Given the current political climate, there is no doubt that a show attempting to give nuance and depth to the tyrannical leaders of a Middle Eastern country is a tough sell. The sell is made all the tougher when said shows lacks any actual nuance in the attempt to sell it.
Tyrant centers on Barry Al Fayeed (Adam Rayner) who is drawn back to his home county and into his insane family who rules it with an iron fist. That is what the creators decided the show was about, anyway. Unfortunately they forgot to create any believable scenario that would lead to that conclusion.
From the opening moments of the pilot the audience is bombarded with the violent history of the fictional Abuddin and already we share Barry’s reticence to go back to such an unstable place and such an abusive family. But his wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), who has presumably known him longer than the audience, can’t think why taking their children to a dangerous foreign country with their father who clearly has a lot of familial issues would be anything but splendid. In fact, she thinks it would be the perfect opportunity for Barry to clear the air with his father and repair their relationship. Apparently she never took the time to read any articles about her father-in-law no matter how much her daughter quoted them at the dinner table.
And of course as soon as the American family arrives on the foreign soil it is clear this is not a nation that supports its leader. It is clear that Barry’s brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) is a raging psychopath. And it is clear that Barry’s issues with his father are not something that can be fixed with some sharing and a hug. Yet still his wife and children treat his reluctance to be drawn into his family’s web as unusual.
It simply makes no sense, to the point of distracting the viewer from the actual themes and messages of the show.
Of course, once you look past the hot button locale and the glaring oversights in verisimilitude, Tyrant still isn’t reinventing the wheel. Themes of power, father/son relationships and familial obligations are nothing new and Tyrant has yet to prove it has anything new to say about them. It’s a soap opera that pinned all its hopes on a sensational setting and hoped it would distract from its shaky construct and its reliance on overused, overdramatic tropes.
Considering the setting and the current conditions in the actual Middle East it seems like Tyrant should be saying something important.
But it's not.
Tyrant airs at 10/9c, Tuesdays on FX.
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