Do you believe in love? If so, what does that look like? These are the questions that drive Love 101, a Turkish teen drama. Centered on a group of rebellious high-schoolers on the verge of getting expelled for their reckless behavior, a teacher decides to give them a second chance at redemption. However, their future is once again at stake when this same teacher is about to get transferred to a school in another city. Determined to make her stay for their own sake, these students decide to plot out a matchmaking scheme.
This might sound like a cliché Hallmark idea, but the way the series is able to navigate love, friendship and self-discovery is a success worth noting. This Netflix original might have been short-lived, but two seasons were enough to showcase character development, add an iconic soundtrack to the mix, and surprise viewers with an unexpected and overwhelmingly satisfactory end. Love 101 isn’t as popular as other teen dramas on the streaming platform, such as Never Have I Ever or Outer Banks, but it surely deserves your attention. Here are some reasons why the series is indeed an underrated gem.
Despite taking place in Istanbul during the 90s, Love 101 is relatable no matter where you come from or what era you grew up in. Maybe the very fact it isn’t English-speaking might be one of the main reasons it is left unnoticed. Like the rest of the coming-of-age shows on Netflix, the series entails a good-looking cast with distinct personalities and most importantly, they are urging to find their place in this world. Isik (İpek Filiz Yazıcı) for instance, starts off as the typical goodie-two-shoes with straight A’s, and nothing but positive feedback from her teachers. Clearly in love with one of the “bad guys” in her class, she is drawn to the rebellious crowd in their conquest to make their teacher Burcu (Pınar Deniz) fall for Kemal (Kaan Urgancıoğlu), the new basketball coach. As Isik spends more time alongside Eda (Alina Boz), Osman (Selahattin Paşalı), Kerem (Kubilay Aka), and Sinan (Mert Yazıcıoğlu), she notices that being complacent isn’t as important as having honest friendships and finding true love.
Isik might become the glue that sticks all these characters together, but each of them is worth rooting for. Especially Sinan. On the outside, he might be perceived as a drunkard without any prospects for the future, but he is just a fragile soul in need of the care and support he never received from his parents. Unlike the rest of the group, Sinan was never encouraged to pursue his dreams or share his distress with anyone, so he always ends up keeping it a secret. Even, when viewers know that he is on the verge of suicide, it takes a while for others to comprehend that beneath his head nods and sarcastic remarks, he needs help.
Eda, Osman, and Kerem also have issues of their own that influence their character development within the series. Eda is a talented artist whose goal is to work with graphic design, but her parents are quick to note that the arts isn’t a viable option for a stable income. Osman is the golden boy of the group – a teen entrepreneur who has an obsession with eating hazelnuts. He overlooks all the food canteens of the region, cares for his clients, and often leads the bundle into rational decision-making. Lastly, Kerem is constantly picking fights and confronting his father (a successful business executive). Even though no one believes he can make it past high school without landing in prison, he slowly proves everyone wrong.
As the title indicates, love is ultimately the main character in the series. The truth is, all of the characters are struggling to find love, may it be romantic or just love from their friends and family members. At first, the group is determined to make their teacher fall in love with the basketball coach, despite being skeptical about love existing in real life. The more they try to take the matter into their own hands, each of them notices that they are feeling butterflies for one of their peers. Isik falls for Sinan, Kerem falls for Eda, and eventually, Kemal and Burcu fall for one another as planned. However, Love 101 is quick to emphasize that love isn’t easy and that sometimes it takes a lot of personal growth in order for things to work out in the end. There is a quote from Eda in a candid conversation with Burcu that completely encapsulates this thought: “So you are saying that no one can save me but myself?
One thing that we have learned from Stranger Things is that a good throwback playlist is the ideal way to set the tone for a deeply intriguing teen drama. Given that Love 101 is set during the 90s, you will get the chance to listen to hits by Franz Ferdinand, Bon Jovi, and even some Turkish songs that are quite catchy. These tracks give an additional layer of impact when they are inserted in a slow-motion action scene or in the heart-warming moments within the show. Keep an ear out for the fight scene in the science lab!
Normally, Netflix either cancels a good teen original (cough cough, The Society) or starts to extend the narrative beyond what was necessary (13 Reasons Why hits the top of this list). Nevertheless, Love 101 was able to do it all. The second and final season premiered in September 2021, and it might even be considered better than the first. Since we already understood who these characters were, the series is able to dive deep into their personal battles and how those interfere with their friendships (even years later). The final scene surprises everyone who was left on a cliff-hanger in season 1 and gives audiences a sense of relief and a warm fuzzy feeling. Yes, there could be a spinoff focused on Osman (those who’ve finished the last episode know why), but what we were left off with was certainly good enough.
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