Tyrant Season 1 Review “My Brother’s Keeper”

Tyrant Episode 3 My Brother's Keeper (9)

I have to admit something: I’m not entirely sure I know what this show wants to be.

Presented as “Godfather in the Middle East” in every pitch meeting around town, Tyrant has a family drama at its center with two brothers pulling in different directions. What we have instead is a jumbled mess of a show with ineffective characters and a confusing sense of place. Abbudin is quickly proving to be a mashup of various news stories we might hear from Brian Williams. A little martial law here, sprinkle some rebel leaders here, and throw in some public hangings for good measure. You know you’re in a Middle Eastern country, but only because everything in it feels so tired.

Of course, the show would like us to get wrapped in the family drama aspect. With Bassam going to work for his brother in the presidential council, it allows the show to put obvious pressure points on the relationship. Unfortunately, the show has very little gray shading to it at this point. Jamal is the psychopath; Bassam is the white knight who rides in to save everyone. Of course, because this is FX, I’m assuming we’ll get to the point where Bassam gets his hands dirtier and dirtier as he travels through the various sub-basements of Abbudin. That would be fine if his brother weren’t a certified villain. Because of the events of the opening episode, it makes his proclamation of change a little difficult to swallow. It seems like a course correction by the show to try to temper his more maniac tendencies. However, it’s a bit too soon for these big pronouncements. Jaime Lannister tossed a boy out a window and the show took about 3 years to recover him. Yet Jamal seems to have done a 180 in a matter of 72 hours. Maybe he’ll revert back to old ways and maybe he won’t, but Jamal as a reformed psycho does not work at this point in the series.

All that being said, I did enjoy some of the performances in tonight’s episode. Jamal’s diction is still tough to get through, but I thought he behaved in a presidential manner. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a good one, but I did believe the character would be ready to step in to the big seat at the table. Furthermore, I like Bassam’s interjection into a political role with the regime. Now, if he’s only handling the crisis of the week every week, then that show is beyond uninteresting. But his unique take on the politics of Abbudin could create some interesting conflict amongst his family and the hardliners in the government. I don’t think the show has the skill to capitalize on these possibilities, and I don’t think Adam Rayner has the ability to elevate the material he’s being given, but there is something here if the show can prove me wrong. I’ve been wrong before. I would hate for the wrong man to go swinging from the gallows. Hopefully a convenient report will drop into my lap.