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?
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.
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?