New Netflix Show Featuring Jewish Characters Is a Huge Hit
I’m not usually a fan of shows that literally start with a bang.
But when the music is tremendous, the writing is stellar, the acting is on-point, and the tension builds to a boiling point, a cliched opening must be forgiven.
In the first moments of the Turkish Netflix show “The Club,” the protagonist, a Jewish observant woman named Matilda, has shot someone — though we don’t know why. That’s revealed later, but in the meantime, we learn that a boss cruelly forces her to work on the Sabbath, and that she is doing her best to reconcile with her daughter, after getting out of jail.
There is clearly angst between Matilda (Gokce Bahadir) and her daughter, Rasel (Asude Kalebek), and Matilda has to navigate how much of the truth she can reveal, and how much she must keep secret. All the while, she is still advising her daughter not to make a bad decision when it comes to dating. A kind fellow Jew named Mordo seems like the safe choice. But it is the charming and debonair Muslim man with a mustache, Ismet (Baris Arduc) who has won her heart. A scene where they kiss in the rain is magical. Her mother warns her that Ismet is a player who will not be there for her when she needs it. And Ismet has another woman in his life who tells him that he should not seriously consider marrying a Jew.
The show takes place largely in the club owned by Orhan (Metin Akdulger), who is encouraged to fire non-Muslims/non-Turks to help win an Entrepreneur of the Year Award. His business is booming due to taking a chance on a flamboyant singer, Selim Songur (Salih Bademci). He packs the venue every night, and though he is overaggressive with a female backup dancer, it is implied that he is gay — and stated clearly that he is living with Jews, two things that could be used to blackmail him by the second in command at the club, played by Firat Tanis.
In Part II, which became available on Netflix a few days ago, Orhan hopes his mother, who has dementia, won’t reveal a secret about his identity. This show is a bit similar to the German show “Babylon Berlin,” both in style and feel.
Bahadir is brilliant in her ferocity and desire to defend her daughter and her friend, Selim. Kalebek is great as a young woman trying to blossom and find her place, but understandably, she doesn’t know who to trust since she’s been lied to by several people who claim to love her. Arduc fills the role nicely of a man who doesn’t want to get tied down to one woman, but feels it may be best to marry her, even though she’s Jewish and he’s Muslim, and it could pose problems in their society.
There should have been some more songs featuring Selim, a villain comes out of nowhere in the end of Part II, and there is a metaphor that is too on the nose in relation to the title of the show, but other than that, “The Club” is an undeniable hit.
The author is a writer based in New York.