Saturday, June 01, 2019

The End of Ertugrul

This Wednesday, after 5 extra ordinary years, an almost perfect television series came to an end with an almost perfect finale episode. Yes, Diriliş: Ertuğrul was over.

Diriliş: Ertuğrul, also known in English as Resurrection: Ertugrul, or simply Ertugrul for short, is a Turkish television serial that has become a worldwide phenomenon. It tells the story of a 13th century Turkish warrior called Ertugrul who, by a series of extra ordinary actions and events, becomes the father of Osman, who in turn will found the Ottoman empire that will rule as a world super power for the next 600 years.

Ertugrul is a straight forward man who loves to fight for justice and truth. He is loathe to compromise on ethics, regardless of the consequences - facts that sometimes lead to conflicts with his brothers and others in his tribe.

The first two seasons sees him emerge from under the shadows of his father and his older brothers, and come into his own. His father respects his ideals and ethics, but his brothers are more practical and less loathe to endanger themselves or the tribe for the sake of justice. It is this schism that leads to Ertugrul heading off with his own followers, breaking away from the rest of the tribe, to follow his own destiny.

Along the way he and his people manage to establish themselves near the Byzantine borders. The Crusaders, the Greeks, and the ever present Mongols are all enemies that Ertugrul has to constantly deal with, along with the troubles of his own people.

The characters that surround Ertugrul are extremely appealing and well fleshed out. Sadly, despite his many enemies, the worst enemy is usually someone close to him who is backstabbing him for petty cash or worldly powers. The show effectively portrays the many layers of such tribal society life and the schemes that go on on a daily basis.

One of the attractions of this show was the presentation of Islamic ideals, values and morals in a very attractive (and entertaining) manner without coming across as preachy and verbose. These people LIVE the Islamic ideals.

Verses of the Quran are mixed along with parables and stories of the pious from whom Ertugrul and his band of heroes draw inspiration from. The story contains a heavy dose of Sufism that was a big influence of the early Ottomans. The plot was, for the most part, riveting and the script well written, particularly seasons 3, 4 and 5. This is when Ertugrul comes into his own as a man, as a leader, and as a power broker.

There's ample tragedy in the series as well. Good people die, sometimes as result of cruelty of their enemies, and other times due to betrayal and a moment of weakness. The story does not shy away from these moments, but sometimes lingers on them.

Each episode is long - almost 2 hours! There's 30 episodes every season. That's 60 hours per season, and at 5 seasons, you have almost 300 hours of Ertugrul. Yet most people who watch it love it, and watch it slowly to make it last even longer. The show is now a cultural phenomenon, watched not just in Turkey but around the world, particularly after Netflix picked it up.

The show has successfully drawn its inspiration from modern times. Just like today, in the 13th century the Muslim world was badly divided, broken, and weak, and seemed to be on the verge of oblivion under Mongol cruelty. Yet along came a hero, chosen by Allah, who led a resurrection. Within a short span of time, these same Muslims were now on their way to conquering Constantinople. It's not hard to see why this show is so popular amongst today's Muslims. It gives them hope.

You will be missed, Ertugrul. Eyvallah!