tv review – FX’s Tyrant, episode 1.5

‘Hail Mary’ was a significant step up from last week’s ‘Sins Of The Father’, an episode that was marred by soapy subplots. Here the political intrigue took center stage and even the plots that didn’t have to do with Barry’s efforts to bring about a peaceful outcome to the Abbudin protests, explored issues that had to do with the power relations in the country. The result: Tyrant‘s best episode to date, and one that offered up some effective surprises. Right from the start ‘Hail Mary’ threw viewers for a loop: ‘Sins Of The Father’ had set up the Barry-Ihab conversation, but ‘Hail Mary’ never gave us that moment and for good reason. Barry saw through Ihab’s intentions behind agreeing to see him, so Barry decided to go with another option instead: to organize a meet with Ihab’s father, a sheik who had almost brought about peace once following a conversation with Barry’s dad. These characters’ time together, arranged by John Tucker in exchange for Barry spying on Jamal, was well-spent in the sense that it moved the plot forward and effectively changed some of the show’s dynamics, but it also showcased how successful Tyrant had been at establishing a fictional history over the course of its past episodes. It lend an authenticity and earnestness to the proceedings, something that, in the past, had been sorely lacking.

Barry’s actions eventually led to the sheik’s appearance at the protests and to an opportunity for Jamal to choose a peaceful solution over forcefully striking down the mob in the city square. But, during this outing’s running time, it remained unclear whether Barry’s efforts would bear fruits: in his conversation with the sheik it was apparent that there was a mutual respect and desire, but, given the country’s history and the lives of the people involved, a favorable outcome was by no means a guarantee. When Barry returned from his time with the sheik he told Tucker that the sheik hadn’t made up his mind yet, but Tucker recognized the importance of the connections Barry was making at that time and Justin Kirk, with very little, showed viewers that Tucker had a lot of respect for Barry, hinting a more collaborative relationship in the future. All of that came to fruition in the episode’s final moments: when Jamal was threatening Barry and he called him a traitor, Tucker barged in and showed Jamal the sheik had returned and then Barry was able to keep Jamal from sending in Tariq’s soldiers. For the moment, at least. It’ll be interesting to see where this will lead, but it’s safe to say that Barry has established some powerful connections and that he’s found some like-minded individuals who can aid him in his quest for a new Abbudin. Meanwhile the show’s also steering toward a clash between these two brothers and their allies, which holds the potential for some very interesting story developments.

While the character of Molly was still all over the place during ‘Hail Mary’, her subplot was quite interesting: she came to the aid of her maid, whose son got hurt during protests and therefor couldn’t be taken to a hospital; everyone loyal to the president would not help in or, even worse, make sure he’d die a much more painful death. Molly finally got her hands dirty and used her title to get her maid’s son help, which could have some repercussions for herself and her husband. The other subplot, of Nusrat wanting a divorce, was also quite successful at establishing, once again, the power the Al-Fayeeds have: Nusrat’s family owes everything to Jamal, which is why she really has no other option to see the marriage through. An interesting nuance here is that she wanted the divorce because of Jamal’s actions, not because of her husband, but, in the end, her reasons for wanting out didn’t matter much: Jamal shot Nusrat’s father in the arm, scaring his son’s wife and her whole family into submission. Whenever possible Jamal and his wife Leila used force, scare tactic and threats to get what they want, because they know they have that power and they can get away with it. Barry is the only one that, for now, can keep his brother in check, but the question is for how long. Because Barry knows his brother he’s also keeping things from him which, in turn, makes Jamal distrust his brother. Tensions are rising and explosive consequences seem likely.

‘Hail Mary’ was all about what makes Tyrant interesting: the political intrigue, power relations and brotherly bond. The absence of soap opera material was a welcome one. 8/10

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