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Tyrant S01E01: "Pilot"

Sometimes, it can feel like everyone on TV has daddy issues. From Raylan Givens to Jack Shephard to Nate Fisher, we've all experienced stories about men who are significantly shaped by the shadows cast by their fathers. FX's new drama Tyrant is yet another in a long line of these stories and it's the kind of show where our leading man Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) is both figuratively and literally trying to run away from his past and his father's influential shadow. However, what made this first episode so compelling and what gives me real hope for Tyrant as a series is that this also the kind of show where we very quickly see what returning home and to his father does to Barry. The shadow is inescapable. 

Having spent his childhood watching his dictator father Khaled (Nasser Faris) run roughshod over Abbudin (our fictional Middle Eastern setting), Barry moved to the United States, become a pediatrician, married a white woman (Jennifer Finnigan), and tried to forget about all the things his father (and he) did back home. A trip back to the homeland for his nephew's wedding immediately pulls Barry back into the tumultuous and dangerous life--including his parents and brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom)--that he tried so hard to ditch. That's not particularly original on its own, though the contemporary political and cultural climate in the Middle East certainly injects some life into the proceedings. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this first episode so much because though it presents us with that relatively recognizable premise, it built to a couple of great moments at the end of the episode that make the whole first hour-plus worthwhile.


Throughout the episode, Barry was reserved, almost to a fault. Other characters spoke, while he mostly listened, or pretended to as he was thinking about something else, usually some terrible childhood moments we saw in flashbacks. That type of character can work really well on the page, but it needs a sturdy presence on-screen. At first, I wasn't entirely sold on Rayner in the part (setting aside the fact that he's just a tanned British guy); he seemed so awkward around even his wife and children. But as the episode's events unfolded, from Barry's first meeting with his family at the palace and Jamal's violent outburst during the bachelor party to the brief but not tearful goodbye with his father where the dictator told his second son "It should have been you," the pressure kept building on this man who has decided that the only way to keep all this darkness away is to never talk about it and literally run as far away from it as he can. And then in one moment, in the hospital with his wife and kids, all the frustration, anger, whatever came out in a split second when Barry struck his (admittedly bratty) teenage son for disobeying him yet again. It was in that moment that you realize that Barry hasn't just been running from his father; he's been running from himself because he knows what this particular place, with all its history, and these people, bring out of him.

Good pilots build to moments like that. It was a very brief, fleeting bout of emotion from a character that didn't present much of it throughout the rest of the episode, even after this particular scene. It was also a moment that in some ways recontextualized other parts of the episode, like the earlier scene where Barry told his wife Molly that he doesn't blame his brother Jamal for his crappy behavior; he blames his father's influence on Jamal. Clearly, that's a loaded statement. A similar thing could be said for the early-episode line where Barry pleaded with Molly that they had to come back home after their visit. 


Nevertheless, it was in that moment where Tyrant (and Rayner's performance) really started to work for me. In some ways it felt like the pilot wanted us to feel even more shock about the "reveal" in the episode-long flashback sequence with young Barry and Jamal witnessing their father execute infidels. Obviously, the BIG SHOCKER was that even though Khaled pushed the older Jamal to be the future leader by pulling the trigger, it was little Barry who actually had the gumption to do it. That was a revelatory moment for the character and for the show, purposefully placed in the episode to come after the slap and the "It should have been you" line, but it was also pretty clearly telegraphed by the editing and flow of the episode. I preferred the hospital scene, for all the reasons listed above and for simply how the loud sound of the smack rang through the quiet, distilled hospital waiting room. Just really solid stuff from everyone, including director David Yates

I don't want to dwell on those moments too much more, because despite the some of the familiarity that Tyrant's pilot offered, there was much to like here, with some caveats. Positioning Barry as a quiet introvert for the majority of the episode gave writer Gideon Raff and director Yates a lot of time to build out some of the supporting players, of which there are many. Barhom's Jamal got most of the juicy material, including quite the introduction where Barry says "my brother" and then boom, smashcut to Jamal sexually assaulting a married woman while her husband and children wait in the hallway, very aware of what's going on. And GOOD LORD let's try not to focus too much on the later, uh, sexual encounter Jamal had near the end of the episode. I'm flinching just thinking about it. The rape-y stuff here was especially gross, and not that well-executed. We get it, Jamal is a bad guy! Finnigan didn't have a whole lot to do as the wife, but she also wasn't anything close to a lame nag either. The pilot was clearly setting up some of the history between Barry and Jamal's battered wife Leila (Moran Atias), so I'm sure that'll give both of the primary female actors/characters something to do very soon. 


I'm guessing that considering that this show comes from the guys behind Homeland, there might have been an expectation for more of a political thriller. There was some of that here, particularly in the scene between Barry and his freedom fighting journalist buddy Fauzi (Fares Fares) and Jamal's issues with some of the rebel terrorist groups in the area. Everyone's mileage will vary of course, but those bits didn't strike me in the same way as some of the interpersonal and familial conflicts did. I don't necessarily need another show overtly about terrorist plots, spies, etc. I'm sure that will come into play on Tyrant, but this opening episode was focused on these messed up people, however familiar some of the focus happened to be. That's the show, and it's one that I'm excited to see unfold over the next nine weeks.



NOTES

– It will be interesting to see how the show handles the politics of this part of the world, especially given that this is an American cable network production, top-lined by two white people, etc. The pilot wasn't especially heavy-handed in this regard; there were some discussions about the good and bad that Khaled had done in his time as a dictator, but the flashbacks certainly painted a much more negative picture. 

– The report on the behind-the-scenes issues in production weren't kind to Yates' direction, but this opening episode looked pretty good to me. While the Israel location shooting certainly helps, Yates and his team did a great job of catching those long and wide-angle shots that emphasized the scale of the Al-Fayeed palace and the various terrains on display here. The overhead shot in the hospital waiting room was weird, but very cool. Nice use (or creation) of that location.

– Justin Kirk's diplomat character appeared to be the kind of sleezeball you might expect Justin Kirk to play, and I guess that's something. 

– Barry and Molly's children, Emma (Anne Winters) and Sammy (Noah Silver), were not terrible, but still moderately annoying, right? Sammy had more to do, given the whole smacking thing and his search for male companionship. 


What'd you folks think of this opener? Are you in for the long haul? 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/20/2016

Season 3 : Episode 3

Next Episode

AIRS ON 7/27/2016

Season 3 : Episode 4

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Best new summmer show for me .
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pilots should draw the viewer in, and this pilot succeeded. Im 100% going to tune into the 2nd episode. If it can keep it up then I will just keep watching. I love the way the established these characters, especially Barry. He says so little yet we feel like we know so much. Excellent editing in the episode to create the whole effect of his character.
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Not in for the long haul but I did think the pilot was good at establishing characters and the cinematography was good.
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I'll give it a few episodes, but I did find it intriguing!
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That was kinda laughable. Some middle-easterners who talk in broken english (kinda). Also main male protagonist speaks with slight english accent. Weird. Sloppy. It's sloppy work coz obviously it's easy for FX bosses and showrunners use some vague made-up Middle Eastern country (that is a mix of Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Tunis, Lybia et cet) to not screw up traditions, details, names.

Coz making a show about Lybian or Syrian dictator's family is too complicated and tough learning. It's like Americans where russian characters speak in broken english. It's ridiculous. But okay I can skip this one and pretend they speak in their native language. It's not difficult to use subtitles if you want reality and plausibility. Also it's ludicrous when older brother (who is walking cliche) says something about Oprah. What? It's parody or real thing drama?
Secondly, wife of main character is again, a stereotype. She's like typical American blonde naive woman who thinks that you can talk through all issues with your father ruthless dictator in country where traditions and rules are completely different from her own "oprah-like talk through issues" country. Some things should be left alone. Left unsaid. Psychotherapy is a sham. And it's not always healthy to dig in into your own shit. Does his wife read newspapers or whatever? It's like she has no clue that there are dicatorship countries where rules are different and you can't just talk through some shit. And it's like every goddamn american likes to talk some issues and use psycho therapy. Well, it's not.
Half-assed show, IMHO.
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That was the best pilot I've seen in a long time... I have high hopes for this show and I can't wait for the next episode.
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So far I like it. It felt like homeland meets "The Godfather" and I'm cool with that. The politics could turn into a problem in future episodes, but for now I'm excited to give it a chance.
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Wow Loved the Pilot! I think this has the potential to be a really good show
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Well, it seems pretty obvious that Sammy is gay. A gay kid in the middle east , with an uncle like Jamal can only lead to DRAMA.
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Nice. I'm hooked.


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i never understood the need of the second slap
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I could make lame jokes about that he liked the sound of it or that he has a bad memory BUT I won't and say that he needed his son to understand that this is important and that the first one was intentional and not a slipped hand or something.
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Absolutely fantastic!!! One of the best pilots I have seen in a while! I am hooked already!
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I love this show - do yourself a favor and watch it. Just fantastic on so many levels
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Waiting for the 4-episode test and make up my mind from there.
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Don't know... the pilot was compelling, although there are quite a few points where it doesn't feel real enough. I guess when you try to portray a fictitious country, it can happen.

There is no community for this show neither. Is that something we users can create?
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The pilot has me hooked - I'm in for the rest of the season. Although I am going to have to restrain myself from throwing things at the tv whenever Bassam's wife shows up - even if your husband of 20 years never shared any of his childhood/family trauma with you, how the HELL do you never learn about the history/politics of the country where his father is the freaking dictator?! They made a point with the journalist character of showing that news of the crimes against the people/unrest there was reported on internationally, so there should be no excuse for being so clueless. Her whining about him not sharing things with her, and not comprehending that they need to get the hell out of dodge before all hell breaks loose - just grrr.
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Yeah, agree, that stuff about the wife was far too naive. Are they trying to send a message to Americans in general that they are far too naive when comes to middle-east countries, you think?
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Maybe - although I recognized immediately the parallel between fictional Bassam and real Assad in Syria. I just can't believe that it's plausible that it's even physically possible to be as clueless as that wife - all the b****ing about "you don't tell me anything, I don't even know who you are" and all I could think was that she's the one who wasn't trustworthy, just because of the sheer level of her stupidity - or willful blindness. Almost all of that violent flashback stuff would be public knowledge, not to mention the current journalist's reports of human right violations/war crimes. How much more does it take to realize your in-laws are psychopaths?
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yes, I have to agree - it is quite difficult to believe such a blindness from a woman that is married for so many years to a man from that origin, like she chose to never read anything about it all these years.
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She should have done some research!
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FX certainly has some balls with its tv shows. First The Americans and now Tyrant. I enjoyed Tyrant. I'm in all season.
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I'm in!! Can't wait to watch the next episode.
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Count me in the minority, but I didn't enjoy it at all. It reminded me of Revenge, but not in a good way. It was also way too slow and soapy, it didn't need to be more than an hour that episode. While the premise was good, the execution was off, and threw the whole thing out. I'm out...sorry.
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While the pilot wasn't bad it self, the setting as an arab country is way way off,
It seems from the music and the names of the characters that Abbudin is a knockoff Syria(also the ruling family's story), but aside from the music(Alawite or Jabali Levantine music) and the Dabkah(the group dance in the wedding(also a Levantine dance)) Everything is wrong, the clothes are wrong the setting is wrong the people look and dress as if they were from Pakistan(the clothes that the men of Abbudin wear are acctualy what Pakistani people wear)and not from any arab country,
Aside from Bassam and Jamal(Also Bassam's annoying American son looks very Syrian) most people don't look like what the show is selling(i am assuming again a knockoff Syria or some other country in the Levant(Syria, Lebanon, Jordan or Palestine)) the people there are mostly white(again in Syria and other countries in the Levant) so i don't get all the tanning that is happening in the show, i get that most Americans think that Arabs are brown colored, while some are sure brown, not all the arabs everywhere are brown, for example the skin color of an arab from Sudan is light black or dark brown, and people form Egypt are mostly brown and people form Syria and Lebanon are mostly white with a good chunk of them having blue or green eyes and blond hair(especially women), for example 90% of my family are white(not Pale white, just white), and maybe half of my cousins from my mother's side have blonde or dark blonde hair and i am 100% arab(Syrian), it's just that Arabs are like Americans, you can't say they are white or that they are black, because they are a mix of different races that share a certain language and a certain culture and "mostly" have the same religion
I don't get usually annoyed with these inaccuracies when i am watching tv shows and movies, but when the show i am watching is totally and completely is about a certain "thing", i expect the show to be at least 50% accurate about that certain "thing"
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I believe they tried to make the "country" as generic middle eastern as possible. Fun seeing "ANDY" from Weeds play another slimeball
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It was a good pilot. It at this point seems like it might be a little predictable to those that are familiar with the area, the culture and certain parallels between a current leader of a Middle East country, but that is all right. It has a strong cast it is unbelievably ambitious for a cable network to go for.

It is going to have a lot of psychology in it. Bassam's is a story of running away from not only his family but his nature, his whole entire, his interaction with his family, his job, everything is all him attempting to be the opposite of what he would have likely turned out if he had stayed. The result of which has turned his children into who they are which are kind of insolent little brats and his wife into who she is.

But now he has to stay. His children are going to have to learn a thing or three about living somewhere other than cushy America and his wife is going to learn why he didn't want to come back and the darkness he has likely been repressing the whole entire time he has known her. It could be an excellent depiction of the devolution of a man.
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Great pilot - Hoping the rest of the series produces the same quality.
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I thoughrally enjoyed this! Can't wait till the next episode!
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How long people people in Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia see this and condemn it as racist?
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Hey @corybarker1 will there be a community for Tyrant?
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Good, solid pilot. I was expecting it to be poor. The casting of a Western actor in the leading role says a lot about western audiences mindests, and none of it good. Other than that though it was quite intriguing and has a lot of potential
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Clap clap. Lots more to like than not. I'm all in for season one. I loved Homeland so I'm not surprised.
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I expected this to have a homeland-ish premise and I'm glad it doesnt. There was never really any question as to the quality. FX is no joke.
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The biggest drawback for me is Bassar's annoying wife.
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She is annoying.
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I honestly didn't expect to like this, and I wont say it doesn't have a lot of flaws, but damn I'll be back next week.
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totally won't make it past a season. i will not make it past this episode.
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The pilot was above average. Well shot and directed. It was compelling enough to make me want to watch the second episode.

As for the story, it was more of a setup for the whole series. I will reserve my judgement till further episodes.

With Fargo and then this, FX is fast becoming a quality network.
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Fx has been on fire for over a decade. The only networks that can compete are HBO & Showtime. I think ST is owned by HBO.
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cbs owns showtime; time warner owns hbo
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Yep, loved it. Can sort of see in broad brush-strokes where it's going, hope they throw in a few curve balls. How annoying were his american family though? Daughter largely overlooked by the writers except for the odd woolly liberal/feminist statement, wife unforgivably naive about Barry's family situation and how to handle it (did she really think they could have some sort of family therapy session? Does she ever watch the news?) and the son being a right little Joffrey in the making. Hope they do some proper filling out of those characters and how their new situation will change them. I also hope that the Borg Quee- sorry, Barry's mother gets more to do, otherwise it could be a huge waste of such a magnetic actress.
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I absolutely loved it.
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I really enjoyed the pilot. Visually gorgeous. David Yates did a great job directing, the whole episode just looked stunning. The characters were compelling (except Amira, Bassam's mother, I couldn't quite get a feel for her intentions), the script was intelligent (I feel like they should have been speaking Arabic more though). Overall, I'm really glad I tried this show out (I'd never heard of it before yesterday afternoon). Can't wait to see what happens later in the season.
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Interesting pilot. I will definitely keep watching.
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Very nice pilot. Somehow I'm sad that Jamal had to go so fast. I kinda liked this bad guy and I wanted to see more of his cruelty or ways of fixing things.
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Jamal didn't die.
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He opened his eyes in his last scene, so you may get your wish.
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Well from reality stand point that would be a miracle with capital M. No seatbelt on, convertible car, speed, huge cliff jump with ~3 rollovers and head mashed into rock.. Maybe only kryptonite can kill him then or old age like his father.
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Plus he could be missing a "little" part of himself! "Miracle with a capital M" indeed.
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Given the number of blood vessels in the 'little' part of him it would be amazing if he doesn't bleed out from just that alone.
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FX Channel only puts out quality series these days. This is definitely one of them. Just finished the Pilot and I thoroughly enjoyed it... can't wait for more episodes.

Watch it! It's definitely worth your time!
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I dunno how many are aware of the fact that the story so far apart from a couple of sensationalist add-ons is pretty much the story of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar was the second (or maybe third son) of Hafez al-Assad who was President of Syria for 30 years. Bashar left the political stuff behind to work as a doctor in england for many years. From memory the eldest son was killed when Bashar was very young and the next in line, his elder brother was groomed to take over from dad, so Bash went off to medical school then hung out his shingle in London.
His brother and heir to the presidency Bassel got killed in a car crash just as Hafez was on his last legs.
There is no evidence that Bashar killed anyone while growing up in Syria. That is one of the sensationalist add-ons
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Good catch. I was thinking of the same thing while watching it.
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This is very useful insight, thank you for that. Considering that Gideon Raff is actually Israeli, it is not surprising to see him explore the life of Bashar al-Assad, given how events in Syria affect Israel.

I should note, however, that the story follows the life of Bashar only in general terms, since he never lived that long in the UK - only a couple of years, when he was specialising ophtalmology. He was indeed reserved and never expressed interest in politics before his older brother died in a car accident. After that, his father spent six years in grooming him for power, during which Basher removed many of his potential opponents, so it wasn't exactly a case of a reluctant ruler.

Still, the show sounds interesting, and I will have a look. By the way, the absence of political thriller is not untypical for Raff. The original show, upon which Homeland was based - Prisoners of War - is much more focused on individual dramas, rather than on a global political plot.
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It was good and I'm excited about next week. Lots of potential.
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Good pilot!
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Jamal, Jamal, Jamal........ smdh.

Nice to have Jennifer Finnigan on my tv again - why she had to ask so many damn questions about everything IDK. Even I was exhausted.

Emma and Sammy - annoying as hell.

Barry slapping the taste outta his mouth though. Looking like


LMAO.

Very good so far. I'm sticking with it.

Oh and on a purely superficial note - how handsome is he?! Lord.
Does he remind anybody else of the late Paul Walker? Or am I seeing things? *shrugs*
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He's so handsome. I loved him in Hunted. I'm definitely going to stick around and watch this.
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