[Spoilers for Tyrant season 1 ahead]
FX’s hour-long drama Tyrant prepares for season 2 amidst middling reviews and a general critical assessment that lead actor Adam Rayner’s performance is underwhelming and (some have said) downright boring. The show itself has even been called out for being ‘messy’.
A trailer for the upcoming season hopes to change all that by promising to pay off everything set up in season 1, with new angles and characters that will open up the world of the show and create a fuller context for current story lines.
Season 1 saw our protagonist, Barry Al-Fayeed (Rayner), traveling reluctantly back to his home country, the fictional Abbudin, for the wedding of his nephew. Currently residing in the United States where he lives as an American with his wife and son, he is reticent to return to Abbudin where his family has ruled for generations as iron-fisted and amoral dictators. It is a life he has fought hard to leave behind and one in which he becomes quickly caught up upon his arrival back. The end of season 1 left Barry jailed and sentenced to death for attempting to stage a coup against his brother, Jamal Al-Fayeed (Ashraf Barhom), who has succeeded his deceased father as ruler.
The series dealt not only with the politics of a country in ruin, but sexual politics as well. Barry’s son, Sammy (Noah Silver), is gay and strikes up a friendship with Abdul, a security officer in charge of protecting the Al-Fayeed family who is himself gay, although closeted for fear of retribution from a culture that abhors homosexuality. Jamal is a sexually violent aggressor, a story line that has brought the show under fire for being ‘too cavalier’ in it’s portrayal of the plight of women’s rights in the Middle East.
The upcoming season teases, as mentioned above, a broadening of the show’s scope. Last season we saw opposition to the family’s brutal rule coming from Sheik Rashid. The trailer seems to indicate that we will see the people of Abbudin given a voice in the form of a new character (or characters) and becoming a stronger source of contention. Rayner indicates that we will either see ‘complete destruction or some kind of rebirth’, a promise that is at once cryptic and sort of obvious.
The series comes from a fairly high pedigree, with creators Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff having been behind critical successes like Homeland and 24. They are no strangers to well-plotted, politically charged fare with esoteric jargon and streamlined but broadly compelling storylines. It’s this streamlined approach that seems to have been taken a degree too far in Tyrant, by making the show follow less interesting leads or making too broad a point of a subject (such as rape) which might benefit from clearer context.
The creators of Tyrant have expressed the desire for the show to be like a Middle Eastern ‘Godfather‘. As it stands now, they’ve got a long way to go to get there.
Tyrant season 2 will premiere on FX on Tuesday, June 16th @ 10pm EST.