2 out of 5
Created by: Binnur Karaevli
Covers up through season 2
When promising concepts go awry!
The Protector – a Netflix-produced Turkish series that aims for Marvel-y superhero appeal, mixed in with keep-watching baiting lore – never comes across as a particularly great show. It trades in tropes, painting its in-show mythology with a very wide brush, and rushes through sequences in a manner that is, at first, almost a charmingly naeve way of dodging budget constraints, but soon comes to haunt the show with the hollowness on which its built. However, to start, a charming performance from lead Çağatay Ulusoy as Hakan – a man fated to become Istanbul’s ‘Protector’ – and a cool sprinkle of world-building intrigue, and when the show surprises by taking its time to make the task of protection actually seem pretty serious, and to allow Hakan’s character to express legitimate emotions over the big changes in his life, it almost seems like the series is going to eke out ahead of many of its peers by grounding itself with some humanity.
Too soon, though, this aspect is ditched for TV dumbass logic – withholding information, split-second changeups of morality based on whatever’s needed for that episode, everyone-can-see-who-the-badguy-is-except-you plotting – and the already small budget seems to dwindle further, with lazily executed fights and bare sets carrying us into a second season. And the story’s aforementioned lack of detailing gets the ol’ retroactive treatment throughout, trying to backfill information in a most unsatisfying, seat-of-the-pants manner. Every now and then, some of that initial energy returns, as well as some moderately intriguing additions to where the story tries to go. And Ulusoy (and co-lead Hazar Ergüçlü as Zeynep, one of the Protector’s followers) remains very watchable, giving his role a bit more soul than the dialogue should allow.
There is a Protector; there are immortals who threaten Istanbul; and there are the sacred relics the Protector must find in order to defeat the immortals. Hakan is apparently the last of the Protector line, something that gives Hakan’s restlessness some direction, though he can’t help but take the fight to the wrong people and get distracted by love over the course of the show’s first season, with the second season upping the ante on immortal plotting to try to insert some tension in to things, because there’s one rather hilarious gaffe early on: the show forgets to explain why the immortals are a threat, and just has us blindly following good vs. evil because we’re told that’s the way it is.
At first, this has a sort of simple charm to it, but the show is unable to maintain that sensibility for very long, and makes several generic TV missteps in attempts to rectify that, scoring with them only a fraction of the time. There have been worse versions of this formula, but there have also, definitely, been better ones.