Hot Skull

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I watched Hot Skull on Netflix, a Turkish Science Fiction dystopic series. I knew there was only one season, and no further seasons were planned, so I was expecting that the story would be resolved - but alas, I was wrong. And the book the show is based on is only available in Turkish, so I wouldn't know of a way to figure out how the story end.

The premise is that there is a "semantic virus", a disease that makes people 'jabber', to talk without meaning (but syntactically correct), and to be unable to convey or process any meaning anymore (not through words, and very limited through acts). They seem also to loose the ability to participate in most parts of society, but they still take care of eating, notice wounds or if their loved ones are in distress, etc. Jabbering is contagious, if you hear someone jabber, you start jabbering as well, jabberers cannot stop talking, and it quickly became a global pandemic. So they are somehow zombieish, but not entirely, raising questions about them still being human, their rights, etc. The hero of the story is a linguist.

Unfortunately, the story revolves around the (global? national?) institution that tries to bring the pandemic under control, and which has taken over a lot of power (which echoes some of the conspiracy theories of the COVID pandemic), and the fact that this institution is not interested in finding a cure (because going back to the former world would require them to give back the power they gained). The world has slid into economic chaos, e.g. getting chocolate becomes really hard, there seems to be only little international cooperation and transportation going on, but there seems to be enough food (at least in Istanbul, where the story is located). Information about what happened in the rest of the world is rare, but everyone seems affected.

I really enjoyed the very few and rare moments where they explored the semantic virus and what it does to people. Some of them are heart-wrenching, some of them are interesting, and in the end we get indications that there is a yet unknown mystery surrounding the disease. I hope the book at least resolves that, as we will probably never learn how the Netflix show was meant to end. The dystopic parts about a failing society, the whole plot about an "organization taking over the world and secretly fighting a cure", and the resistance to that organization, is tired, not particularly well told, standard dystopic fare.

The story is told very slowly and meanders leisurely. I really like the 'turkishness' shining through in the production: Turkish names, characters eating simit, drinking raki, Istanbul as a (underutilized) background, the respect for elders, this is all very well meshed into the sci-fi story.

No clear recommendation to watch, mostly because the story is unfinished, and there is simply not enough payoff for the lengthy and slow eight episodes. I was curious about the premise, and still would like to know how the story ends, what the authors intended, but it is frustrating that I might never learn.


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