Persona (Sahsiyet) is a Turkish series on the Topic channel about Agâh Beyoglu (Haruk Bilginer), a retired court worker who gets an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and decides to kill criminals who got off too easy. Agâh is a dear man, a widower who lives a simple life, but is secretly harboring a deep resentment for certain men who received little or no punishment for their crimes against women. He knows about these cases because he worked in the court records room in Istanbul for 27 years. Once he accepts his diagnosis, he makes a plan to knock these guys off. But he’s not a criminal genius, and sometimes his disease works against him. Meanwhile, the first ever female homicide detective in Istanbul, Nevra Elmas (Cansu Dere), is struggling to fit in with her extremely sexist and bullying team. Agâh pulls Nevra into the investigation by leaving notes to her on the corpses. With its cinematic look, gallows humor, and poignant performance by Haruk Bilginer, Persona shines.
The way we meet Agâh is brilliant. 2007-he pulls up to next to a car in an abandoned parking lot. The other driver is reading the paper. Agâh hunkers down in his seat and attempts to shoot the driver, but he just can’t pull the trigger. The other driver pulls away, never noticing Agâh next to him. 2011-Agâh is in a boat, motoring toward a man who is fishing in another boat. As he gets close, he prepares to shoot, but again loses his nerve. Disgusted with himself, he throws the gun into the water. 2018- Agâh is now retired, watching too much TV. When he realizes he killed his cat by forgetting to feed it, he goes to the doctor who, after diagnosing him with Alzheimer’s, advises him to “make a plan-a daily, weekly and monthly plan.” At first Agâh is mopey, but then inspiration strikes. If he isn’t going to remember anything anyway, why not kill the scumbags who got away with murder over the years? With renewed purpose, Agâh tracks down the man he originally tried to kill in 2007. This time he pulls the trigger. And makes a list.
Once Agâh liberates the case files from the court house, as well as an assortment of guns seized by police, he can move forward with his plan. He owns a few apartments in his building, and one is vacant, which is a convenient place for him to build a “perp wall”, among other things. But trouble comes in the form of his unhappy daughter (Sebnem Bozoklu) and teen grandson (Recep Usta), who move back to Istanbul from Australia. Now he has to come up with explanations for his disappearances. As for Nevra, she is not doing well. She has been demoted to administrative tasks despite her notoriety as the first female homicide detective. As she hands in her resignation, a call comes in-a retired judge has been murdered, and there is a note on the body. It reads, “I met a girl today. Her name is Nevra Elmas.” Suddenly, she is the center of an investigation, and she seems a little shell shocked. Naturally, innocuous Agâh would never cross the cops’ minds as a suspect, but he can’t rely on himself not to screw up because of his disease. He did kill his cat, after all. Because I’m less than half way through the 12-episode series (short for a Turkish series!), I suspect the plot gets byzantine and the subplots fleshier as it goes on.
Our Take on Persona (Sahsiyet)
Persona messes with time a bit. Things happen out of order, which can be confusing at first. For example, we don’t know why Agâh refers to Nevra in his corpse-note, because we haven’t seen them meet yet. But this is a series where it’s best to roll with it and trust that the writers are revealing the story in the best way. One thing that is unveiled slowly is the motivation for Agâh to choose these particular men. But the more we learn, the more we cheer on our hero killer. The mix of genuine tragedy with absurdity really works here, but it hinges so much on the actor playing Agâh. Fortunately, they casted that role perfectly. So far, my only complaint is that the character of Nevra is a cipher. Hopefully that will change, and she will become three-dimensional. Also, warning: the first episode is SLOW, but stay with it. Once Agâh finds his raison d’etre, it starts to fly. If you are looking for something different, yet solidly in the crime drama vein, Persona is for you.
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