‘Shahmaran’ Review: Love and Reality Clash with an Turkish Legend

Folklore is one of the most interesting things a culture can offer. The power of stories has always been present in every aspect of society since the concept was formed. The variety of tales that can be encountered by the many peoples of the world is outstanding, and it is always great to learn something new about some other place in the world. Shahmaran, a new Netflix drama that is coming to the streaming service today, is ready to teach us a bit about one of the many legends of the Turkish region.

The series is directed by Umur Turagay, written by Pinar Bulut, and stars Serenay Sarikaya, Burak Deniz, Mustafa Ugurlu, Ebru Ozkan, and Mert Ramazan Demir. The series tells the story of Sahsu, an educated woman who goes back to her hometown to lecture at the local university. There Sahsu starts dealing with her own story, involving her family and especially her late mother and his strained grandfather. However, as she tries to solve her own issues, she will get trapped in a prophecy that will change her life forever.

Shahmaran is a very interesting series. First, it takes us deep into Turkish territory to show us how life is away from the big cities. This is not something that can be experienced in many shows. Especially when taking into account that we will spend close to ten hours on this story, each of the ten episodes has an average length of one hour. Second, the story doesn’t only offer this unique setting; but it also goes deeply into the folklore of the region. The legends from long ago are real here, and because of it, the storytelling can fluctuate between normal drama and magical realism.

However, the series does have some issues that make it feel more obscure and complicated than it is. The first of these issues, and the biggest one, might be the pacing. The entire season consists of 10 episodes, and as we said before, each episode is basically an hour of content. When the season is over, you might feel like they only really had enough story for 5 episodes but decided to extend it to 10 for some reason. There are a lot of plot lines being worked on here, but only some of them are truly important. You can almost taste when a scene is just there for padding and nothing more.

Because there is so much padding, the story feels more boring and slow than it has to be, and for people without patience, the series will be an easy skip. There are just so many more shows out there that go straight to the point that Shahmaran feels like it is avoiding dealing with what the show is about. We have two characters and their fated relationship. We know what is going to happen in the end, and yet, the story just avoids going to that place for 10 straight hours. It feels quite frustrating.

Sarikaya and Deniz are great actors; both of them have amazing charisma, and they are always the highlights of any project they participate in, but the way their characters are written feels just so annoying. None of them speak when they have to or say what they have in mind. This could be done to make them feel real, but in reality, it only serves to stretch the story as far as it can be stretched. When the expected resolution finally comes, it doesn’t feel satisfying but more like a release, you are happy because someone finally said what they should have said eight hours ago.

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The performances are great, and so are the production values. The creators go for this feeling that really makes you think of the magical realism movement. There are sequences that feel very ethereal, while others blur the line between fantasy and reality. It is all pretty cool, but it gets diluted the moment the characters start talking in cryptic sentences that don’t mean anything. The big issue is that there is never a rise in tension; the show is not building up its premise; it presents it and then just meanders around it until the time to finish the story arrives.

The series also takes itself too seriously. The drama starts at 10 and remains that way for the entirety of the watch. A story needs more peaks and valleys to make the audience feel like something is happening. However, Shahmaran decides to do the same over and over again, and it makes you feel like the story is going nowhere. It is a shame because the performers are great, but the script is the one thing that is really bringing this series down. Some members of the audience will definitely vibe with the slow and repetitive rhythm, but the series will surely lose many people along the way.

Shahmaran tries to be a new, interesting, and captivating story, it has all the elements to achieve this goal, but it stumbles in the execution. The magical elements are quite fascinating, and it is just nice to learn and get interested in a culture that feels just so different from ours. If only the show had decided to actually tell the story and not try to achieve an episode quota, then Shahmaran would be a must-watch on Netflix.

SCORE: 5/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.