Hot Skull Season 1 Review – An enjoyable enough dystopian thriller full of tropes and archetypal characters

Season 1

Episode Guide

Galanthus Byzantinus
Cat, Box, Funnel
Zone 6
High Fever
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.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

2 thoughts on “Hot Skull Season 1 Review – An enjoyable enough dystopian thriller full of tropes and archetypal characters”

  1. The fact that after 8 years verbal communication is still the main way anyone communicates almost made me stop watching the show 17 minutes into the first episode. Sign language, pen and paper, tablets to either write on or use with preset buttons like many AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices all make much more sense when combined with much more careful and thorough headphones usage. The disability community has solutions for when verbal and auditory communication is unavailable. Global use and research would put a lot more options on the market.
    My other big complaint is that Murat is supposedly a linguist, but he doesn’t even know that Sule means school in German. He makes no comments on how languages are developed or anything to do with linguistics. The closest we get is that on one of his tape recordings, he says that recordings of randomly generated gibberish don’t cause jabbering, only the speech of Jabberers.
    With all the hoops he has to jump through to see Ozgar, it appears that he’s more of a numbers and logic savant with photographic memory rather than a linguist.
    I’m really disappointed that the world building and plot were so full of holes because the premise of the pandemic spread by verbal communication is so interesting.
    RF Kuang would be an excellent person to write an incredibly fleshed out version of this story. Her book Babel, An Arcane History is about linguists and protesting and when violence is the correct response. I’d really love to read her version.

  2. Couldn’t make it through the first ep. Concur with your review – also how is that woman old enough to be his mum ? He looks like he’s in his late 40s at least !

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