Throughout its short run so far, Tyrant has shown glimpses of being an interesting series that explores a difficult issue with some complexity. But most of the time, it’s chosen plot over characterization, and broad strokes over nuance. The first part could almost be forgivable if the series was one that featured fast-paced action or political intrigue, but it has neither. Tyrantseems to be playing a long game, when what it really needs to focus on is there here and now. Hit the jump for why “like father, like son.”
Tyrant has a lot of characters, but we know almost nothing about any of them. With the exception of Bassam (and even then, it’s limited), all of the other characters arrived on Tyrant having seemingly existed only from that moment forward. There’s no history with Molly or Emma or Sammy, and the promise Leila, Ahmed and the never-seen Amira seemed to have has all but vanished. They are one-note characters, much like their revolutionary counterparts Fauzi, his daughter Samira, and leader Ihab. There’s no depth or complexity to any of them, and there’s no reason for there not to be — each one has the ability to shoulder so much more narrative than they’re given.
There were still moments in “Sins of the Father” though that point towards Tyrant‘s struggle to become a better show. Bassam’s advice to Jamal was seemingly a failure; letting Ihab out of prison, and having Jamal appear to the people in the square (which was abandoned once the mob started to attack his car) led to Jamal giving Tariq control of the situation. Tariq’s involvement always means bloodshed, and Bassam was reproached by with Molly and Fauzi over it for different reasons. Molly reasoned that Bassam can’t enter the situation like a movie hero and save the day (which is exactly what it had looked like), but that this was a situation that was going to take a lot of time and work. Fauzi thought Bassam shouldn’t bother working from the inside at all, but should turn against his family and join the resistance.
That would be an interesting conflict, if there was any other writing to support Bassam’s conflict or current stance. There are flashbacks here and there, sure, but just like in the current timeline, Bassam is mostly silent and unreadable in them. Him exiling himself for twenty years proves something, but his return and decision to stay remains questionable, even seemingly to himself. The stakes are still low, as it seems that no matter what he says or does, or how much he messes up, Jamal will always listen to him and take his side anyway. So what is there to lose? And Abdul said to Sammy: if things go wrong, you can hop on a plane.
Elsewhere, Jamal’s conversation / light threatening with John Tucker started off as interesting, then fizzled out. Tucker’s commentary that it’s not about how many people are killed, but about who (“if you shoot an attractive co-ed in the head, all bets are off”). It was a damning and cynical statement, and one that rang very true. But moments later, Jamal then brings up the military base, and Tucker trumps him: “we have a contract with your country, not your family. Patience is growing thin.” It took away all of Jamal’s power in a single line.
Every positive motion (like the possibility of a real dialogue about the horrors of a gassing 20 years earlier, or a martyr lighting himself on fire) is hindered though by either Regime 101 (“you can’t be arrested for watching the news, surely!” as Molly gawks to maid Rema), or still sounds like pilot setup (such as when Emma called Ahmed out on his Porsches when people are starving). Like Jamal’s rule so far, it’s two steps forward and one step back.
Episode Rating: C
— The only reason why there should be any time given to Jamal’s penis working or not is to revel in the fact that this serial rapist’s weapon has been disengaged. If him getting his “prowess” back is played as triumphant, and I’m definitely done with this show. Impotent Jamal should be the status quo from now on.
— If Tyrant paused to show what any of the characters do on their own time in the palace, it would be an improvement. All we know about Emma, for instance, is that she whines and complains a lot (must have gotten that from Bassam, although he at least has some cause), and that Sammy is gay. Sammy doesn’t seem to exist outside of being gay and stalking Abdul. Do something else with these kids, please. And Molly, too. And Leila. And …
— I did like Abdul telling Sammy to calm down and get over it. It was just a hookup, and Abdul is ambitious. That’s clearly not going to be the last of things, but, it’s something.
— “You trick ignorant men into doing things you are too weak to do” – Kazim’s wife.
— I have the feeling that many of Bassam’s prep school cohorts didn’t have much of a moral leg to stand on when it comes to the crimes of their own families, but, of course, Tyrant won’t go into that. Bassam just gets mad and punches things.
— The crowd scenes were the best part of the episode, and felt very reminiscent of the Arab Spring. Yet, while the series casually throws out social media brand names, and shows the young guy filming Kazim on fire, it never actually bothers to show any real results or repercussions from this, or even examples of how it’s making a difference.
— Jamal really never questions Bassam, does he?