Ethos review – an excellent, truthful, artful Turkish drama

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 13, 2020
Ethos (Netflix) review - an excellent, truthful, artful Turkish drama


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.

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9 thoughts on “Ethos review – an excellent, truthful, artful Turkish drama

  • November 24, 2020 at 12:43 am

    Great review! This drama deserves a chance…

  • November 28, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Good review …enjoyed watching Ethos and recommended to many .

  • November 30, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    I have just watched the first episode and I am hooked! The acting is superb.

  • December 4, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Great show, great acting, great way to see the small things that make up the big picture of other cultures and daily life. The shots taken, the music choice, the way each episode ends and the famous singer sings that beautiful music! I love it and it is too bad that most people would not watch it but thank God there are people like us who are open to explore other cultures and perspectives that are not mainstream. 🙂 <3

  • December 5, 2020 at 1:28 am

    Very well-written, acted and produced, the plot feels a little soap-ish, but everything else is so well done and thought-provoking you’re willing to forgo that aspect. It’s a shame American audiences don’t appreciate psychologically-oriented dramas, where so much more is going on in the characters’ minds than we’re able to understand, this is much more interesting than reality TV or shoot ’em up thrillers. Perhaps word-of-mouth advertising will attract enough viewers to bring more of this kind of entertainment to Netflix and the other providers.

  • January 2, 2021 at 8:28 am

    It is a sleeper. I’m sure it will take off. Beautiful acting and writing and very meaty characters for great women actors. Its themes are universal but very specific as well. Hard to describe in a few sentences but very powerful drama. I wish I knew what the producers are saying with the long clips of musicians from the 70s

  • January 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I really liked Ethos and found it made me feel quite peaceful – I love the main character and her gentle demeanour

  • February 24, 2021 at 12:24 am

    I have seen dubbing versions and it’s killing the atmosphere. Meryem and people around her speak a rude version of Turkish with very heavy accent. Their vocabulary is limited. They have problems to understand some complicated conversations. People easily spot your accent and it’s not a good first impression in most cases. On the other hand Peri and educated people like her speak elegantly without an accent. And the sisters Gulan and Gulbin have the same situation even though they come from the same family they are living in different worlds. They are actually not Turks so they randomly change to their native language which is Kurdish when they are inside the family. It’s too bad that only native speakers can really understand the differences between accents of the characters based on their status on the society and what that means. I wish there could be a way to translate these details during the watch.

  • April 25, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    Just found this on Netflix – it’s a beautiful series and deserves more recognition
    Thoughtful bold courageous magnificent cast
    Cinematography lighting production is all top notch
    This should be an award winner

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