tv review – FX’s Tyrant, episode 1.3

After last week’s not so good outing, Tyrant is back on track again with ‘My Brother’s Keeper’. While some problems persist, like the writing for Barry’s wife Molly, Tyrant‘s third episode certainly had a lot going for it. First and foremost it was nice seeing that the Al-Fayeed brothers’ dynamic was at the forefront of the episode, which made for some very good dramatic moments. The constant struggle Barry is feeling between being loyal to his brother but also protecting him and keeping him in check, is fascinating to watch and, additionally, the fact that we’ve seen Jamal’s ruthlessness and we know he is the most powerful man in Abbudin, makes you wonder how much Barry can get away with before Jamal snaps and does something terrible to his brother. This, by far, is Tyrant at its most compelling, but this week’s plot about Barry looking into the accusations that sentenced a man to death, also provided tension and drama, and really furthered Barry and Jamal’s relationship.

At the start of the episode the husband of the woman that tried to kill Jamal was arrested. This man later told Jamal that rebel leader Ihab Rashid had been behind the assassination attempt, which led to Rashid’s arrest who, immediately after, was sentenced to death by public hanging. But, of course, things weren’t as simple as they first appeared: Barry’s childhood friend Fauzi Nadal called Barry and told him that he had been lied to. Nadal then told Barry he would give him a report if Barry would free his daughter, which Barry did. In the end, we learned that Rashid wasn’t behind the assassination, but that Barry’s uncle Tariq fabricated this lie. The attempt on Jamal’s life was simply planned by the woman herself, who couldn’t take Jamal’s abuse anymore. When Barry learned of Jamal’s actions he stormed home and attacked his brother, but later they made up because Barry does love Jamal and because Jamal loves Barry. Barry was firm though: he had Jamal release political prisoners to not only save his brother from rebellion, but also in an attempt to change things in Abbudin for the better and thwart his uncle’s plans. The public hanging still went through, though: the man arrested at the start of the episode was killed, but Barry had promised him the Abbudin government would look after the man’s kids.

‘My Brother’s Keeper’ was nicely paced and its subject matter was intriguing. It was fascinating to watch Barry try and navigate the political arena of Abbudin, which gave way to many dark secrets. Both Adam Rayner and Ashraf Barhom did a great job once again, effectively and believable portraying this unique brotherly bond. Barry is truly tested and this week we finally got a sense of his anxiety and desperation: he pleaded his wife that she would stay, because he needed a sane person to talk to, because otherwise he feared he’d go insane. There’s a sense that Barry is not only keeping his brother in check, but also fighting against the devil on his own back. His traumatic upbringing has truly left its scars and, in his brother, Barry sees what he himself could become if he doesn’t learn how to take care of and control his own issues. But, this and the political intrigue aside, the rest of Tyrant fails to be interesting: Barry’s wife is still unrealistically dumb and unsympathetic, his son strangely unaware of the risks he himself is taking, and Barry’s daughter is just completely forgotten about. What’s also baffling is that there’s very little attention payed to detail: Jamal walks perfectly fine after his accident, despite the fact he he was severely injured and has just left the hospital. Also: it’s doubtful he would sleep on his stomach when his manhood almost got chomped off. Inauthenticities like these hurt the immersion, really take you out of the moment, and it’s this problem that Tyrant really needs to pay more attention to. Another issue is the show’s predictability: so far the series serves up a mix of many familiar elements, which works to an extent, but its lack of surprises and originality do keep viewers from getting truly invested.

‘My Brother’s Keeper’ was a solid outing, but it was not without its problems. The show still needs to improve to make itself something memorable. 7/10

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