In the third episode, “My Brother’s Keeper,” of FX’s provocative show Tyrant, the storyline begins to open up, having more social and political issues come to the forefront of life in Abbudin. Barry, who has almost exclusively taken up his original name Bassam, has decided to stay in the country to help out his brother, especially since Jamal is recovering from the attack on his life.
Barry and his family begin discussing how life will be if he stays in Abbudin and they go back to America, where the children have friends at school and Molly has a medical practice. Molly is clearly upset and mentions how the different time zones will mean that when the family is awake, Barry will be sleeping and vice-versa, giving them little time to interact over Skype, telephone or other technological devices that the twenty first century has given for long distance communication.
Next in Tyrant the viewer sees that Jamal is now President of Abbudin and holds his first council meeting. His first order of business is giving his brother Bassam the title of “Special Consul to the President.” This gives Barry authority both through lineage, as the President’s brother, as well as in an official capacity.
The second order of business is discussing the attack on Jamal’s life. Earlier in the show the husband of the woman who was in the car with Jamal during his crash, Habib Mahfouz, was taken from his home. He is brought in the room to be questioned by General Tariq, who has issued martial law in the city. Mafouz says that Ihab Rashid (Alaxander Karim), the nephew of Walid Rashid (Waleed Elgadi), gave him a syringe with ricin in it, a deadly poison. Walid is the wormy looking man who Jamal attacked in the baths in the first episode. Walid also created a petition of over 1,000 businesses, all of which believe that martial law should be lifted before the pilgrimage period begins in the coming weeks. The mention of the pilgrimage period give geographic and religious context to the show.
The third episode, “My Brother’s Keeper,” of FX’s show, Tyrant, continues growing the character of Samira Nadal (Mor Polanuer), the daughter of Barry’s childhood friend, Fauzi Nadal (Fares Fares). Against her father’s wishes she has decided to join up with the revolutionary forces. She leaves the city and visits the safe house of Ihab Rashid, where it is clear to the viewer that she has been seduced by his charismatic personality and lofty goals of overturning the Al Fayeed regime.
Youssef, a member of the council and the head of security for the president, is seen in a car with Walid out side of the safe house. Walid has given up his nephew’s location after being threatened himself. The security forces use non-lethal tactics such as stun grenades, flash bombs and rubber bullets to capture the revolutionary forces, including Rashid and Samira.
Fauzi Nadal calls up Barry that evening and asks for a meeting. He tells him that they are going to hang the wrong man for the attempted assassination of Jamal. Barry is intrigued, especially since he does not agree with General Tariq and Jamal’s decision to publically hang Rashid without a trial, in only a few days time. Fauzi tells Barry that he will need a favor first. He exposes how Samira was arrested during the raid and how she is now in jail. He asks that Barry use his new position as Special Consul to the President of Abbudin to get her free and bring her back to Fauzi, upon which Barry will receive the information of what is really going on, and who was responsible for the attacks.
Tyrant switches gears briefly to show Sammy, Barry’s son, on the beach with Abdul, Yussef’s son. The two had shared some engaging eye contact in the steam room of the first episode and continued to talk in the second. The two get intimate on the beach after a discussion of how they can Skype together when Sammy returns to America. The homosexual relations of the two are still secret, but will likely be exposed soon to stir more drama. The show is still missing any storyline whatsoever for Emma, the daughter or Barry and Molly. Her character has been almost nonexistent, and leaves some viewers to wonder if she will be killed to cause controversy.
Barry is then seen in a car with Samira, who spits in his face because she is so hateful of the Al Fayeed regime. She feels that if anything she does not need to be appreciative of Barry for freeing her, but that he owes her and the people of Abbudin an apology for ruining their lives. Fauzi gives Barry a folder of information regarding the syringe used to allegedly kill Jamal. He says there was not ricin in the syringe, but ordinary household bathroom cleaner.
Barry meets with Habib Mahfouz and gets him to confess that no one forced him and his wife to attack the Presdient, but instead they did it willingly, saying, “Your brother is the Devil!” Habib says Jamal picked his wife out like a piece of meat in the market from his expensive car, and then would come over to their home whenever he wanted to have his way with her, forcing Habib and his two sons to listen while they were held at gunpoint.
Barry realizes everyone is crazy in Abbudin and pleads with his wife to stay so he can have one sane person around him to talk to. She says yes, and is happy that he asked her to stay, because clearly their relationship lacks communication from Barry’s suppressed childhood trauma.
Tyrant ends with Barry getting physical with Jamal in the middle of the night because of how he treated the wife of Habib. Barry tells Jamal that this is the twenty-first century and the whole world is watching their actions. They cannot rule Abbudin with an iron-fist, fabricate stories to eliminate their enemies, or execute their enemies without a fair trial. Barry gets Jamal to release some of the captured political prisoners as a sign of good faith, and to promise that he will take care of the two children of the Mahfouz family because of how he was responsible for destroying it. In return Barry promises that he will stay even longer to help Jamal rule.
The show is developing nicely, but needs to get a clear antagonist. The first three episodes were murky, killing off the father, and exposing Jamal as an evil man, but a man who still had a good heart inside of him. General Tariq may well become a consistent challenge to Abbudin’s agenda of peace, as will the revolutionary forces that are enacting an Arab Spring people movement, but neither has come to the forefront as a clear rival to power. A surprise character that could be pulling some strings to subvert the Al Fayeed regime may be Fauzi Nadal. His role will most definitely develop into a larger context in the coming episodes at the very least.
It is a great time in cable television to create a show like Tyrant because actors, actresses, writers, producers and directors have been given so much more license to create stories that push the envelope with great content and language, which previously had not been possible. This show is a perfect example of a cable drama that would not thrive a decade ago, but one that can today, because of its unique angle that explores an area of the world, which many know so little about. The third episode, “My Brother’s Keeper,” of FX’s Tyrant, eliminated all uncertainty that Barry and his family would stay, and has given a solid platform for the show to build its characters upon, but has still left the viewers in the dark about the primary direction the plot will go.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash