The new Turkish supernatural thriller drama “Shahmaran” (or “Sahmaran”) is mostly an interesting take on actual Turkish folklore and local myth. With the added visual shine of a Netflix production, the series is initially compelling as well. The plot follows a college lecturer named Shahsu as she visits the Adana province of the country from her native Istanbul to conduct a semester of special classes and also to meet her estranged grandfather. The supernatural slowly drips in as she finds herself amidst the Mar community, which believes in the legend of Sahmaran, the ancient queen of snakes. As a thriller series, though, “Shahmaran” falters at its pacing, as it stores all the information for the very last minutes. Ultimately, there is also the feeling that the purpose of the first season of “Shahmaran” was to build up to a grander second iteration.
‘Shahmaran’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
A woman named Shahsu arrives by train to the city of Adana in southern Turkey, looking determined to carry out some plan. A Ph.D. candidate and part-time lecturer by profession, Shahsu has been appointed to hold a guest lecture session in a college in Adana and is then asked to remain there for an entire semester. Despite struggling with the extreme heat and humidity of the region, Shahsu does not mind coming here, for there is a very personal motive behind her arrival. Her estranged grandfather, Davut Demir, lives in a community outside of the city, and she has been looking forward to meeting him for a long time. However, this meeting is not one of happy emotions but rather of contempt and confrontation. When Shahsu’s mother, Gul, was just a young girl, Davut had left her at their house, promising that he would soon return, but he had never gone back since. Despite Gul’s innumerable letters to the man over the years, he never wrote back or tried to contact her. Pained by this absence throughout her life, Gul lived in grief only with her daughter Shahsu, as her husband had also left her later in life. As Shahsu reveals, her mother had recently passed away, with her firm belief that she must have been an adopted child, because of which her father never returned to her. Despite Shahsu’s telling all this in the most confrontational tone, Davut does not reply or try to justify his actions in the past. Instead, Davut maintains a silence that is most bizarre and confounding.
Having booked a hotel room in the city for the first few days, Shahsu moves in with her grandfather at his house after she takes up the semester-long job at the college. As she gets to know the village and the community, she is introduced to a man around the same age as hers living in the neighborhood named Maran. Although the woman does try to get friendly with him in her own way, Maran does not respond much and instead seems to try and stay away. In the meantime, though, strange occurrences start to unfold in the region and around Shahsu. During a folk holiday celebration, the woman feels that she is trapped inside a circle of flames and is subsequently rescued by Maran, but nobody else confirms this happening. Only a day later, numerous tourists jump into a well at a historical ruin site as if controlled by some other entity. Soon after, Shahsu has the feeling that a man in sinister black robes is following her around. Her young colleague at work, Cihan, is also romantically interested in her and seems pushy enough to go to any limits to pursue the woman. Confused and overwhelmed by all these happenings, Shahsu believes that most of them are hallucinations of her mind after she has stopped her medications. However, there is indeed an ancient tale of love, betrayal, and curse in play here, with Shahsu right at the center of it all.
What Is The Legend Of Sahmaran That Is Central To The Series?
The story of Sahmaran, which is central to the Netflix show’s narrative, is an actual legend existing among some Turkish, Iranian, and Kurdish communities. While there are multiple accounts and stories of this originally oral folklore, the one used by the series seems to be the most popular one. Somewhere in south-central Turkey was a kingdom of snakes, called “maran” in Persian, and it was ruled over by a half-basilisk, half-woman queen, or “shah.” In a literal description of her position, this queen was called Sahmaran, or the ruler of snakes, and she ruled over her kingdom in peace. Centuries ago, a mortal human man named Camsap stumbled upon this kingdom and, after starting to live there, fell in love with the queen. Sahmaran, too, fell in love with the man, and Camsap lived on in the kingdom for a long time. Eventually, he grew sick of staying underground and wanted to return to his homeland and family. His beloved Sahmaran did allow Camsap to leave, but with only one demand: that Camsap never tell anyone about her kingdom’s location. The man agreed, but upon returning to human civilization, he learned that the Sultan was sick. The only remedy for this sickness, as explained by the healers, was the tail of the legendary basilisk queen Sahmaran. Probably to gain the Sultan’s favor, Camsap decided to betray his lover and reveal her location to the grand vizier. Before doing so, he had asked the vizier to not harm Sahmaran, but just like Camsap, the vizier did not keep his promise either. Sahmaran was killed to cure the Sultan’s ailment, and before her death, she had one last conversation with her beloved. She told Camsap to boil her head and make the Sultan have it, for it would cure his sickness; to make the vizier drink from her body, for that would poison him and kill him instantly, and to boil her tail and have it himself, which would grant Camsap all her knowledge and intelligence. The man followed his lover’s final words and was granted not just her wisdom but also the power of immortality. While Sahmaran readily sacrificed herself for the betterment of her lover, Camsap was left alone with guilt and contempt for his betrayal.
‘Shahmaran’ seems to add to this legend or pick up already existing threads of it from some regional belief, as it also introduces a third character into the folklore. Sahmaran’s own sister, Lilith, was one to always distrust humans, for she strongly believed humans bring danger and betrayal wherever they go. She tried warning Sahmaran about all this when Camsap was asking to return to the Earth’s surface, but unlike her sister, Sahmaran believed in trust and love. When Camsap ultimately betrayed his beloved, Lilith raged against him and wanted to kill the man. Then Sahmaran stopped her in the process, for she was ready to sacrifice herself. She took away all powers from Lilith and locked her up in the darkest depths of a well inside a castle. This happens to be the Anavarza Castle, where Cihan tried to take Shahsu, and where Shahsu almost gets killed later on. Continuing with the legend, after Sahmaran was killed and the Sultan recovered from her supernatural powers, Lilith took a vow of hatred, promising to regain her powers and return one day only to kill Camsap and the entire human race. So, at present, Lilith remains locked up inside her cell at the bottom of a well in the Anavarza Castle, and it is Lilith who is seen at moments throughout the series, gaining powers bit by bit, waiting to come alive again.
Where Do Shahsu And Maran Tie In With This Legend?
As the legend proclaimed, Lilith was constantly gaining strength to finally return to life, and this return would be devastating for the entire human race. The only way to stop Lilith would be to get Sahmaran, the queen of snakes, reborn, and in order to do so, a prophecy needs to come true. A marked basilisk will have to fall deeply in love with a human being, just like Sahmaran and Camsap, but this time the fate will be reversed. The human will have to accept their love and their lover’s identity and sacrifice their mortal life to go underground and live with the basilisk. As it turns out, Maran is the chosen basilisk to be involved in this prophecy, and he has been looking for this eternal lover of his for many years, or perhaps centuries. His father, Ural, is an expert on this prophecy and seems to lead the community of Mar people who live in the region. These Mar people are all seemingly basilisks in the form of human beings, and they have all been looking forward to the event of Lilith’s reawakening and therefore have been waiting for the prophecy. There is a clear difference in opinion with regard to this, as some people have grown even more bitter about human beings and their selfish acts. While the rebirth of Sahmaran is supposed to bring back the balance between humans and serpents for their coexistence, these basilisks have started to side with Lilith now. The likes of Arun and Mirac seem to have totally sided with Lilith, while Lakmu and his son Cihan secretly change their allegiance later on only because they are jealous of Maran and Ural’s leadership of their community. Shahsu is also a big reason for Cihan’s jealousy, as he desires the woman but is stopped in his tracks by her because she is already interested in Maran, and he also knows that the prophecy favors the chosen Maran.
From the very beginning, everyone other than the woman herself realizes that Shahsu is the human who is mentioned in the prophecy. It means that she is the one supposed to fall deeply in love with Maran and sacrifice her mortal life to be reborn as the queen of snakes, Sahmaran. This is all the more ascertained through the various omens that take place in the region after the arrival of Shahsu and some that have to do directly with her. First, the raging fire at the festival that traps her; then, the mysterious suicide of the tourists by jumping into the well at the Anavarza Castle; then, the sudden death of all the cattle in the whole region; and finally, the bizarre act of a human woman giving birth to a snake. All these omens point to the fact that Lilith will soon awaken from her century-old slumber and also to the fact that Shahsu is going to be the savior that the prophecy has mentioned. This is the reason why the supporters of Lilith, like the mysterious Arun, constantly try to kill Shahsu through one trick or another.
What Is Davut’s Real Identity?
Although Shahsu has always known Davut to be her grandfather, Maran reveals some more about the man in the last episode. When Shahsu has a hard time believing her fate and confusedly asks why it is she who has to go through the ordeal of fulfilling the prophecy, Maran replies that the reason for this is that she is a direct successor to the traitorous human Camsap. Ever since Sahmaran had been killed, Camsap lived on with guilt and remorse for betraying his beloved, and the great power of immortality that Sahmaran had left him was now like a curse for him. While he tried to kill himself, driven by contempt, Camsap could never die and kept being reborn over and over again, as different men. While in these later lives, he would not remember his original sin, the feeling of guilt and remorse remained strong in the mind of each of these lives. Davut was, unfortunately, a reborn form of Camsap himself, and he had to bear the curse of guilt and despair throughout his life. Driven out by this desolation, he had tried to commit suicide but had noticed that his young girl Gul was about to see him in such an act. Being the first form in which Camsap had a child of his own, Davut decided to move himself away from his daughter to protect her from this mental struggle. This was the reason why he kept no contact with Gul, but he did not realize that Gul and Shahsu would both be struck down by his mental struggles. The rose seeds that Davut had left with Gul had been carefully kept and grown by the daughter, and Shahsu now brings a seed with her to give to Davut. When the man plants it, the rose tree grows up unnaturally fast, probably signifying that it serves as a reminder of Gul, which is one more addition of guilt in Davut’s mind.
‘Shahmaran’ Season 1: Ending Explained What Happens To Shahsu, Maran, And Davut? What To Expect From Season 2?
While Shahsu and Maran’s romantic relationship serves as the foundation of the prophecy that is their fate, this relationship takes a long time to develop. Maran had been a staunch non-believer in the prophecy and his people’s faith, as he felt it had done more harm than good. However, as he falls in love with Shahsu, he realizes that the prophecy his father and sisters have been harping about for so long is true after all. When the two lead characters finally give themselves to their desires and extensively make love with each other by the lake in the last episode, Shahsu’s body starts to grow scales like snakeskin. Although this is not apparent to her at first, Shahsu eventually notices it and realizes that the prophecy is indeed true. Her love for Maran and her act of giving herself completely to this love has made the prophecy come true, giving her the powers of Sahmaran. These powers need to be used when Lilith’s commander Arun tries to harm Shahsu in the end, and she easily fights him off. Around the same time, Mirac finds and attempts to kill Davut, claiming that the root of all this trouble, Camsap, needs to be eliminated. Davut eagerly stabs himself with Mirac’s knife, knowing that his pain and guilt will finally come to an end. The fact that Davut’s or Camsap’s death occurs around the same time that the prophecy is about to come true and the balance between humans and basilisks is going to be restored means that Camsap would no longer have to be born to suffer for his sins. In that sense, Mirac brings an end to Camsap’s misery.
At the end of “Shahmaran” Season 1, a scene shows the woman whom we have been watching throughout the series writhing inside her cold prison cell, gaining enough power to wake up and pick herself up. This means that Lilith has awoken and is ready to exact revenge on humans, while her sister Sahmaran has returned in the form of Shahsu. While this fight between the two sisters, symbolizing revenge and forgiveness/sacrifice, respectively, would have been a grand one, this is probably kept away for a possible second season. If a second iteration is indeed to come, Lilith is sure to play an important role in it. Although Sahmaran is more powerful than her sister if the legends are to be believed, the fact that Lilith now has followers in the form of the basilisk citizens of Adana would also help her in the battle.
“Shahmaran” is a 2023 Drama Thriller series streaming on Netflix.