In the fourth episode of Tyrant issues involving the people of Abbudin and the government regime of the Al Fayeed family come to a head when a jobless man becomes a martyr. The show begins with Barry having another flashback, which is becoming a common occurrence. This time he is in college and is walking back to his dorm room. Many of his fellow peers are giving him looks and when he walks into his room it has been vandalized with spray paint and newspaper clippings. The clippings are of the gas attacks his father committed on the people of Abbudin and the messages say “mass murderer” and “war criminal.”
The main plot of the fourth episode of Tyrant focuses on a man who the viewer is first introduced to early on in the show. He is seen praying and then sitting down at breakfast with his kids. His wife is giving him a hard time for not having a job, which many people are suffering from because of the government. He says goodbye to his kids in a sincere way, which hints to larger event about to unfold.
The man is next seen in a public square screaming, “never forget” and “down with the tyrant.” The viewer learned earlier from Barry that it is the 20th anniversary of the gas attacks his father executed to end the country’s civil war. The man takes out a flag and begins to pour gasoline on it. He then wraps the flag around him and lights himself on fire. He instantly becomes martyr to the revolution to overthrow the government, which is being led by Ihab Rashid.
Rashid visits the man’s family and says their father’s action was the “first great act of defiance in our liberation.” The people of Abbudin then make the public square into a gathering place to honor the martyred man, and a place to speak their opinions on the repressive government. It becomes a beacon of hope where the people can flock to feel like they are making change and finally have their voices heard.
During the entire episode the viewer is confronted with the fact that Jamal is having erectile dysfunction issues from the accident in the first episode. He is seen on numerous occasions being frustrated sexually, whether that be with his wife or himself. Obviously not being able to perform could affect the president of a country mentally.
The government has a council meeting where General Tariq characteristically wants to smash the rebellion with force, saying it is an unlawful gathering and should be “strangled in its crib.” Barry questions if there are even lawful protests in the country anymore, and implores Jamal to let the people of Abbudin protest. He wants the president to show them that the new administration respects the people’s basic human rights and that this Al Fayeed generation will rule differently than their fathers. Jamal decides to back Barry and give a speech in the square addressing his people.
An interesting aspect of the Jamal’s cabinet meetings is how Tariq and Barry are opposed on how to rule. Not only are they intellectually opposed, but also the creators have highlighted that fact by physically placing them directly across from each other at large gathering table. It is as if they are the good and evil conscience of Jamal, tugging at his heart to gain power.
The main side plot in the fourth episode of Tyrant is the children of the Al Fayeed family. Ahmed, the son of Jamal, approaches Sammy, Barry’s son, to come out to the clubs with him to see the nightlife of Abbudin. Sammy decides to go only after finding out that Abdul, the boy he has a crush on, is going as well. Apparently Sammy’s younger sister Emma is also going to come, which gives her character the most screen time she has had in an episode so far.
The FX show then shifts gears to show Fauzi Nadal looking for his daughter Samira. She is naturally at the square protesting the government with Ihab Rashid. She believing that she is making change happen instead of sitting inside “writing blog posts that no one ever reads,” like her father. She knows that Rashid’s way is not perfect, but is still willing to give it a try. Samira then asks her father to stay and listen to what is being said. The square is reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests, but on a much smaller scale. Tyrant is trying to explore some very difficult subject matter, but ends up just glossing over it in broad strokes.
Rashid is then seen making a speech on how he was not appointed by anyone to be the leader of the liberation. He connects himself to the people by talking about how he lost a person dear to him in the terrible gas attacks twenty years ago by the Al Fayeed government. It was his mother he lost. He watched as blood spill from her eyes as a child, something no man should have to endure.
As Rashid talks, Jamal and the government arrive in armored cars with a police escort. This infuriates the crowd, which decide to attack the car, flinging themselves on it in droves. Jamal becomes incensed and rips up his speech as the car barely gets away. He says that tomorrow there will be only pigeons in the square, and Barry’s attempt at diplomacy has clearly failed.
The episode continues with the kids seen going to the club where Sammy confronts Abdul for not answering his calls, asking if Abdul thinks he can just “blow him and then blow him off.” Abdul coolly responds by asking if one-night stands happen in America or not? After some excessive champagne drinking Ahmed becomes very drunk and Emma gets a little mouthy. She expresses disdain for the opulence of drinking expensive champagne and owning two cars when his people were starving outside. Luckily Ahmed’s wife grabs Emma to go outside for a cigarette before Ahmed’s anger comes out like his fathers. Eventually back at the palace Abdul explains to Sammy that they cannot be together because Abdul is ambitious, and if he wants to keep his job, or even his life, he needs to keep up his appearance.
Next Barry and his wife Molly have a talk about how he does not want his brother to become like his father was. Barry complains that the events happening in the square are his fault and continues burdening himself as he has done all his life. His wife, in one of the better speeches in the show, explains how people are afraid to live, think, or even speak because the government has been subjugating their people for over 20 years. This inspires Barry to go warn Fauzi of Jamal and Tariq’s decision to use any force necessary to clear the square at dawn.
When he meets Fauzi Nadal, Barry is surprised by his reaction of, “go to hell.” Barry says that he tried to get Jamal to speak to the people of Abbudin, but they attacked the car. Fauzi laughs and explains that Barry and Jamal came to the square in a government car with palace security forces. They should have walked in as citizens on equal footing, not as superiors.
Barry presumably gets the point and decides to send his brother a brutal video of Gaddafi, the former dictator of Libya, being attacked and killed by him own people. Barry pleads with his brother not to use violence because it does not work, not just because it is morally wrong. He explains to Jamal that he has set up a meeting with Rashid and wants the president’s permission to negotiate some kind of peace talks. The fourth episode of Tyrant ends with Barry asking Jamal if he is going to be remembered as just another dead dictator, or as the leader who had the courage to listen to his people.
Commentary by: B. Taylor Rash