A slow-burn, dialogue-heavy drama from Turkey, Ethos is nonetheless an excellent and artful series well-suited to Netflix.
This review of Ethos (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
Ethos is the kind of show that most of Netflix’s vast userbase won’t watch, which is a big shame, really. It doesn’t have a provocative title, a killer hook, or any big-name actors. It hasn’t been widely promoted — or, let’s be frank, promoted at all — and comprises eight dense, dialogue-heavy 50-minute episodes in subtitled Turkish or a pretty bad English dub (I recommend the original language, obviously.) There is, really, no surprise it won’t do big numbers.
But none of this is to say that it shouldn’t. On the contrary, this is a patient but intelligent Turkish drama about several people whose fates become intertwined through chance and circumstance, uniting them in the vibrant city of Istanbul. Everyone comes from different socioeconomic backgrounds and has varied personal problems, beginning with Meryem (Öykü Karayel), a part-time cleaner who is experiencing fainting spells and confides in psychologist Peri (Defne Kayalar).
There is much more to Ethos than this, but the ins and outs are better left unexplained in a review. Lacking the obvious drama and sensationalism that tends to characterize Netflix original series’, Ethos instead takes a much more grounded — but no less artful — approach to relationships, the psyche, internal and external trauma, connection, healing, and many more themes besides, with many issues extremely relevant to Turkey’s culture and political climate. That cultural specificity is a real boon here, and if Ethos doesn’t perform well globally, it should at least find a dedicated fanbase among those whose lives it most acutely represents.
But, and I stress again, there’s enough thematic universality and sheer craft in the production to appeal to a vast swathe of people all over the world, especially those with the patience to unravel a complex interpersonal drama. The writing is dense but solid, and the acting is oftentimes excellent, and virtually never worse than good. It might not demand a sequel — it’s much more about coming to terms with an end or starting completely anew than it is about needless continuation — like many others, but that’s fine. For as long as it lasts, Ethos stylishly and excellently accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.