Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Fantasy adventure mystery
Availability: Netflix – Turkish with subtitles
Plot: This Turkish series is based on Charles King’s book Midnight at the Pera Palace: The birth of modern Istanbul. The adaptation takes more than a few liberties with the book, creating a curious and entertaining story about the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. It is, in fact, a story within a story. In modern-day Turkey, a young journalist and avid Agatha Christie fan, Esra, is given the task of writing an article about the famous Pera Palace Hotel. Well known as an historical centre of political intrigue, Christie was a regular guest there. A room has been named after her which features significantly in the plot. I will leave you to find out about how Esra ends up being involved in a plan to avert the assassination Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, revolutionary hero and founding father of the Republic of Turkey. Enough to say, it’s a wonderful story that romps along – part comedy, part romance, part mystery, with engaging fantasy elements.
Filming and Setting: Filmed in Istanbul, the series takes us to the opulent and magnificent Pera Palace Hotel. It is a visual feast. The costumes are glorious and the soundtrack is wonderful, as are the stage shows that take place at the nearby Garden Bar. There is great attention to detail, all resulting in a visually outstanding TV series. The adaptation manages to create an important sense of the political precariousness of time and place, while at the same time it is full of quirky moments that provide subtle comedic relief.
Cast: Hazal Kaya is terrific as Esra as she launches haphazardly into all elements of the story. Tansu Biçer is also impressive in the role of Ahmet, the manager of Pera Palace, who tries to steer Esra through the dangers of the hotel’s secrets. There is a warm chemistry between the two, and much of the humour is derived from their adventurous antics. Both have perfect comic timing and great emotional expression. In fact, all the characters do well in this series. Selahattin Paşali does a fine job playing Halit, potential love interest for Esra, and Yaseman Szawloski plays Sonya, the coolly detached aristocrat who has fallen on hard times. The British come out worst in this series with James Chalmers ably playing the evil wannabe dictator, George, who is determined to gain complete power over Turkey. All great fun.
Personal Comments: Directed by Nisan Dag and produced by Emre Sahin, this series is a joy to watch from start to finish. There is lots of action and movements in time, so you need to pay attention. Overall, it takes elements of Turkish history, and mixes it with an engaging fictionalised story that is full of plot – which doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny, but is nevertheless charming throughout. If you like quirky, with a few historical educational elements thrown in, you might just like his one.