Does FX's Tyrant Get Your Vote?

FX this Tuesday married Homeland to The Godfather and gave us Tyrant, a new drama created by Gideon Raff (Homeland) and exec-produced by Howard Gordon (24, Homeland). Will the strangers in a strained land saga score a spot on your DVR?

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Tyrant stars British actor Adam Rayner (HawthoRNe) as Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed, the second son of Khaled Al-Fayeed, the dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern country. Haunted by, among other things, how his father regularly favored first son Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) during his childhood and his role in a man’s execution back when he was a kid, Barry has spent the past 20 years living in Los Angeles with his wife Molly (Jennifer Finnigan) and their Homeland-y teens Emma and Sammy.

The marriage of Jamal’s son prompts Barry to end his self-chosen exile and return to Abbudin, with his family in tow — though he is loath to entertain any of the flourishes (private jet, palace accommodations) offered up by his despot dad.

Once in Abbudin, Barry is quickly pulled into a bit of “family business” when a terrorist adversary threatens to bomb the wedding. While Jamal’s first instinct is to use brute force, Barry counters with a more pragmatic solution.

Along the way, we also meet Barry’s mother Amira (Alice Krige), Jamal’s wife Leila (Moran Atias), quasi-oblivious U.S. diplomatic John Tucker (Justin Kirk), Barry’s childhood friend/crusading journalist Fauzi (Fares Fares) and Abdul, a security officer Sammy takes a shine to.

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As the wedding revelry kicks into high gear (“Syria, Egypt? Firefights. Here, fireworks,” Tucker blathers), Khaled suffers a stroke. At the hospital, before he breathes his final breath, the dictator apologizes in private to Barry, saying he favored wrongly all those years ago: “It should have been you.” He also seems to ask Bassam to extend his visit, permanently: “Without you, they’ll kill us all.”

Barry has legit concerns about his father’s assumed successor — the depraved, Lamborghini-speeding, Aerosmith-cranking and frequently raping Jamal, he fears, is “broken”-slash-insane. And though Barry makes a concerted effort as the hour closes to get the hell outta Dodge, even striking Sammy when the lad refuses to budge, circumstances (including Jamal’s injury in a car wreck) conspire to keep him around. “I told you we shouldn’t have come,” he says to an at-her-wits-end Molly.

What did you think of Tyrant? Do you take issue with (as well-scrutinized by HitFix’s Dan Fienberg) the casting of a quite white man as Barry? And outside of Molly, how many lines combined did all of the other females have?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. brandon says:

    The wife and kids are already insufferable . I hope they learned their lesson from Homeland. The audience will bore of them quick.

    • Adam Lenhardt says:

      At least Sgt. Brody’s family was coming from a genuine place, with genuine reactions. It strains credibility that the wife and the son could be as clueless as they were presented. Apparently only the daughter watches the news and has any inkling of the snake pit they just flew into.

      • johnhelvete says:

        I didn’t mind the daughter. The son is a complete idiot. The son is gay and he is actually happy to be in a country where being gay probably gets a person killed.

  2. jason says:

    I absolutely loved it!!! I can’t wait for the next episode!!!

  3. Ron says:

    I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I pretty much hate Barry’s family…all of them. I can understand his wife’s frustration with not knowing anything, but she should cool it a bit because obviously he knows stuff & not put up a fight when he says to do something regarding a situation in his home country. I would have slapped his son harder and more than twice. What an idiot. His brother is completely psychotic. But whatever, I’ll stick around. I do wish a Middle Easter actor was in the main role, but it’s not a big enough issue for me to not tune in. But, maybe because I’m an evil person, I do hope Barry’s kids witness something traumatic or something just so they can see why their dad is the way he is.

    • Amanda says:

      Agree, agree and agree again!
      My only thought about the wife is that she’s a plant or mole, she knew who Barry was and was assigned to marry him and obtain information. Or at least I’m hoping that’s the case, because I was waiting for her to get shot during that episode! lol

  4. I absolutely loved the pilot. I take it Bassan is the king. Any guess why Jamal was on a reckless drive on a mountain road drunk? Drama! Can’t wait for the next episode.

  5. Velocisexual says:

    I’m gonna echo what others have said. Really strong pilot overall, I really liked it and will definitely watch the next episode. However, his family and in particularly his wife and son are clueless and naive to the point where I can no longer suspend disbelief. Even if he doesn’t talk about his past, they still know where he comes from, they still no they are “royalty” and they would still be at least somewhat aware of the political situation in his country. There is absolutely no way you grow up knowing you are the grandson of a dictator and not look up a thing or two about where your dad comes from. So frustrating.

  6. Ram510 says:

    The wife and kid suck, but it was a decent enough show. Awkward is done and I don’t really care for The Night Shift so I’ll probably keep watching

  7. James D says:

    that was outstanding. FX Programers continue to deliver incredible drama. It was such a refreshing take on the Godfather-esque plot. I didn’t have a problem with the lack of dialogue from females because you could tell they were fleshed out characters and their roles will be significant go through. Rayner was very good even if he is bit Anglo for the role. I was seriously impressed with how good it was definitely going to be watching it. only complaint was the over used stereotypical brat teenagers, really wish they would stop doing that in TV, with that said the son’s story should be interesting, I guess he’s not aware that people still get stoned in that neck of the woods for his particular preference in partners (I didn’t mean that to be offensive).

  8. Dee says:

    Wow. So, so brutal, and amazing!


    It was interesting how the little boy was the only one that didn’t crouch amidst the gunfire.

    And when he did what the brother couldn’t? Wow, again. No wonder he ran away. He was (and is still) afraid of what he would become if he remained in that atmosphere.

    This is gonna be good.

  9. JA says:

    There are spoilers in my comment, so beware.

    I thought it was riveting. I agree that it seems odd not to cast an ethnically appropriate lead. I get why they cast Rayner, though. He just has this incredible presence; you can see Bassan’s barely leashed terror at becoming the man he would’ve become had he stayed there. The ending scenes of his desperation to leave, and knowing he wouldn’t make it out we’re heartbreaking.

    I do think his wife is hard to take. It’s not Finnegan’s portrayal; she did well with what was given to her. My issue is with her naïveté. What modern woman wouldn’t understand the very real cultural differences between America and a middle eastern dictatorship? She kept pushing Bassan, never seeing the seriousness of the battle he’s facing just being there. She acted as though his father was just misunderstood, not a violent military leader. It was ridiculous and made her appear selfish and shallow rather than supportive. I though the kids were believable, though I do see some very very bad things coming if the son follows through with his crush on the security guard. The daughter seems prophetic when she reminds her brother, “this is not America.”

    • Lynn says:

      I really enjoyed the plot, great soap type show however I had a hard time with the violence, The show is well written and the actor’s (I think) were great. I will read and keep up what happens via this blog because like a good soap I need to know what happens next!

    • Shani says:

      Bassan is Half White, his mother Amira is British or something of the sort, so it doesn’t bother me that he’s white.

  10. johnhelvete says:

    Considering the amount of hype that the pilot script received, bidding war between FX and HBO, the show is disappointing. The flashback scenes were very good and Ashraf Barhom was compelling as Jamal. A few critics have really taken issue with the casting of Rayner as the lead, and before watching the show I disagreed thinking they were being overly PC, but after actually watching the show I do think it was a huge mistake not to act a Middle Eastern actor in the lead.

  11. Kal El says:

    After show like Fargo and The Americans I expecting a lot more from “the creators of Homeland”.

    It feels like they paid so much attentions to some aspects of the show, especially not being “offensive” to muslim people, but they ended up stereotyping both american and eastern culture.

    The show is totally unrealistic (they all talk in english, lol), it doesn’t depict eastern people correctly, it does a meaningless, not well driven like in other shows, use of violence, and the family soap component makes it unbearable. Better not to say anything about quality of dialogues….

    They said they want to depict in realistic, deep, way the middle east culture. They clearly know nothing about it and assumed they do by reading some pages in western newspapers.

    You know, it’s not that difficult to portray a realistic middle east scenario, and you can do it filming in US too. Just ask an US marine who served there what he saw, or go by yourself there (really there, not in an expensive “safe” 5* hotel). But you don’t have the balls to do that. It would be something really sad and complex, that people may not want to see on TV. Most people want to just relax and not being really involved with too complex shows, and that’s why they did this cheap, floppy, political soap opera instead of a realistic thriller set in a realistic iran or syria.

    I can’t believe this is an “FX” show.

    • johnhelvete says:

      The lack of Arabic was lame and it takes you out of the show just like the pilot episode of The Bridge where the characters are speaking English in the home. Luckily The Bridge changed that by the second episode but my understanding is Tyrant does not.

      • drhenning says:

        One of the differences between The Bridge and this show is The Bridge was also shown on the Spanish Fox channel… They just had to flip flop the subtitles… I’ll be curious how Homeland handles it this next season since it will be taking place all overseas…

  12. Ali says:

    I can’t stand anything about the repressive, boring, hot, sandy, dusty, dirty, dry, terrorist training ground that is the middle east. So, gasp….I won’t be watching this. Ever.

    • ? says:

      Sounds like you’re rather close-minded then doesn’t it. Oh well, no one’s loss but yours.

    • And yet you have an Arabic name….

    • Linda says:

      I think that although this is a fictional country, it does portray exactly what goes on in the Middle East. People in the western world need to see this and understand that we have it quite easy over here regardless of who is head of the country. We whine and complain about things, but consider this….you could have been born and raised in the Middle East instead.

    • Ron says:

      I wish I could say that this is the only horribly offensive comment I’ve read regarding this particular aspect of this show. But alas, it is sadly not. Just a FYI, terrorists are being trained in our own backyard, too. Also, there are still many aspects to our American culture that are repressive as well. So really, I think you should cool it with the sweeping generalizations. If you don’t want to watch, that’s one thing. But there’s no need to be so stereotypically general about the Middle East.

  13. Cordell says:

    As a gay man the brother is hot. I need to finish watching the pilot and I’m jealous of the kid. This series has my interest

  14. jag says:

    I was hooked with it. Great plot even if its too familiar. What realy tuned me is the concept of cultural clashes and how the west is realy cluless of the east. I’m not saying that Barry’s family represents the entire America but it allows as to recognize the possibilty of Barry’s situation. I think the ignorance of the kids and his wife is due to the longing of knowing Barry thru his family. They are hoping for somthing good from the man they barely know. I think thats a legit reason.

    Again, I,m not really getting the idiot part about Barry’s family. I think they are in a situation that blinds them about how the public percieved the east because they want to belive thaw Barry came from a good family. Nway that is how i look at it.

    It has a feel of Homeland and im not comparing them. i just want to give this show a chance. Exited for the next episode.

  15. LaLa says:

    I think the show has great potential, but the obviously blatant laziness of the producers not to cast a Middle Eastern man as the lead character just taints the whole thing. I kept thinking how awesome it would have been had they just been a bit more proactive. I can see this show having a good run – but for me there will always be something not quite authentic.

    • Ron says:

      Like I mention in my earlier comment, I, too, think a Middle Eastern actor should have been cast. I thought so before the show aired, and I think so even more so after the pilot has aired. By no means is that to take away from the actor in the lead role; I think he did perfectly fine. I rooted for him. I sympathized with him. As of right now, he’s the one I like the most. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to feel this way, so the actor did exactly what he was supposed to do. However, I think it makes such a bigger cultural statement to have someone who’s actually Middle Eastern intentionally lose all their culture and become wholly Americanized rather than have an Anglo playing a Middle Eastern who loses their culture and becomes wholly Americanized. I just think it says so much more, but whatever, I’m going to keep watching.

  16. Mark says:

    There is nothing interesting about this show. If I watch TV I don’t want to watch what the news has to offer. This story is ripped off from the headlines we see everyday. There is absolutely nothing that is origional about it. It is boring, lacks quality and the acting …well never mind. The failure of FX to find a Middle Easern actor to play Barry killed the show.

  17. Margaery says:

    That family is too stupid to live. I don’t know why they made the wife so willfully ignorant. Did she never google her husband’s family once in 19 years? The fact that she seemed to think she understood the situation better than her Bassam- who had lived in the country- made no sense! The way she and the son treat a trip to a brutal dictatorship like it’s a vacation at Disneyland is ridiculous. Gee- the head of state of a totalitarian regime just died- it’s not like that might invite chaos in an already unsettled populace- it makes much more sense to go to his funeral than to leave the country.

  18. Maryann says:

    I am intrigued and will watch again, but Molly is an idiot, and a disgrace to her gender. She should have seen the writing on the wall enough to never have encouraged her husband to have gone back into such a toxic situation in the first place, and not to have been so clueless once he did.

  19. Maryann says:

    Complaints have been made about casting someone who is not wholly middle eastern in the lead role. My thought is that this is a totally different show than it would have been if Barry’s mother had not been originally American. She obviously had an influence on her son in terms of making him a man who would consider wanting to live in the US and make that his home culturally as well as geographically; with a different mother he might have run from his country, but it is doubtful he would have found himself in the place “Barry” did at the start of the show.

    • sheri says:

      But maybe they cast a white woman as Barry’s mother *after* casting a non-Arabic actor as Barry. That way, it conveniently explains his ambiguous looks. And I think it’s definitely problematic that the bad guy (the psychotic older brother) looks more Arabic than the good guy (Barry).

  20. GoUsA says:

    Enjoyed it up until the rape scene. Rape is not necessary in television/movies. I won’t watch another episode.

  21. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    The episode was great except the rape scene this show really has some comparisons to The Godfather. I will definantly keep watching. But more excited for The Bridge to come back and The Strain to debut!

  22. Mike says:

    whats the name of the ____nomad yacht Jamal mentions about going fishing after they land?

  23. Christian White says:

    How do we know Sammy (the son) is gay? I know there was a bit of conversation between him and Abdul, but I don’t remember anything concrete being said.

  24. jamal121 says:

    seriously, this show better than Homeland gave up on that show since seaon 2

  25. jamal121 says:

    yeah the son is gay it even says on wikipedia Noah Silver as Sammy Al-Fayeed, Barry and Molly’s 16-year-old gay son

  26. Terry says:

    This isn’t entertainment it’s pure “Hate” TV…playing into America’s fears and stereotypes…just awful!!!

  27. Rob says:

    How does casting the character Sammy as gay improve the story line! I’m getting tired of being force fed the gay agenda. Can’t we have a great story line without the sexual overtones? I for one will not watch any more episodes.

  28. miranda says:

    They messed up already! If he came here 20 years ago and went to college Tears Fears wouldn’t have been playing, I get the reference ~ Everybody Wants to Rule the World…. but it was a flashback, the music should match the time period. You were about 15 15 years late

  29. The show is great – BUT, already bored with the wife who suddenly doesn’t understand her husband of 19 years or the bratty son.

  30. common_sense says:

    The notion that an American sits at the advisory table of his brother in an Islamic country and says, “what about free and peaceful protest? And their right to a trial?”, is just the beginning of absurdity with this show. The clueless, yet supposedly “intelligent” fellow physician wife, not getting the blatant oppression of the people- I bet she’s a believer of the war on women in the US though- to the rebel daughter, to…hold onto your hat….the gay son acting out sexual acts that could get him killed. He chose the wrong Middle Eastern country for a gay frolick. Israel is the only place the won’t behead you.
    The overall agenda reeks of Hollywood sex (which is completely unnecessary and serves no purpose)along with ridiculous “bra burning” moments of a girl fighting for her freedom with her loving father. Total liberal nonsense that would never happen in Muslim society, not to mention countless other inaccuracies. Just can’t stomach the bs agenda.

  31. Jo G says:

    OMG! Jamal is soo evil! I wonder how the actor seperates himself!

  32. Shani says:

    Bassan is half white, his mother is British so it’s not so unlikely that he’s white on the show.

  33. andre says:

    I have been watching the program and the wife and son now the wifes sister annoyed me but they had very little screen presence so I was cool with it… This week I almost turned it off the wife is a total idiot she is supposed to have a doctorate which means she is supposed to be intelligent…. why is her character a total idiot and the son is a spoiled brat and the wifes sister comes out of no where guess what I am moving into the palace….. I dont know the show better pick up next week or I am done with it can’t handle to much stupid

  34. Zach says:

    For me, this show’s greatest strength is its premise: an American family moves to the center of a war zone and has the potential to either create an atmosphere of peace or to be seduced by power of totalitarianism. This show has so much potential, and that’s the reason I’m still watching. However, at this point, it’s only barely decent. Beyond the problem of casting the main character as a white man, the show features only mediocre actors. Only the actor who plays Jamal really shines. The writing is naive and dull. The setting is beautiful, and I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that this show will get some new writers and it will greatly improve if it’s given a second season. I really want to like this show, but at the moment they aren’t making it easy.

  35. Marie says:

    I for one hope that Tyrant will be renewed. I look forward each Tuesday night to see what Jamal is going to do. Between his screwed up family background and his scheming wife, Jamal is ‘different’. His psyche is fascinating to watch. Please renew Tyrant and develop more of you characters and make them as INTERESTING as complex Jamal.

  36. Chris Lampo says:

    Tyrant an excellent drama series. Please bring it back what will happen to Barry and his family do not leave us hanging. Best show FX has had in a while.

  37. Roe says:

    Great series, wondering if FX will be picking it up for next season. Can’t wait

  38. Sue Kalac says:

    I loved Tyrant. The entire cast is fantastic and believable, including Barry. Exciting story. I hope it continues.

  39. mariew2014 says:

    I love tyrant and I hope it is renewed. I truly love poor Jamal. He is some unloved by everyone, you would be dysfunctional too. Barry disappointed me especially when you see how he tries so hard to be accepted and loved by hia brother Barry which now wants to kick him out of the country of Aberdeen. What mystifies me is Barry’s wife. She’s a doctor, but she seems politically ignorant and don’t get me started on her sister. The most intelligent female appears to be the daughter and the dummy appears to be her brother. Do you not know that they behead homosexuals in Islamic countries????????

  40. mariew2014 says:

    I love Tyrant and I hope it is renewed. I especially like Jamal. How could he not be dysfunctional with a cold mother a crazy daddy, a cold selfish fish of a wife and a brother
    Who comes from America and tries to usurp you. He has ISSUES and I love him, he is the best defined character on the show. The most intelligent female is Barry’s daughter because Mom DOESNOT appear to be the brightest doctor in the hospital. And the son, please. Why would a homosexual go to an Islamic country and engage in homosexual sex???? Really-are you that stupid???? Do you not know that behead you for that kind of behavior????

  41. jill says:

    My favorite show! Awesome!