Most Americans don’t know it, but Turks are masters of serialized television. Long before Netflix, Hulu, and the addictive golden-age TV shows that dominate the small screen now, Turks were pumping out popular programs dubbed or subtitled in Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Russian, and English.
Set the story at exotic locales, like posh Istanbul villas with stunning views. Throw in an ill-fated romance, a do-gooder who meets a tragic end, a bullying villain, a shocking crime, some violence, a dash of political, international, or corporate intrigue, a few twists, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. Turkish producers have become experts at devising captivating tales that keep audiences tuning in week after week.
Consider this pitch. A charming writer, keen to marry his young love, vanishes from a European consulate of his own country. The alleged culprits: a group of 15 goons, flown in on private jets, who are later revealed to have drugged, beaten, killed, and dismembered him. In the shadows lurks a brash young monarch eager to make his mark and silence those who might rally opposition. The details are like something out of CSI: Istanbul.
On October 2, the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul to complete paperwork needed to marry Hatice Cengiz, his fiancée. He never walked out. From the start, Turkish authorities have been teasing out information about the case with a flair that would impress any showrunner. Their aim is to create a narrative so compelling that it reshapes relations with the United States and Saudi Arabia, countries that have experienced their fair share of drama with Turkey.