Kubra Season 1 Review – God is texting in this Turkish Netflix drama

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: January 18, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
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Kubra Season 1 Review
Kubra Season 1 Key Art | Image via Netflix
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Summary

Kubra is an effective and intriguing examination of faith, technology, and the idea of a prophet, with an excellent lead performance to boot.

People are liable to find God wherever they’re most inclined to look, so the Turkish Netflix series Kubra is onto something. Season 1, which runs for eight episodes, suggests that God might appear to his next prophet through a mobile phone application, and given how many of us are glued to our screens these days – how are you reading this review, for instance? – it’s as likely a theory as any.

The prophet, in this case, is Gokhan, a former soldier nursing some trauma from a violent raid he alone survived (the details of this are unsatisfactorily explained), as well as the loss of his father and the drug addiction of his sister, Gulcan. He’s in a relationship with the very pretty Merve, but he’s somewhat adrift in a low-level mechanic job and has a complicated relationship with his faith.

Kubra is not the name of our protagonist, then, but the screenname of God. It’s a popular girl’s name meaning “great” in Turkish. Through an app called SoulTouch, Kubra messages Gokhan with enigmatic sentiments that quickly turn out to be prophetic. Quickly, Gokhan comes to believe that Kubra is Allah Himself and that he has been chosen as His messenger. This revelation causes quite a stir among the devout community.

You don’t need me to tell you how convenient it is for God to select someone to spread His word who is just mentally unstable enough to be conceivably imagining it. Kubra acknowledges this too, but thankfully it swerves the is-he-mad-or-not cliché and goes in a more interesting, topical direction. But what’s in a prophet, anyway? A bit of charisma and a miracle or two is all anyone needs.

This doesn’t go uncommented on either – in fact, it’s largely the point. Kubra isn’t about Gokhan specifically but about the notion of faith in general; the power of belief and the alarming effects, positive and negative, that it can have at its strongest. Gokhan becomes a prophet to many, but also a blasphemer to several others. In the eyes of the police, he’s a conman; to the father whose son he saves from a car wreck, he’s a hero. His followers are just as inclined towards charity as they are to violent uprisings against the state. Faith remains the one convenient justification for it all, an endlessly malleable catch-all excuse for good, bad, and everything in between.

Kubra ponders some big ideas

Kubra ponders these ideas often and at some considerable depth, and it’s better for it. The eight episodes can’t be said to fly by – the show has some intriguing turns, but it isn’t built on cliffhangers and twists the way most streaming releases are – but the time spent unpacking Gokhan’s psyche is worthwhile. Cagatay Ulusoy shoulders a lot of emotional responsibility in this, being asked to play everything from a commanding cult leader to a broken man begging the sky for answers. Nobody will pay much attention to it, but it’s a quietly impressive and virtuosic performance.

The same can be said of the supporting turns that highlight how Gokhan’s sudden messiah status affects his loved ones and associates, and then the ordinary community members who are drawn into his cult (or not). That community, a downtrodden blue-collar Istanbul neighborhood, goes through some radical changes throughout the season for a variety of reasons, and the show’s good at highlighting how personal circumstances determine how seriously people take Gokhan’s claims and how fervently they yearn for his so-called miracles.

We’ve seen shows like Kubra before, even on Netflix – Messiah is the example that immediately springs to mind. Kubra makes slightly less grandiose claims for itself, though; nobody thinks Gokhan is a God or even the son of one, but simply a mouthpiece for Allah, which is an important distinction since virtually everyone already believes in Allah (the one notable character who doesn’t is, predictably, Gokhan’s most staunch and determined opponent.)

Either way, Kubra doesn’t ruin the hot streak of impressive Turkish Netflix productions like The Tailor and The Gift – on the contrary, it’s a better, more thoughtful drama than both of those and is well worth a look for the big questions it ponders.

What did you think of Kubra Season 1? Comment below.


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