tv review – FX’s Tyrant, episode 1.4

Much like ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ there was a lot to like about ‘Sins Of The Father’, but it also had its fair share of problems. One of its strengths was undoubtedly the effective flashback the episode opened with. It showed us a young Barry in college in the US, discovering that someone had broken into his dorm room and had nailed newspaper clippings to the wall and had spray-painted anti-Al Fayeed phrases on there too. The scene worked because it showed you what Barry’s life in the US must have been like when he first came there and how he couldn’t escape his father’s actions and legacy, but it also tied into the event central to this entry’s premise: the anniversary of a war crime committed by Barry’s father, a gas attack on the Abbudin people.

Barry wouldn’t be Barry if he wouldn’t see this as an opportunity to try and change the way the country is run from within, to try and win the sympathies of Abbudin’s citizens, turn around his brother and usher in a brighter future. So, when the Abbudin people protested following an act of self-immolation, Barry tried to have Jamal speak to the country’s citizens and to have him finally declare that their father’s gas attack was indeed a crime and that something like it should never happen again. When that failed, Jamal and Leila quickly turned to aggression and threatened to strike down the protests in the most vicious way possible. Ultimately Barry was there to convince his brother that this course of action would only make matters worse, and we learned that Barry had arranged something special; a meeting for himself with Alexander Karim’s influential freedom fighter Ihab Rashid. We won’t see that meeting until next week’s episode, though.

While the political aspects were simplified, it was a compelling plot that was wonderfully paced and made the episode fly by. In a small but standout scene Jamal’s rash actions even earned him a threat from Justin Kirk’s US ambassador John Tucker, who let Jamal do his mad dog routine before issuing an effective threat, saying: “Like all things, patience is finite.” Kirk’s turn as the intelligent, cold and calculating Tucker was a joy to watch, and Kirk’s dynamic with Ashraf Barhom’s Jamal worked very well: it was a clashing of opposites in every way. Another enjoyable scenes was the one with Adam Rayner’s Barry and Fares Fares’ Fauzi, just a conversation of two friends with one wanting to warn the other, and the other calling him out on his hero routine. It also led to Barry’s opportunity to meet Rashid, likely next week’s big event. Tyrant is at its best when it deals with politics and ideologies, which to leads to intrigue and tense, often murky, situations.

What, once again, didn’t work were all the soapy side plots. Sammy and his lover suddenly had problems this week, which resulted in cringeworthy conversations (“I left you like a dozen messages.” – “Yes, you should stop doing that.”) and, surprisingly, it also diffused the entire situation: Sammy’s lover broke it off because of ambition, not because he’s afraid. While it was an interesting twist, it certainly diminished the stakes of the whole affair and it made a sub-par subplot even worse. Meanwhile Ahmed suddenly proved to be enormously unsympathetic, and Nusrat and Emma seemed to see eye to eye but that didn’t end up going anywhere interesting yet. Once again, Molly came off as the weakest element; not because of actress Jennifer Finnigan, who is stuck portraying Molly, but because of the writing. After her naivety and inability to grasp the Abbudin situation before, now she was suddenly the voice of reason, the wise and supportive wife who helped Barry on his way. It’s obvious the character is only there to steer her husband in a certain direction, by nagging him or by being supportive. The writers seem to decide which of the two by the flip of a coin.

While its main storyline was interesting and compelling, ‘Sins Of The Father’ was held back by its soapy subplots. 6/10

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