The Messiah, who has been sent by God to show the right path to the people of the land and make them change their perspective on life. The Chosen One is another Netflix original series from Mexico and was about a young boy who was proclaimed a messiah by a small town in the Latin American country until his powers attracted the attention of certain ultra-rich and influential people. Kubra is a Turkish Netflix original about a man who believes he has received his calling and desires to help people around him. Directed by Durul and Yagmur Taylan, the show was released on January 18, 2024. Kubra is based on the novel of the same name by Afsin Kum.
Kubra is an eight-episode-long show that begins with Gokhan Sahinoglu coming across text messages from someone named Kubra on the application ‘Soul Touch’. Gokhan was a war veteran, lived with his sister Gulcan and their mother, and worked as a mechanic in a garage. Gokhan and Gulcan had suddenly lost their father to an illness, and his family was never the same. His sister had a tough time dealing with the grief and loss around it. Gokhan himself was struggling from spells of PTSD about an attack he was a part of that killed most of his team except him. His fiancée, Merve, was wondering if Kubra was a woman trying to establish a relationship with Gokhan, but the matter was not what it seemed.
Gokhan had become spiritually inclined after his stint with the army and the death of his father, and Kubra, from the application, began responding to his thoughts and dilemmas. Gokhan was quick to believe it was God communicating to him, and soon he had brought together a small bunch of followers who believed in his words and were willing to follow in his footsteps. Was Gokhan faking his true calling, or was there someone who was tricking him into believing in his mind and power of conviction? What would be the repercussions of his growing Semavi movement?
The premise of the show is excellent. He is a common man who believes God has chosen him to be His messenger, and there is a lot given to him that he would want to share with the small group of followers he has formed, which is only going to get bigger as his message is being spread through social media. The core issue with the premise is that the writer took three episodes to establish the fact that he is indeed a leader whose spiritual side has been awakened. The makers could have established Gokhan in one episode. Once Gokhan’s motive was established, everything around him almost fell into place, but again, the problem lay in the narrative of beating around the bush. The writers Rana Mamatlioglu, Bekir Baran Sitki, and Murat Uyurkulak went around establishing the fact that his followers go out of control one too many times. This repetitive narrative becomes a hindrance as it takes whole eight episodes before the show gets tired of pointing this out.
There are certain subplots that were introduced but were completely mishandled. The police officers use a person close to Gokhan to spy on the spiritual leader. The subplot later resurfaces only in the penultimate and final episodes of the show. The said person, who was close to Gokhan, is not given a proper arc. They come in and out of the story as an individual with a history of being in trouble. There could have been more layers given to them. Except for Gokhan, other supporting characters have not been given a layered role that would allow them to serve as his support system. His fiancée, Merve, who started as someone who could not believe the transition Gokhan went through, had a sudden change of heart with almost no explanation. The subplot regarding his sister having felt the guilt of being responsible for her father’s death was only utilized to heighten the emotions of the show. That memory was never touched upon to understand why she was feeling that particular emotion. The subplot about the family collectively trying to come to terms with the loss of the man of the house is simply abandoned to make way for Gokhan’s journey as a spiritual leader. There is no connection made between how the grief of losing his father and his PTSD spells could have formed a delusion in his mind about ‘The Chosen One’.
The interesting part of the show was an actual religious leader condemning Gokhan, his values, and the constant clash between them. Both serve one entity, but the path to reach them is different. The clash of ideologies was bound to happen, but again, this subplot was abandoned by the writers. There was scope to explore these dynamics. An entire episode is dedicated to who Kubra is and how artificial intelligence played a crucial role in making Gokhan the leader of the ‘Semavi Movement’. Since AI has been a hot topic for the past few years, screenwriters buy into and include many elements of the technology that probably do not exist in real life, but no one bothered to conduct research before merging these ideas with the plot of the show. AI is projected as a mega-powerful tool that can dictate people and their lives and speak to them as a life coach. There is so much misinformation about AI in the show that the finale episode becomes predictable and laughable. The ending could have been a lot more interesting if the writers had not taken the preachy route to establish what Kubra was.
The length of the show hampers the viewing experience. Each episode could have been ten minutes shorter, while the eight episodes could have been trimmed down to six. There is nothing new to offer in the story after a certain point. The engagement factor is lost in the middle but briefly comes back in the second-last episode. The finale could have been a lot more interesting if there was an ounce of believability in it. Gokhan, at many junctures, speaks about hearing voices inside and outside of his head, and the makers did not consider his deteriorating mental health in the plot. It could be because there is still a taboo about this subject in Turkish films, but mentioning it would have been a breakthrough.
The music, the production design, and the makeup on the show are excellent. There is consistency in this department, which shines through each episode of the show. Hedonutopia has done excellent work with the music, and the soundtrack stood out for all the right reasons. The cinematography does not add any value to the show because there are no subtext or layers given to any of the supporting characters, including the lead. He is supposed to be ‘The Chosen One,’ but the presence of gray shades would have made Gokhan a lot better than it came out in the show.
Çagatay Ulusoy who was last seen in another Turkish Netflix original, The Tailor, as a man trying to resist falling for his best friend’s beautiful wife. In Kubra, his performance had some depth, but it became too formulaic thanks to the writing that did not do justice to Gokhan. Gokhan could have been explored well right from the writing stage by giving him dark layers. Sadly, Çagatay could only deliver what was asked of him. There are times one could feel his frustration at not being able to connect with his God Almighty, but besides that, there is not much showcased about him. His chemistry with his fiancée for many years was nonexistent. There was hardly any storyline dedicated to understanding his relationship with her. Aslihan Malbora, as Merve, has nothing to offer as a partner who was skeptical of his visions but suddenly has a change of heart and supports his cause.
Kubra overall would have been an interesting watch if there was any depth given to the screenplay. The screenwriters barely touched the surface of the subject matter.