Photo: ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’
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Do you love historical fiction? Do you love murder mysteries? Do you love time travel? If you said yes to all of those, then (oddly enough) ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ might be the next series to absolutely indulge yourself in. The new Netflix original has everything any lover of these genres would adore; not to mention all the cunning comedy that is sprinkled in throughout the first season.
As you watch the series, you’ll be absolutely enthralled by all that it has to offer; especially the classic (and wonderful) cheesiness of a good old murder mystery. The characters are quite extravagant yet incredibly goofy at the same time; the side-plots of love will make those murder-mystery fans, who also happen to be hopeless romantics, utterly swoon into their couch (or wherever they watch it).
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Agatha Christie’s Biggest Fan
Nearly every time the lead character, Esra (played by Hazal Kaya), speaks she mentions how much she loves Agatha Christie; and, as a big Christie fan myself, I entirely don’t blame her. Not to mention how it’s been known that Christie was a regular guest at the Pera Palace Hotel (the hotel dedicating a room to her); so, when Esra gets the opportunity to write a story on the 130th anniversary of the said hotel, I find that there’s no shame in sharing your fangirling tendencies when getting to write about a place where someone you admire once stayed.
But, let’s specifically talk about the story that will (hopefully) make you understand Esra’s Agatha Christie love just a tad bit more.
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Based on the novel ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul’ by Charles King, the series takes place in two different types of Istanbuls; one that is in its current state and another one from nearly 100 years ago in 1919. Esra, a journalist and (as previously mentioned) avid Agatha Christie-lover, is tasked with writing an article on the 130th anniversary of the Pera Palace Hotel–more specifically, 130 reasons as to why someone should stay at said hotel. After her arrival, things begin to go awry when Esra accidentally discovers a portal to 1919 in the iconic Agatha Christie room; and there, she finds herself caught within a political conspiracy. With this brand new opportunity, Esra gets to meet important figures in Turkey’s historical past; showcasing to the audience somewhat of a history lesson of Turkey mixed in with a mystery and hope of how the future can be changed.
Essentially, imagine ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ as though it was ‘Back to the Future’ combined with ‘Murder, She Wrote’. Odd combination, I know. However, it is admirable and it’s still something original that will make you feel as though you’re vividly picturing a true page-turner of a book.
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‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ – A Palace Of Words
A review about a series involving a writer (especially a journalist who is seemingly inspiring to be an author herself) always, of course, has us discussing the actual writing of the show itself. And, long story short, the writing in this series is magical and comedic in all the right spots. It feels unnatural at some points in a good way, and that’s what cements it to be a thrilling and mysterious adventure for audiences to go on. Time-travel is a special genre that can tend to feel silly at times, so it’s incredible how the writers seemed as though they embraced that attribute and integrated it perfectly within the other genres they were combining into the show as well.
‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ was written by four writers in total; three being the creators of the show themselves. Sam Anzel, Kelly McPherson, Emre Sahin, and Elif Usman all worked together to create an amazing show that has its heart and soul shined through both on paper and visually. The storytelling of the first season builds itself so well, and it’s refreshing to not have to develop too much exposition and go straight into the plot.
The atmosphere of the season, both visually and in the direction, tended to make me feel somewhat nostalgic at times. I typically loved to play mystery games when I was little (Nancy Drew fan for life); especially the games that were inspired by Agatha Christie’s novels. With the clear influence that Christie had physically on the Pera Palace Hotel, along with the overall developed story in the series, it hit a soft spot in my heart to binge all eight episodes. It was so hard for me to pause this series, similarly to when it would be hard for me to put my mouse down to take a break from playing a mystery game.
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Nevertheless, before I get too ahead of myself with reminiscing on my childhood past, I find it wonderful how this element of nostalgia was able to reach me without the show even trying to do such. This show does have something for everyone, and the way the writing built up to everything with this rather open-ended season one finale gives me the same aching feeling of when you’ve just finished a book and you’re dying to read the next one in the series that has yet to come out.
Checking Out At The Front Desk
Through everything, I say with the utmost confidence that I find ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ to soon be the next big thing. But, even if it doesn’t become as critically acclaimed as it truly deserves to be, it’s still a series that clearly showed its love and effort to the craft of murder mysteries and time-travelers alike. The final episode will have you asking yourself as many questions as anyone would during the ending of nearly any A24 film.
This series made me learn quite a bit about Turkey’s history as a country–even without me fully realizing it. It is also encouraging through how it empowers a leading female character to go out there and become something bigger and better like she knows that she deserves. Esra works hard towards growing herself more into the person she wants to be, and it’s an intriguing (yet charming) choice to mix in that character development so soon within the series. It will be something to see what they come up with next for season two.
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Ultimately, I highly encourage you all to give ‘Midnight at the Pera Palace’ a shot. The visuals, background music, and story building are magnificent and a true work of art. The series can remind us just how experimental and thrilling we can get, and just how we can convey the story that we want our audiences to experience through a mixture of various genres.
Now, go brush up on your knowledge about Agatha Christie and watch this show that will strap you in for a great time of a story.
Cast: Hazal Kaya, Selahattin Pasali, James Chalmers
Cinematography: Clint Lealos | Editor(s): Ersin Eker, Evren Lus, Mesut Ulutas | Director(s): Emre Sahin, Nisan Dag | Writer(s): Sam Anzel, Kelly McPherson, Emre Sahin, Elif Usman | Producers: Sam Anzel, Kelly McPherson, Emre Sahin
By Leah Donato
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