TV Review - Tyrant: Season 2

Adam Rayner in 'Tyrant'
I loved the first season. It was a great depiction and commentary on how a Middle Eastern country like Iraq or Syria is run. Except, the country in question is fictitious, but it was a great simile. It ended on a pretty powerful note.

When the second season starts, it did something, which I thought was a misstep. The series was co-written by Howard Gordon and Craig Wright. Gordon was a writer for Showtime's Homeland and I feel like this series makes the same misstep that Homeland did.

Adam Rayner stars as Barry Al-Fayeed, the youngest son of the leader of Abbudin, a Middle Eastern country, not that much different from Iraq. Barry left to study in the United States and become a doctor, which he did. He married and had two children who are now in high school and his eldest son is about to graduate. Barry is invited back to his country after being away for so long to attend a family event.

Ashraf Barhom also stars as Jamal Al-Fayeed, the eldest son and Barry's older brother. Once his father dies, Jamal becomes the leader or president of Abbudin. He married his brother's ex-girlfriend and had a son who is now in his 20's, and he inherited a lot of bad blood and atrocities that his father did, along with his uncle Tariq who is the general of the Abbudin army. As a result, Jamal is forced to make tough choices, which doesn't make him popular. In fact, the power goes to his head and begins to corrupt him.

At the end of the first season, Jamal becomes so corrupt that Barry had to stop him. It pitted brother against brother, and Barry lost. Jamal won and Barry was arrested for treason and sentenced to death. So, for the second season, the assumption is that Barry would be dead or killed, but he's not.

It was the same thing for Homeland. One of the main characters, Nicholas Brody, committed treason and should have been killed, but he wasn't. That was the fundamental mistake for Homeland, its inability or unwillingness to kill Brody. This show has a similar inability or unwillingness to kill Barry. The argument is that Barry is an extremely, more likeable character than Brody, and the turn that Barry makes in Episode 5 is interesting but weirdly still feels like the show thinking it needs Americans or an American in the narrative.

Unfortunately, it reinforces the idea that ultimately it's going to be an American who saves this Middle Eastern country. Technically, Barry was born and raised in Abbudin, but the actor who plays Barry is white and his character is supposed to be highly Americanized. It just would have been better for the savior to be someone who never left but always remained in Abbudin and knows the country more. Who knows? Maybe that person will end up being Jamal in the greatest redemption arc that this show could make.

The series introduces the Army of the Caliphate, which is supposed to be a simile for ISIS or ISIL. This show does a great job of putting us in the shoes of these ISIS-like members, utilizing characters we met last year like Ihab Rashid, played by Alexander Karim, and integrating them in a good way. It is perhaps even doing a better job than Timbuktu, the recent Oscar-nominated film about a town taken over by ISIS.

There is a ridiculous reason to bring back Barry's family who had to flee Abbudin. It's a ridiculous reason, but if it allows the return of Abdul, played by Mehdi Dehbi, then it could be something to watch. Abdul is the gay Muslim who was in a secret relationship with Barry's son, Sammy, played by Noah Silver. Sammy is gay too and seeing that relationship explored could be compelling.

The true heart and center continues to be the performance of Ashraf Barhom. He is such a complex and complicated character that he inhabits so richly and amazingly. He can be so smooth, so sexy, so scary but yet so sweet and so sad that he can terrify you and break your heart so seamlessly. It's a shame that he wasn't nominated for an Emmy or any other awards.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-LV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 10PM on FX.


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