Review: Midnight at the Pera Palace (Pera Palas’ta Gece Yarisi)

Hazal Kaya in Midnight at the Pera Palace

Midnight at the Pera Palace (Pera Palas’ta Gece Yarisi), from Turkey, is a time travel mystery with lots of plot twists. The mystery involved events just before the start of the Turkish war for independence.

The main character in Midnight at the Pera Palace (Pera Palas’ta Gece Yarisi) is a modern day journalist named Esra (Hazal Kaya). She lives in Istanbul and is assigned a cruddy article as punishment for being a terrible employee. She has to write an article with 130 reasons to stay at the Pera Palace Hotel in honor of the hotel’s 130th anniversary celebration.

Tansu Biçer in Midnight at the Pera Palace

Esme goes to the hotel. She’s given a tour by Ahmet (Tansu Biçer). He tells her about the history of the hotel and shows her around. Because it’s bad weather, he offers to put her up in the hotel overnight for free. He puts her in room 411. She finds an old fashioned key on the desk, which she’s holding in her hand at the stroke of midnight.

And boom. She wakes up in 1919. Ahmet is there, too. He tells her about the gateway she found and talks to her about not changing anything that’s going to happen in the future.

The British military is everywhere. The officer called George (James Chalmers) has plans to take over the rule of Turkey for himself. The first part of his plan is to assassinate Mustafa Kemal (Hakan Dinçkol). Turkish police and military seem to be going along with this plan, but resisters are everywhere.

Esme decides she must prevent the assassination of Mustafa Kemal so that her country can become the free nation she knows today. (A country with a thriving film and TV industry, by the way.) Ahmet wants to help.

Esme discovers that she looks exactly like Peride, a rich Turkish woman who rubs elbows with the folks at the Pera Palace. Peride gets murdered early in the story and Esme pretends to be Peride for the remainder of the series as she tries to find Peride’s murderer and keep the future leader of Turkey safe.

Esme was a orphan. But it turns out that she is actually Peride’s great granddaughter.

Ebrar Alya Demirbilek in Midnight at the Pera Palace

Perida has a daughter, Leyla (Ebrar Alya Demirbilek), who is Esme’s grandmother. The young actress playing Leyla does a terrific job, as the two of them bond.

Hazal Kaya and Selahattin Pasali in Midnight at the Pera Palace

Perida/Esme meets and falls in love with Halit (Selahattin Pasali) who runs a night club. He might be a criminal, might be helping the English – or maybe not – and is supposed to be the one to kill Mustafa Kemal. He keeps promising Perida/Esme that Mustafa Kemal is safe as long as he’s the assassin.

Hazal Kaya in Midnight at the Pera Palace

Perida/Esme does many things trying to solve murders and stop the changing of history. One of them is sing in Halit’s night club.

Ahmet knows other gateways in the hotel, and finds other keys. At various points, Esme goes to 1917, 1947, and 1995. She always has a reason, but she’s warned there are bad consequences for using the gateway frequently. Plus, she still needs to get back to her own time.

Esme was raised lost and alone. So was Ahmet. They meet Sonya (Yasemin Szawlowski). She is another lost and alone character. She was formerly a Russian princess, but now works as a maid in the hotel. She’s an important character, too.

The series is full of twists and turns. It deals with Turkish history and often shows what might have been had history changed its path. It also takes the lost and alone characters in the story and fills in their relationships and gives them connections. The episodes are full of clues and foreshadowings that I didn’t recognize until much later when their meaning was revealed.

I sometimes found events confusing, but mostly I kept up. Knowing more about Turkey and Turkish history might have helped, but it was actually about how the story was told and the twists in the storyline that lost me sometimes.

The series has 8 episodes. It’s streaming on Netflix.

You can watch it dubbed in English, but if you want the original Turkish while watching the series and need help, this Netflix help page is available.

7 thoughts on “Review: Midnight at the Pera Palace (Pera Palas’ta Gece Yarisi)”

  1. I watched this three times. In the end, everything made perfect sense. It was worth watching that many times because the story is that good. Well acted and the visuals are superb. I will probably watch it again.

  2. We watched this about a month ago. We did enjoy it, but the story was a little disjointed with some time-travel rule breaking. However, the costumes, street scenes and the hotel were magnificent. I was astonished at the authenticity of one of the street scenes in which a street tea (chai) vendor was shown. They don’t have these now and to have that detail was incredible. I spent quite a bit of time in Turkey in the 70’s, so memory lane for me. I got to visit Istanbul for a bit and did stay in an historic hotel associated with the Orient Express, but don’t remember the name; pretty sure it wasn’t this one.

    1. I suspect that many folks who have been to Istanbul will be aware of this famous hotel. I don’t know how much of the interior scenes were really shot there, but it looks lovely.

  3. I just finished streaming “Midnight in the Pera Palace” and really enjoyed the mashup of Turkish history, location and fantasy. We visited Istanbul a couple of years before the Pera Palace was rennovated and although the hotel was a bit shabby after 110 years of continuous operation, it was still a magnificent example of Belle Epoch architecture. “Midnight…” captured the hotel’s beauty and the time period perfectly, the costumes and historical details were very well done, and engaging characters brought the story to life with quite good acting. My only complaint was the English dubbing. While it was better than most, it didn’t really capture the emotion or nuance of the actors performances in the original Turkish.

    Watching “Midnight…” brought back fond memories of our visit to Turkey more than 14 years ago. I’d love to visit the Pera Palace today, have a drink in the Kubelli Lounge, and perhaps stay for a day or two in room 411!

  4. Am I the only one who caught that Halit knew about the hotel’s portals? Did he say he traveled back to keep his father from being such a cruel person? And that it didn’t matter he couldn’t change it? If so.. was he referring to his brother? He seemed to be surprised and shocked at how old his nephew was. Could the nephew actually be Halit? Or am I just seeing conspiracy and foreshadowing in my imagination? Maybe the writers never pursued this after including that one line from Halit

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