In the second episode of FX’s Tyrant, “State of Emergency,” the role of Barry Al Fayeed develops from a scared person running from his past into a confident man who is ready to confront what he left behind, and ultimately help his family and country to become better. In the previous episode the viewer witnessed Barry and his American family journey back to the fictional country of Abbudin for Barry’s nephew’s wedding. After the wedding, the President and Barry’s father dies and his brother Jamal gets in a car crash.
In the beginning of episode two the American family is being driven back to the palace from the airport where they were asked, but really told to, stay in the country for their grand-fathers funeral. Leila Al Fayeed (Moran Atis) is then seen speaking to General Tariq Al Fayeed (Raad Rawi) about the woman who tried to kill her husband Jamal. They speak of shutting down parts of the city to find the terrorists. This highlights the corruption in the government and how they are able to easily impose upon the people of the city. Not letting them leave or enter different parts of the city at their own will.
As in other Middle Eastern countries during the recent Arab Spring, there appears to be a separatists group led by young men who are trying to overthrow the government and the ruling family’s firm grasp on control. A young woman who is the daughter of Fauzi Nadal, an old friend of Barry’s, is driving one of the terrorists into the city. This plot line will likely become very interesting in later episodes as Barry gains more control in the government. Nadal and Barry grew up together as friends politically opposed the oppressive government of Barry’s father, but once Barry is sitting in the seat of power at an older age, it will likely cause strike between the two men.
The viewer also gets to see a flashback of just before Barry leaves for America, where he and Leila are fooling around. She was clearly in love with him at some point in the past, and judging by some of the steamy looks she has shot at him in the first two episodes of FX’s Tyrant, she likely still is. This may lead to a side plot between Leila and Molly, Barry’s wife, which would be beneficial to the show, because at the moment Molly is just a conduit for Barry to vent his emotions.
Next, young boys capture Barry’s nephew’s new wife, Nusrat, at gunpoint, on her way back to the palace. The use of young boys highlights the use of young people by terrorist organizations around the world. The young people feel they have no other option in life than to join up to a group that can consistently shelter and feed them better than their families in many instances. Tariq later uses the line, “Terrorists start young here like gymnasts.” Ironically the young terrorists are forced into these situations because the governments are so oppressive on their people that they cannot make a proper living to instill a peaceful hope.
General Tariq, who is Barry’s uncle, is in charge of the operation to get back Nusrat Al Fayeed. John Tucker, the American Ambassador played by Justin Kirk, tells Barry that maybe he can do something about the situation that would end without violence. Tariq wants blood spilled so he can have an excuse to implement martial law and rule himself. So begins a power struggle inside the Al Fayeed family between Uncle Tariq, Jamal and Barry, whose real name is Bassam.
Barry’s mother scolds her son for not taking enough action inside of their family. She says it must be nice to “absolve yourself of all responsibility.” She places guilt upon his shoulders, and nothing is worse for a man than a mother’s disappointment. The mother herself, Amira, who is played by Alice Krige, is an odd character. She is very Caucasian in appearance, and therefore does not seem to fit in the family lineage. Perhaps viewers will learn more about her background in future episodes, but for now they are left in the dark. It appears she may become an archetypal “queen regent” figure who pulls the strings of her family from the shadows, possibly pitting them against each other unknowingly.
Clearly the mother’s speech gets to Barry because he goes to the scene of the kidnapping. His niece been roughed up a little and her breasts are slightly exposed, but covered by her bra. Nusrat tries to use her feminine allure to convince the young men to let her go. Barry then decides to disobey General Tariq’s orders, showing his new found desire to help out his family, by walking in to the small shop the young men are holding Nusrat in, and convincing them to give up.
General Tariq orders for the young men to be executed even when Barry demands on his name as an Al Fayeed that they are freed. This scene links with the flash backs the viewers see of a young Bassam killing a man with a handgun, when Jamal is too afraid to pull the trigger. It makes Barry believe that it might have well of been him pulling the trigger today, because the blood of those young men are now on his hands. It also could foreshadow the two different Al Fayeed men who will be speaking into president Jamal’s ear, and the different paths they will be suggesting. One is Barry who will be the good, positive and calming influence, and the other is Tariq, “The hammer”, who will try to convince Jamal that he needs to be aggressive, powerful and unforgiving.
The second episode of Tyrant continues with Jamal waking up in the hospital. His manhood has been fixed, but it may not work for some time. Leila threatens the doctor that she better not tell a soul of this. She mentions the doctor’s son, his age and name, and how pretty his smile is. It is a creepy scene and shows that Leila is a woman used to having power, and that she will do anything to cling to that power by using all of the weapons she has at her disposal, be that beauty, intelligence or cruelty to manipulate those around her.
When talking to his wife it seems that Barry decided to run away from Abbudin in order to hide from the oppression his father instituted on the country. The younger Bassam wanted to protest the inhumane actions of the government with Fauzi Nadal when they were younger, but was unable to because he was an Al Fayeed. He now wants to make a difference by cleaning up the country because he feels blood will be on his hands otherwise if he runs away again. His position as an Al Fayeed male in Abbudin gives him a unique opportunity to try and reorganize the government to be fairer to all classes of people, thus becoming the exact opposite of the show’s namesake.
The end of the episode shows the funeral of the former President, and Jamal giving an honest speech in the eulogy. He declares that his father was a “hard, stubborn and demanding man,” and how “without family we are nothing.” The speech helps further sway the mind of Barry to stay in Abbudin for a bit longer, giving him a chance to steer the direction of the country onto a new path.
If the show is to evolve into something greater then Tyrant will need to flesh out some more of its storylines. Obviously Sammy, Barry’s son, will likely get caught doing some kind of homosexual action that will spark controversy in a nation that is traditionally very conservative. Other narratives could be that the wives of the Al Fayeed brothers get into dramatic fights, and the mother also becomes more of a nuisance to the family by using her influence to pit the family against itself. Also something interesting needs to happen with the daughter, Emma, besides her just saying a few throw away lines each episode about how different it is in the Middle East from America, and how she wants to go back to the States. The show must come up with some new twists and turns if it is to survive, and since Giedon Raff of Homeland is the producer, viewers should expect more from FX’s Tyrant beyond the first two episodes.
To see what happened in more detail in the first episode please go to: Episode One Review
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash