Series / Magnificent Century

"We all came here as slaves. If you come to your senses, maybe you won't stay a slave. Receive your education, shut up and behave. All of the girls here are prepared for the sultan. If you are chosen and make the sultan happy, and if you give birth to a boy, you become the haseki sultan. You rule the world."
Nigar Kalfa, 1x01

Magnificent Century (Turkish: Muhteşem Yüzyıl) is a Turkish Soap Opera based on the life of Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

After the death of his father, Sultan Süleyman is called to reign over the ever-expanding Ottoman Empire at 26 years of age. He resolves to uphold the justice of the law and make the Ottoman Empire greater than it has ever been.

Thus begins his romance with Hürrem, a Crimean concubine in his harem. Originally named Aleksandra Lisovska she was transported to his palace in Istanbul along with other slaves for his harem. The bold woman detests the people who captured and sold her, resisting her captors and wishing to follow her deceased family in death, until she falls in love with the Sultan.

However, this earns her the ire of Mahidevran Sultan, mother of Süleyman's firstborn son, and Pargalı İbrahim Paşa, the Sultan's closest advisor and right hand man.

The show begins with Süleyman's ascension to authority, but the focus of the series are the workings and intrigue of the Sultan's inner circle and the rivalries between members of the household. The budding romance between İbrahim and Hatice, Süleyman's sister, the rivalry between concubines and heirs and the manipulations taking place behind the scenes.

This series provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: the "Hürrem gets kidnapped" arc was added because of Meryem Uzerli literally running away due to Creator Breakdown.
  • Adult Fear: Shortly after Mustafa's death, Mahidevran and Mihrunisa are ordered to leave Bursa with Prince Mehmet (Suleyman's nephew. See One Steve Limit). Suddenly, the carriage with Mahidevran and Mihrunisa stops due to a broken wheel and they can only stare helplessly as Mehmed is kidnapped in the other carriage, never to see his mother again.
    • Even harsher when you know that historical Prince Mehmet died just two months after his father.
  • Aerith and Bob: Hardly noticeable for Western audiences. The characters born in the Ottoman Empire have normal, Turkish names. However, slaves who converted to Islam usually have more poetic names, given to them by whoever converted them, like Mahidevran ("one whose beauty never fades") or Hürrem, "the cheerful one". And then there are eunuchs, traditionally named after flowers—for example, "Sümbül" means "hyacinth", while "Gül" means rose.
  • The Alcoholic: Matrakçı Nasuh Efendi (though he gets better) and, in later seasons, Selim.
  • Alien Lunch: A variant on this in episode 17, when İbrahim invites everyone to dinner at his palace and they eat food at… a table with chairs! The norm of dinner style at the time is gathered around low tables on cushions. His mother-in-law finds it rather scandalous.
  • Alpha Bitch: Mahidevran at the beginning of the series. Later on, Hürrem gradually transforms into one. The real one, though, is the Valide Sultan.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Hürrem wants to rule the world, but is a slave. Süleyman grants her freedom. Freedom means she can no longer sleep with him, as a concubine would. He must now marry her to continue his relationship. And so he does.
  • Animal Motifs: The Sultan and his heirs are often called lions, especially by the Valide Sultan, Süleyman's mother.
  • Annoying Arrows: Downplayed with Ibrahim Pasha. An arrow in the back doesn't kill him and he shrugs it off at first, but falls seriously ill as a result of the wound.
    • Played straight with Atmaca.
    • Completely averted with Yavuz and one of Mustafa's consorts.
  • Arranged Marriage: Fate of most Ottoman princesses, namely Mihrimah, Şah, and Fatma. Beyhan and her husband are example of Perfectly Arranged Marriage, Hatice is a rare exception as she was allowed to marry for love (though officialy her marriage is arranged as well).
  • An Axe to Grind: Atmaca's weapon of choice.
  • Bald of Awesome: Atmaca and Barbarossa (though in case of the latter this is rarely seen due to his turban). Suleiman also gets bald with age, though it's more of a subversion: he's considerably weaker by this point.
  • Been There, Shaped History: After retiring, Sümbül Aga creates Istambul's first coffeehouse.
  • Big Brother Worship: Cihangir for Mustafa much to his mother's displeasure.
  • Bloodless Carnage: A peculiar case. When Mihrunissa kills herself by slashing her throat, there's no blood whatsoever. Shortly after that, when Atmaca slashes Sinan's throat with an axe, blood is everywhere.
  • Character Outlives Actor: After the death of Tuncel Kurtiz, the actor portraying Ebussuud Efendi, Suleiman and the old judge conveniently switch to only exchange information by letters delivered by servants, rather than in-person meetings.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally. Rustem is given a musket by Donna Gracia. Some time later, he uses it to shoot Atmaca. Though Atmaca still manages to strangle him.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Mustafa's death. He easily beats the crap out of six Faceless Goons (who even look a bit like ninjas) sent to kill him, only to be strangled by Zal Mahmut a few seconds later.
  • Costume Porn: Since the cast is composed of royals and their inner circle, expect to see a lot of elegant dresses and ornaments. See also Hollywood Costuming below.
  • Coitus Ensues: Why were Hatice and İbrahim going at in the the baths? To de-stress after an awful day? Who knows. But in a normally pretty modest show, it certainly seems bizarre.
  • Daddy's Girl: Mihrimah who can almost always get the Sultan do what she wants. Süleyman himself confesses there are only two persons he can't refuse: her and her mother.
  • Deathofthe Hypotenuse: Mehmet Jelebi's Incurable Cough of Death conveniently solves the problem of how to get Hatice out of her engagement so that she can marry İbrahim
  • Decadent Court: Downplayed enough to present the glory of the Ottoman golden age and values of Islam. That being said, various characters from Sultan Süleyman's court indulge in endless intrigues and backstabbing. The only person above that all and unambiguously honest is probably Süleyman himself.
  • Downer Ending: It Was His Sled, as this is taken from the history. Because of Hürrem's intrigue, Süleyman's best and rightful heir Mustafa is executed for a coup that never existed, the Janissaries rebelled against the crown for the injustice, Mustafa's wife commits suicide in front of everyone calling out Hürrem for her sins, the royal family breaks and the now heir Selim has his siblings calling him out as a kinslayer. The series ends with Süleyman dying out of grief and Selim becomes the sultan with the shadow of Ottoman Empire's decline towering over him.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Played very straight in 2x30, when Isabella decides enough is enough and she's finally ready to seduce her way out. Followed in rapid succession by Scenery Censor, and Toplessness from the Back—and Ignore the Fanservice.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hatice, Nigar, and Mihrunissa.
  • Dual Wielding: Atmaca is often seen wielding two axes. He wields an axe and a dagger when he kills Rüstem Pasha's Mooks.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several younger characters have those once they start to play a more important role in the series:
    • For Mihrimah, Hürrem's daughter is when she damages Hürrem's crown and blames a servant for that. Then, when said servant is fired, she decides to fix that… by blaming her brother, Mehmet.
    • Selim and Bayezid have one in series 3: in an argument, it turns out that younger Bayezid can easily hand his brother's ass to him.
      • Selim has another one soon after, when he vomits during an execution of an Italian prisoner and then yells at the janissary who laughed at him.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Valide Sultan, which in Turkish means "Queen Mother"
  • Exact Words: Osman blood can't be spilled. Thus, Sultan gets rid of his son Mustafa by having him strangled.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Hürrem, very early on, to prevent herself from getting sent away from the palace. She actually was pregnant, through she herself didn't know. Mehmet is the result.
  • Fanservice: Some scenes in the baths, although the girls are wrapped in towels. Some dance scenes. Occasional post-sex scenes.
  • Fainting: Used in a wide range of forums. The women are very prone to it. Hatice is paticular.
    • In the first episode, Hürrem pulls a Fake Faint—getting Süleyman to hold her.
    • Hatice has an Emotional Faint when she finds out she'll be able to marry İbrahim.
    • Later Hatice has a Pregnancy Faint, although it initially looks more like an Emotional Faint and the doctor has to figure it out when the she's called in.
    • Hürrem is alerted to her fourth pregnancy by another Pregnancy Faint.
    • Hatice than has another Pregnancy Faint on a later occasion, for a different pregnancy.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Ayşe Hatun. Remember her? Anyone?
  • Historical-Domain Character: Sultan Süleyman, his family, Hürrem and many people from the ruling class of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Pope. How would you expect someone who looks so much like Palpatine to be a good guy?
    • Leaders of enemy states. King of Hungary in particular, portrayed as an Asshole Victim.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sultan Süleyman and İbrahim Pasha, who later gets promoted to the Grand Vizier. Naturally, having such a great influence on the monarch earns him Hürrem's enmity.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The series seems to be founded on this trope. Instead of the multi-piece, multi layered clothing made from soft, flowing material that actual Ottoman women of the classical era wore, most females (especially the main characters) on the show wear low neck, one piece dresses with stiff bodices reminiscent of the style used in The Tudors, though probably the most egregious examples of this trope are the presence of tiaras and the near universal absence of the şalvar, the traditional baggy trousers worn by both women and men.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: In the end the next Sultan is Selim, the one of the brothers who was possibly the least suited for it. Or argualbly the only one who was not suited at all. Today, while his father is considered one of the greatest sultans of Ottoman Empire, Selim is considered one of the worse.
  • Ironic Echo and Wrong Genre Savvy: When appointed as a Grand Vizier, Kara Ahmed Pasha asks Sultan for a promise that Sultan will never kill him—just like Ibrahim Pasha. Sounds right at first, given that his predecessor almost ended up on a receiving end of You Have Failed Me a few minutes earlier… However, Kara Ahmed probably forgot Ibrahim's fate…
  • Kissing Cousins: Bayezid and Huricihan.
  • Like Mother, like Daughter: Hürrem and Mihrimah, Lampshaded by Sah Sultan in season 3 final.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Made a Slave: Hürrem originally lived in Crimea with her parents, sister and fiance until they were attacked by Crimean Tatar raiders. While the rest of her family was killed, she was kidnapped and brought as a gift to the new Sultan's palace.
  • Mother Makes You King: While the sultanate is patriarchal and Lineage Comes from the Father, you'll never become sultan unless your mother is fighting for you.
  • Mutual Kill: Rustem Pasha and Atmaca
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: the various attempts to destroy Hürrem :
    • Mahidevran beats Hürrem, Sultan cares for her and becomes more in love than ever.
    • Valide attempts to have her murdered after she had been banished from the palace by Süleyman. Süleyman's reaction is to break centuries of tradition and marry his slave.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Rustem Pasha's predecessor as the Grand Vizier named Süleyman, as well as several minor characters.
    • Süleyman names his son Mehmet, and then a few years later, names his nephew Mehmet too. No one sees anything wrong with this.
    • Then there's Sinan the architect and Sinan – Rustem's brother who becomes the admiral of Ottoman fleet.
    • Then there's yet another Mehmet – Bayezid's youngest son who meets a fate similar to Mustafa's son Mehmet. Lampshaded by Nurbanu who says that this name brings bad memories after one of her grandkids is named... yeah, you guessed right.
  • Parental Favoritism: Aside from Mihrimah being clearly the apple of Sultan's eye as his only daughter, Mehmed is The Favorite of his sons. Later, Süleyman seems to favour Selim in his constant argument with Bayezid—while Hürrem and Mihrimah support Bayezid. Bayezid and later on Mustafa split the role of The Unfavorite. Cihangir is an interesting example since both his parents care for him deeply but because of his condition neither of them (nor anyone else for that matter) seems to seriously see him as a potential heir to the Ottoman throne, an equal to his brothers.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech
    • Nigar Kalfa gives one to Hürrem in 1x08. It's kind of glorious.
    • Mustafa delivers an epic one in the letter to Sultan.
    • Mihrunissa to Hurrem before slashing her own throat.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Mustafa's death, Atmaca goes this way, killing Rustem Pasha's brother.
  • Royal Harem
  • Sequel: Magnificent Century: Kösem, which focuses on Kösem Sultan, the wife of Suleiman's great-great-grandson Ahmed I. Unfortunately, it only lasted two seasons due to lower ratings.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In one of the "behind the scenes" episodes, Okan Yalabik, Burak Ozcivit, and Halit Ergenc (actors playing Ibrahim Pasha, Bali Bey, and Suleiman, respectively) tell the story of how Yalabik fell off a horse while on a trip during filming the battle of Mohacs. Cue this gem:
    Okan Yalabik: When I fell of a horse, I felt like... like I fell off a horse.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Selim and Bayezid—it starts when they are kids, gets more heated when Selim is chose to be the ruler of Manisa and explodes when they're the only two heirs left ending in Cain and Abel scenario.
  • Smug Snake: Behram Pasha
    • Rustem Pasha even more so.
  • Spiritual Successor: Despite some obvious differences between the two shows (historical instead of fantasy, fewer nudity, not so much violence), some people call this series "the Turkish Game of Thrones".
    • This show owes a lot to shows like The Tudors and The Borgias, particularly given the periods practically overlap.
  • Those Two Guys: Atmaca (Hawk) and Yavuz, two warriors protecting Mustafa. That is, until Yavuz gets a bad case of a bridge to the face, courtesy of Rüstem Pasha's henchmen trying to kill Mustafa.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: By the end of the show, it's practically Sultan's default expression.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Cihangir, the kindest and possibly wisest of the brothers.
  • Walking Spoiler: A lot of the cliffhangers and tension in attacks on Hürrem and others is somewhat undermined by any knowledge of this 500 year old history.
  • Wartime Wedding: When Süleyman invades Hungary.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the beginning of the fourth season, we learn that Rustem Pasha became the new Grand Vizier. The fate of the previous one, Süleyman Pasha is never mentioned (historically, he died in 1547).
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Walking the Golden Way/Path/Road" means "having sex with the sultan". Although it seems odd at first, it makes sense: the Golden Way/Path/Road (translations vary) is the corridor between the harem and the sultan's rooms, and to have sex with him you must first get to his room.
    • Also "halvet".
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Prince Selim after witnessing an Italian prisoner being beheaded. This doesn't help his reputation among the janissaries.
    • He does that again in much more dramatic circumstances after seeing Mustafa's body.
  • Yandere: Both Mahidevran and Hürrem, turning season 1 into a Psychotic Love Triangle. After her first pregnancy, Hürrem becomes very possessive of the Sultan, going so far as to beat her best friend into submission and send her poisoned fur to ruin her face. This is almost exactly the same what Mahidevran did to her at the beginning of the series.