he wants is to obtain the photos Mahur has taken. However on episode 4 he plants doubts on Mahur’s mind about Ömer’s death. While Mahur is trying to find out if Aziz has something to do with Ömer’s death, Savaş is working on taking over Türel Holding conspiring with Ozan.
There are many things about Savaş that we are shown glimpses, yet they are still to be clarified. Let me remind you some of them. Savaş has a money related business, something that has to do with digital money or maybe also with stock exchange. This can be seen from the updates he follows and the broadcasting van he visits where there are a couple of people working with screens that look like they are stock traders.
In the first episode he talks to two men online, blaming them for going behind his back and investing in digital money, he forces them to give their money to him and when they refuse, he orders one of them to be killed. Several times, he is seen talking to someone on the phone and also visiting someone behind a very historic looking big door. After watching episode 9 we assume that this was Necati all along but what if it isn’t?
In episode 6, he is shown sitting with a mysterious looking leather box, he says it was sent as a present. Suat looks at what’s inside but to this day, we never got to see what’s in it and who it is from.
Once he is shown watching the news about an airplane that crashed and we’re left to wonder why it’s so important to him. Why does he care about it? In a story, everything we’re shown is relevant, so if this has been included in the story, it must mean something. Is it because the Türel family has an airlines company and he’s planning to transfer the drugs with those planes?
Flames of Hell
As a villain Savaş’s choice of weapon is usually sharp things, mostly knives. There is also another thing he likes, it’s setting fire. How do we know he likes sharp things? Well because he cuts the prosecutor’s fingers, he stabs one of his man for screwing up a job and also because he threatens Celal with a small knife at the gallery when he points a gun at him. He also threatens İlhan with a knife.
He also likes setting things on fire. One time, when his men set the car İlhan, Aziz and Necati were in on fire without his orders, he set fire to the guy who started it. Another time he set Celal’s car on fire to punish him for leaving him out on the sun. Finally at the end of episode 15 he told his men to set fire to the house where Nevzat, Celal and Mahur are staying.
Burning is an interesting choice because fire is deeply associated with hell. We even say, burn in hell, assuming that there will be flames in hell. Since Savaş has severe burns in his skin every time his skin is exposed to the sun, we can say that he suffers in hell without being there. Maybe that’s why he wants his enemies to get a taste of it too.
Savaş had to endure and still suffers a lot because of his medical condition and this has been used against him since his childhood. After Celal’s torture on episode 7 by leaving him under the sun letting his skin to burn, in episode 8 we see his childhood on flashbacks and learn how this has always been used against him.
I have to admit there are times Savaş becomes almost too likeable for a villain. Especially knowing now what he endured in the past and knowing that his skin condition makes him really vulnerable. However Maraşlı does a good job of showing us also how he lacks emotion apart from those he loves who are his mom and his brother, he doesn’t care if the other people live or die. All he cares about is business and money and his revenge. So I’m glad they balance it nicely from time to time, as at times he does seem too likeable to me.
What makes him likeable even though he is a villain? First of all, he is a gentleman. You can notice this, how he takes off his hat and sunglasses when he enters a room and how he greets people and how politely he talks, he never uses swear words. He’s mostly very calm and has refined taste that can be seen in his clothing, in his study and in the furniture inside it. He gets along well with technology and the developing world which can be seen from his business relations.
I do enjoy it when the show lets us see his ruthless side, like when he kidnapped and scared Mahur and he tricked İlhan and made him kill Ozan and filmed it. He’s a villain after all and unlike shows who really get us confused after a while and maybe bring us to a point where we’re rooting for a villain, Maraşlı series lets us remember that he is indeed a bad guy, but an interesting one that’s fun to watch. Oh, also he has the best comebacks (or burns!), his lines really reflect his intelligence!
The Umbrella Symbolism
In cinema umbrellas have a powerful presence and Maraşlı uses it to give Savaş a different appeal as a villain. In her book Brolliology, for which I’ve gotten the chance to read a summary, Marion Rankine says that maybe one of the reasons for cinema’s fascination with umbrellas is because in our civilized world they still have an unmatched place. We have invented many gadgets and devices yet the umbrellas have remained quite the same.
Many times, accessories are used either to underline the strengths of heroes or the vulnerabilities of villains. In Savaş’s case it can be seen as a symbol of his vulnerability against the sun. The black umbrella is also randomly shown in some scenes like in episode 2, it is shown on the street just laying on the grown as if someone left it and ran away. The tip of the umbrella is seen in Celal’s nightmare on episode 9. These images help us to identify the umbrella with Savaş.
Savaş’s weakness is his inability to stay under the sun without any protection. But he has his strong points as well. As we’re constantly shown, he has a chess board in his study which shows us his ability to make strategic decisions. He is able to make complicated plans and has the patience to see them thorough. He is a very smooth speaker, not needing to raise his voice or make rude remarks to put someone down.
I find it interesting that he’s usually not the one to carry the umbrella. It’s Suat’s job most of the time. He says to Suat once that he doesn’t miss being in the sun because you can’t miss what you never had. That’s why he doesn’t miss sunlight at all. As a person who lived his life in the shadows, daylight to Savaş is foreign and not missed.
Villains in Competition
After it has been revealed that Necati is Savaş’s brother, especially in episodes 10, 11 and 12 Savaş’s screen time seemed a bit decreased. This had me worried since Necati’s presence as a villain wasn’t as interesting to me as Savaş’s was.
Don’t get me wrong, but I much preferred Necati as an outsider to the story. I’m also not convinced with his claims to be a victim of Aziz and being forced to kill his own father. As far as we have seen, although he meant to save Aziz, he was the one to grab a rifle and shoot Ömer. If Necati didn’t know Ömer was his father, isn’t it Sedef’s fault as well?
Yes, it’s a horrible thing to have killed your own father. Aziz is guilty too since he’s the one who put the drugs in Ömer’s car and got him arrested. Still Necati did live a life of privilege, unlike Savaş who had to suffer a lot more. We still have no idea, how Savaş and Necati met each other but from the trailer of episode 16, it seems like Savaş will finally find out that Aziz wasn’t the one to shoot Ömer, it was Necati. I’m really excited to see Necati and Savaş turning on each other. It should not be difficult for you to guess whose side I will be on.
How Necati got to a position of power is still a mystery. All Savaş wants is to be done with the Türels and go forward with building a crime empire. Was Necati the one to lead Savaş all along? Is Savaş being protected by a higher power?I guess we’ll see and I’m eager to watch what will happen next between these brothers.
An interesting villain that we respect doesn’t come to our screens very often. I think through Savaş we can also see a critique of the society and how we treat people with physical disabilities. Even Celal who is basically a hero in this story, tortures Savaş under the sun to make him talk, by using his condition against him. So how is he any different from the bullies that left him under the sun when he was a kid. I find it very interesting that as a villain that gets burned, he tries to burn Celal, not once but twice. Once in his car and now in the wooden hut from which he will probably be saved on the next episode.
They say a story is only as good as its villain and I agree. Even though we’re there to watch primarily Celal and Mahur’s story, Savaş is the yin to Celal’s yang, the darkness to his light, the umbrella to his stag, the sharp city buildings to his mountain and forests. He is the lighthearted comedy to Celal’s seriousness. He is the whisky to Celal’s rakı, fancy fish restaurant to his humble table, the civilized metropolitan man to his village guy.
Cinema loves a contrast and with Maraşlı, they sure as hell give us the one that we deserve. I wish and hope Savaş’s role in the story will be revealed more in the future episodes. Here’s to a villain who is completely evil, a vicious man all round who has completely earned my respect. Let me end this with one of his lines from episode 7, “If someone wants to start a war, I’m ready!”
Dear reader, if this sounded like a love letter to a character, then so be it. We don’t get delicious villains all the time. My next article on Maraşlı will be about #MahCel and that’s the only tip I can give you about it. Let me know what you think about this piece, the show and about where the show is headed. Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter, I’m @edsavaseri there. I love hearing from you. Have a great day, wherever you’re in the world right now. I’m sending you peace, love and light from a sunny morning in Istanbul.