Cat, Box, Funnel
Dawn broke, House hand die
13 to 7
Rose and Thorn
My name doesn’t matter
Dystopian dramas tend come out a dime a dozen these days. There are so many on the small screen now, and that’s before counting the upcoming juggernaut of The Last Of Us next year. From Station 19 and The Walking Dead to Black Summer, and more intriguing concepts like Sisyphus: The Myth, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out in this field.
Turkish series Hot Skull then, attempts to blend the familiar with the unfamiliar, and across 8 episodes depicts a brand new type of epidemic that’s hit the world. However, the series also adds in a number of streamlined subplots that many will be familiar with.
The first episode introduces this dystopian world, picking up 8 years after the initial outbreak of a deadly virus called the “semantic virus”. This contagious mental disorder spreads through speech from one ear to another. Colloquially called “Jabbering”, the infected basically rattle off a bunch of random words together and infect their hosts, sending them into a crazed state of panic.
As a result, the entire system collapsed and the world (see: Turkey) allowed the AEI (Anti-Epidemic Forces) to take over, breaking the areas up into different zones to try and contain the virus.
At the center of all this is the usual trope of “Patient Zero”, coming in the form of Murat Siyavus. Nicknamed Hot Skull the longer the series progresses, Murat finds himself inexplicably immune to the effects of Jabbering.
As a result of this, AEI forces and, more notably, Anton and the shady Fazir, take a particular interest in him, wanting to bring Murat in as he may be the key to coming up with a cure. As for Murat, he ends up on a quest of his own, teaming up with a woman called Sule whilst tracking down a key figure called Ozgur. I won’t reveal what this person’s connection is to Murat, nor any of the big plot reveals that follow, but suffice to say the usual “fetch quest” and “cat and mouse” tropes are out in full effect here.
Around the midway point of the show, things are given an extra injection of intrigue, with the introduction of fellow agent Canan and the mysterious Yasemin. The threat Fazil poses is made much more obvious, along with the true purpose of why the AEI want Murat. All of this builds up to a dramatic conclusion, one that poses some massive question marks if this show is renewed.
Murat’s character does have a pretty good arc, while the rest of the players have their own quirks and perks, but very few actually stand out. That’s a bit problematic, especially as a show like this lives and dies by its cast. The other big problem with Hot Skull comes from its worldbuilding and logic.
The rules around this epidemic and how it spreads should breed far more paranoia and suspicion than we actually get from most of the people inhabiting this world. Most of the population have resorted to wearing noise cancelling headphones and communicating with loved ones at home. Only, when a loved one returns home, there’s no protocol for checking the Jabbering.
Out in shops and other areas there are different checks that take place, and yet out in the open people regularly take off their headphones to speak to one another… rather than texting on their phones or even using a pen and paper. On that same subject, it may seem like nitpicking but these gated communities count for nothing when the infected could easily get on a loudspeaker and just blast their message out to the masses. But these sort of issues are never really addressed.
Even beyond that though, some of the plot contrivances are hard to look past. At one point in episode 1, Murat sneaks into the AEI and literally passes Anton in the hallway – the very man who’s actively looking for him at this point! There are other examples of this late on but again, I’m not about to spoil that here. It doesn’t break the enjoyment completely but it does make for a much more trying watch than it perhaps should.
Hot Skull isn’t a bad show per-se, but it’s not a particularly great one either. This is a dystopian thriller that’s full of tropes and archetypal characters, saved by Murat’s journey from reserved loner to de-facto leader, which is nicely written. While some of the worldbuilding is a bit sloppy, and the show doesn’t really do all that much different to what else is out there, this is an enjoyable enough watch all the same, despite its flaws.
Verdict - 6/10