tv review – FX’s Tyrant, episode 1.7

As was the case with all previous episodes, ‘Preventative Medicine’ was most enjoyable when Ashraf Barhom was front and center. Following the events of ‘What The World Needs Now’, Jamal found out that he didn’t quite succeed in what he was trying to achieve: the sheik had survived his beating and, at the start of the episode, was comatose instead of dead. Throughout this Tyrant outing Barhom’s Jamal was trying to adapt to the situation: at first he tried to have his brother quietly kill the sheik and when he thought Bassam wouldn’t go through with it, he made plans to run away with his mistress to the place where he remembered being happy. Barhom was impressive in every scene he was in, and he keeps selling the writing that’s not always up to par.

While the Barry-Jamal dynamic was certainly injected with a lot of tension and freshness thanks to the high stakes, and the way that paid off was certainly fulfilling and surprising, Jamal’s final act of the episode rang false. Even Barhom couldn’t save this moment from feeling over-the-top, cheap and sensational; Jamal may be a walking contradiction, but the quiet moments between Jamal and Katrina really made you feel that being with her was his safe place and like he wouldn’t kill her out of the blue like he did. Breaking off the trip would’ve made sense, but this overly dramatic decision wasn’t earned and didn’t feel organic. Usually less is more, but that often seems to be a phrase Tyrant‘s writers aren’t all too familiar with. Sure: because of Barry’s sacrifice Jamal felt like he couldn’t run away anymore and had to step up because he owed his brother as much, but a more elegant and subtle execution of this idea would’ve gone a long way. Ultimately Katrina was treated as no more than just another plot device to be disposed with after use.

Another flaw that’s becoming more and more apparent now that Barry is supposed to change into a different man, is Adam Rayner’s acting. While he carries off the silent and brooding persona well, he has trouble emoting naturally. A couple of big revelations were sprung on him over the course of ‘Preventative Medicine’, but never was Rayner able to make us really feel the weight of these revelations. During the episode you could see Rayner struggling with the material, where we were supposed to see a Barry struggling with the fact his brother had tried to kill the sheik and the fact that he had hated his father for the acts of his uncle. While it certainly wasn’t unwatchable, the episode lacked emotion and impact because of the performance, something that also took away from Barry’s final decision: to conspire against his brother and take over (which in the light of fair elections and the fact he won his brother’s loyalty back doesn’t make much sense, to be honest).

Sadly the inclusion of Molly’s sister Jenna didn’t help matters either: so far she comes off as a vapid airhead and she’s introduced at a time when finally Molly has become more bearable. There also wasn’t much of a point to her inclusion in ‘Preventative Medicine’, which is why her storyline this episode was annoying: every time she was on screen in took away from Jamal and Barry’s much more interesting journeys. Jenna also once again demonstrated the show’s poor representation of women. In Tyrant  the women are either dumb and oblivious creatures, power-hungry schemers, freeloaders, willing sex objects or a mix of all these qualities just as long as it serves the men and their stories. It’s painful to watch how the show’s view and depiction of women sets the clock back by about 70 years.

‘Preventative Medicine’ had some neat ideas, but was utterly lacking in its execution. After a couple of solid episodes, Tyrant took a nosedive. 5/10

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