‘Tyrant’: We’re In the Oppression Business

Published 10 months ago by

Adam Rayner and Alice Krige in Tyrant Season 1 Episode 2 Tyrant: Were In the Oppression Business

[This is a review of Tyrant season 1, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]


After a rather inauspicious debut, Tyrant now has the opportunity to better define its storyline by examining the new dynamic of its characters through the transition of power in the fictional country of Abbudin. At the same time, however, the show is tasked with creating a plausible framework for Barry to extend his weekend excursion to his family’s dictatorship indefinitely.

That puts a lot of pressure on ‘State of Emergency’ to present a compelling set of circumstances that will put Barry in a position of having to make a choice between walking back into the life he left behind 20 years ago, and putting his life in America on hold for the time being. And to a certain extent, the episode’s writers basically throw everything at the wall, just to see what sticks.

The pilot episode ended with Jamal becoming the successor to his father, only to be seriously injured in a car accident that was caused by a multitude of factors including: his inability to pay attention to the road, sexually assault a woman, and fend off her attempt to end his miserable life at the same time.

The accident is bad enough that Jamal spends most of the episode in the care of surgeons trying to make sure his manhood stays intact, which leaves Barry as the sole Al-Fayeed with any semblance of power to stand up to uncle Tariq – a power-hungry general eager to swoop in and take control after his brother’s death. To make matters more complicated, Nusrat, the new bride of Barry’s nephew, is kidnapped by a group of kids, hoping to leverage her for the release of a prisoner.

Clearly it’s a lot to put on Barry’s plate, but ‘State of Emergency’ is trying to make a point about his character’s penchant for running from matters of responsibility when it comes to what is essentially his birthright. In order to create some kind of meaningful transition from American pediatrician to once again being a full-fledged Al-Fayeed, Tyrant initiates a situation in which he cannot be, as his mother says, “absolved of responsibility.”

That means putting Barry in the middle of a hostage crisis, where he calls upon his namesake, and, since Justin Kirk reminds Barry “blood is everything,” the kids take him at his word that an Al-Fayeed can absolve them of their responsibility in kidnapping Nusrat. The standoff ends peacefully until, to absolutely no one’s surprise, General Tariq has the kids executed right there on the street.

Adam Rayner in Tyrant Season 1 Episode 2 Tyrant: Were In the Oppression Business

For being the centerpiece of ‘State of Emergency,’ the hostage situation is played without a hint of dramatic uncertainty, and for that the entire episode suffers from the same lifelessness as the pilot. There’s some benefit in seeing Barry come to the realization that his name still holds a kind of currency, but the significance of that is again undercut by the largely lackadaisical reaction he, his wife and his children have toward the events of the day.

For her part, Molly is neither concerned her husband put his life on the line, nor is she capable of expressing any kind of real sentiment regarding the three kids who were summarily executed in front of him. “That’s not your fault,” she says as they lie in bed. “You did everything you could.”

Perhaps there’s something to be said for Tyrant attempting to avoid branding Molly with tired cliché of the nagging wife, but it seems Molly doesn’t have room for an emotional reaction toward much of anything. Molly doesn’t even blink when Barry casually riffs about his family being in “the oppression business.” It’s one thing for Molly to know and have accepted everything about Barry, but the writers have made it clear there’s plenty he’s not telling his wife, so her casual manner thus far reads more like cold indifference than anything else.

In the end, though, it’s clear that ‘State of Emergency’ is trying to get the audience to engage with the characters, so it throws in a couple flashbacks to expand on the previously disclosed issue of his executing a prisoner, and to introduce a past love affair between him and Leila, before she was Jamal’s wife.

These are potentially useful wrinkles to weave into Barry’s future development, but for all the complications surrounding his character at the moment, Rayner still hasn’t been given much of a chance to make Barry a truly complex or intriguing character, which is going to become more and more difficult as the narrative begins to become more plot oriented.

Now that the American Al-Fayeeds are set to remain in Abbudin for the time being, perhaps Barry can begin to affect change in the storyline, rather than simply react to it.

Tyrant continues next Tuesday with ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ @10pm on FX.

Photos: Vered Adir/FX

TAGS: Tyrant
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  1. I watched the episode…It was little boring this week. However, I think there’s a lot about the Al-Fayeeds family and Barry’s secrets to keep the show entertaining and interesting. I still like Barry’s character and acting. I do find him intriguing despite the author’s comment. The one thing I agreed is that Barry’s wife character is the most insignificant one in this show. She got the worst lines as well as the daughter;; who is just there to exists. Sammy seems more natural and gay in this episode. However, Abdul didn’t seem as eager about the invite to hang out as Sammy did. I wonder were is exactly this story going. Might be interesting to know if Abdul is 100% gay, bisexual or what? since in those countries they don’t look at that as normal as in the U.S. It seems like Leila still has feeling for her husband’s little brother.. I would like to know what else will be reveal… Definitely will continue watching. I still like the show.

  2. I like it . a bit over stereotypical of the middle east (homeland did the same) but I like the writing and it keeps me intrigued

    • You are right it is a little too stereotypical of the middle east, as well as his american family.

      Blond wife who complains that her husband won’t let her in and that she “doesn’t even know him anymore”? CHECK

      Gay Son who is disrespectful and won’t obey his father, but somehow looks like the victim after his father snaps at him? CHECK

      Feminist daughter. CHECK

      It is kinda embarrassing. And as much as they stereotype the middle east in this show (mostly showing it as a mirror image of Saudi Arabia), how do you suppose they stereotyped the middle east in Homeland?

  3. I agree, Barry’s wife and kids don’t even seem fazed by anything. This is bordering on stupid writing and acting now I feel. I’ll watch for awhile yet to see what happens, but yeah, it’s not looking pretty.

    • I’m so glad someone else noticed this. His wife is WAY too cool with the stuff that is happening. I mean, sure he probably told her that this type of stuff might happen before hand, but even still, she’s a random woman from Pasadena. She shouldn’t be so calm about all this bad stuff going down around them.

      Wife: Hey, how was your day?
      Barry: Well, I saw some kids get shot in the head.
      Wife: Oh cool, dinner’s in an hour.


  4. It might just be me, but does anyone else think that Barry looks like, Archer, with a beard?

  5. This is a very well made show. It looks amazing. Acting is great. Story compelling. Yes, of course, the wife is a bit too open minded, in the sense that nothing seems to get to her – except her husband’s silence.
    It’s obvious every character in the show has yet to play an important role. Barry, his brother, his brother’s wife, his mother, niece, nephew, son, all except his wife and daughter, or so it seems.

    I think what they – the writers – are trying to do, is keep the lid on the wife. She’s trying to be as supportive as she can be. Put all her own emotions aside, to not make matters worse for her husband, who is obviously going through a rough time. It seems Barry, at the end of episode 2, is coming to terms with staying. A little while longer, at least. The more comfortable he’ll become, I expect his wife to become more and more outspoken. Although we haven’t seen anything, there must be a whole lot brewing underneath her surface. Stuff that’s definitely going to come out sooner or later.

    For now, and people, please give the show some time, we’re only in the second episode, his wife has been parked on the sidelines. They can’t dismiss her completely, she has to be in scenes, but they just have to wait a little longer to put her back on the foreground. Something will happen.

    So many critics are writing this show to pieces, including Screenrant. It’s totally uncalled for.