WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
As the first episode of the new FX Network series “Tyrant” concluded, this writer felt intrigued, if not yet convinced that this show could live up to the level of two of the Network’s other series; “The Americans” and “Justified.” Although the show uses a very familiar plot device, of a man who left home as a teen to escape his fate, only to return home years later, The presentation unfolds in a rather unique and topical manner. The home of our protagonist, is a fictional country in the Middle East.
The series begins in the Pasadena bedroom of Barry and Molly Al Fayeed, as Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), is sound asleep while Barry (Adam Rayner) is awake and clearly agitated. He leaves their bed and he makes a call, receiving the voice-mail of a man speaking in heavily accented English. He leaves a message that he is coming home for the wedding of his nephew and he hopes to see the man while he is there.
Although Barry is a California pediatrician and has a typical American family, he is not a native of the USA. He was born and raised in a fictional Middle-Eastern Country and his real first name is Bassam. His father is the President of their country and his older brother is next in-line to succeed him. We see flashbacks of Barry’s childhood and soon realize, that the grooming of his older brother to succeed his father began at birth, while Barry is relatively ignored. Barry left his country at the age of 16 and made a new life for himself in California.
The first flashback we see Barry and his older brother in the back of a limousine, with Jamal wearing a uniform that resembles a hybrid of a military uniform and a boy scout uniform, while young Bassam’s dressed in suit and tie. Their father yells at Jamal to button his shirt correctly, that the people will never respect him if he can’t dress properly. The President’s limousine s surrounded by his adoring constituents, smiling and waving flags.
The event is a ribbon cutting ceremony and the President tells his attendant to give the scissors to Jamal. The President starts to speak to his people, praising them for their hard work, when soldiers spot an opposition truck that crashes through the barricades and bent on destruction. The President grabs Jamal and dives off the podium, leaving Bassam to fend for himself. When the truck explodes, the force of the blast throws the boy off the podium, just in time to see his father railing at his enemies that they did not kill him.
The next scene opens later in the morning as Molly and the couple’s two teen-age children, Sammy (Noah Silver) and Emma (Anne Winter), are discussing their upcoming trip. Emma plainly does not want to go, bringing up reports of people rioting in the streets and burning pictures of her grandfather. She asks what will happen if an attack occurs and Sammy replies that their escorts will protect them. He’s excited about going and tells his sister that their grandfather’s considered a king in his country and that they qualify as royalty. Emma responds that their father does not want to go on this trip and either does she.
Barry walks downstairs just in time to hear the tail-end of the conversation and passes Emma as he heads into the kitchen. Molly tells her husband that he’s to blame for his daughter’s attitude, that if he would be more positive about going home to see his family, their daughter would as well. Barry tells his wife that they are not his family, she and their kids are his only family, a line Molly has heard far too often, judging by her facial expression.
We get our first glimpse of Barry’s homeland and meet Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), as an adult while he is the midst of committing a heinous act. He is raping a woman in her bedroom while her husband and children are cowering in fear in their kitchen. Jamal’s cellphone rings and he does not even stop as he takes the call. After he has finished he tells his aides that the call was from his wife, telling him that Barry and his family has landed and they have to head to the airport to greet him. When he leaves, the husband finds his wife in the bathroom washing herself with a look of pained resignation on her face.
We soon realize that Jamal combines all the bad qualities, from all the real despots that have ruled Middle-Eastern countries. He is a man of huge appetites and he is in a position where he can get what ever he wants, with nobody able to stop him. As he gets into his car it becomes apparent that his constituents no longer think kindly of him, as their faces project their fear and disgust for him and his family.
As Barry and family de-plane, Jamal drives up in a red convertible blasting Aerosmith. He embraces his brother in a bear hug, then greets the family, calling Molly Miss America, and Emma his Little Mermaid. He then tells Sammy that he has a new boat, that is the fastest vehicle on water and says he will take his nephew fishing after his son’s wedding.
The family heads to the palace and Sammy’s impressed with the opulence. When they arrive, Jamal’s wife and Barry’s mother are their to welcome them. There is definitely tension between Jamal and his wife and he tells her he was on his way to the airport when she called. Barry then greets his mother who informs him that his father wants to see him and that he is a different man than he was when Barry left.
Barry is respectful but distant when he greets his father Khaled Al Fayeed (Nasser Faris), the President tells his younger son that he wants to take a walk with him, but first he has a matter to discuss with his brother. When Barry and his mother leave the office Khaled tells his son that he is hearing rumors that a bombing by the country’s opposition forces will take place at the wedding. Jamal suggests having the men involved deported, but his father dismisses that notion due to the protests that will cause. He tells Jamal that he has to talk with the man he pays to keep the terrorists in line and to bring Barry to the meeting.
Barry and his father take their walk in the next scene and the son tells his father he looks well. Khaled responds that times are tough, that as much as he has done for his constituents, they are clamoring for freedom. Barry clearly is uncomfortable talking politics with his father and cuts the conversation short, telling Khaled that they have to check into their hotel.
When the family arrives at their hotel Sammy’s underwhelmed by the facilities. Emma says that she does not want to go to the bachelorette party that night and Sammy asks his father, if that means they are going to a bachelor party. Barry confirms that, but tells his son not to get excited that the evening will consist of a bunch of men hanging out at a sauna. After Barry and Molly head to their room, we learn that Sammy is gay and excited about the evening. Emma reminds him that they are not in America.
After spending a short time at the women’s gathering, we head to the steam-bath where Jamal is entertaining his guests with stories about embarrassing events in Barry’s childhood. A man in a suit enters the doorway of the Sauna and Jamal tells Barry to follow him, they are about to talk to the guy Jamal pays to keep the opposition quiet. As they leave a teenager smiles at Sammy.
When the brothers enter the room, the man tells Jamal that as soon as he heard that the elder Al Fayeed brother wanted to see him, he dropped what he was doing and rushed over. Jamal counters that the reason he is there is because Jamal’s soldiers brought him. He then asks the man if his nephew is planning to bomb the wedding and the man replies that he is ignorant of any such rumors. Jamal asks if the man can guarantee his nephew won’t bomb the wedding and the other man makes excuses instead of promises. Although Jamal’s naked except for a towel around his waist, he starts attacking the man, then strips off the towel and starts kicking him. He then tells his opponent that he will cut off all of his fingers, one at a time and pulls out a knife cutting one of the man’s fingers.
Barry speaks for the first time since the brothers entered the room and tells Jamal that this is not the way to handle the situation, it will only make matters worse. The older brother asks Barry, what is his alternative and the younger brother replies talking. Hearing this Jamal starts mocking his brother, asking if they should discuss things like Oprah does on her TV show. Barry responds that is not his intention at all, that he suggests that Jamal invite the man’s entire family to the wedding and seat at least one of them at every table, guaranteeing that an incident won’t take place. Jamal sees the logic of the move and tells the man that his brother has extended an invitation for the man and his family as his special guests at the wedding. The man accepts the invitation.
We head to the wedding and see that the bride is a beautiful young woman, while Jamal’s son is portly and appears over privileged and soft. He is definitely marrying above him, if he was not a member of the Al Fayeed family, she would be totally out of his league. The scene shifts to after the ceremony, as the men in Muslim Culture dance with only other men. Jamal is the center of attention, relishing the moment and appearing blissfully happy. He sees his brother in the crowd and calls for him to come over, which after some hesitation Barry does. Jamal pulls out a pistol and starts shooting it into the air as celebration, he hands Barry the gun, but after holding it momentarily he hands it back to his brother.
He has another flashback, this time as his father, brother and he arrived as fellow citizens named enemies of the state heading to prison or shot by the soldiers. As one man is heading to the vehicle for the prison, Khaled stops the soldier and calls for Jamal to get out of the car and come over to his father. When the boy arrives, the father tells him that the man is their enemy and he must pay with his life and he wants Jamal to shoot him, pressing the pistol into Jamal’s hand.
Back in the present as Jamal is still dancing, he notices his son’s new bride talking with a good-looking young man, then the camera pans to his son who is dancing with the others. The scene shifts to the bridal room, where Jamal’s new daughter-in-law is freshening up when Jamal walks in and locks the door, asking his son’s wife if she had many suitors before his son. She responds no, but he tells her his son would be heartbroken if she was not pure, then he finds out she was by violating her. He leaves the room with the bride in tears.
When Jamal returns to the wedding, Khaled’s chief advisor tells the family that he had collapsed moments before and rushed to the hospital. The family is in the waiting room when the doctor comes out and tells them that the President had suffered a stroke and asked to see Barry. As he walks to his father’s room the rest of the flashback plays out in his mind, we see that the young Jamal was so scared that he urinated on himself then went and hid in the car after dropping the pistol. As the President yells at Jamal to get out of the car, young Bassam steps out of the car, casually picks up the weapon and shoots two bullets into the prisoner’s chest, showing no emotion. His father hearing the gunshots looked at his younger son in shock.
Barry walks into the room and sees how bad shape his father is in. Although Barry tells the President not to talk, his father ignores him and tells his son that if he heads back to California, the family will fall apart. He then tells his son the words he had longed to hear his entire life, as Khaled tells his son he was wrong, that he should have been the one he trained instead of Jamal. He then tells his son that he wants to see Jamal and their mother.
Jamal exits the room a few minutes later telling his wife and brother that their father has passed. He says he needs to leave, but his wife grabs him and tells him this is his time and he must embrace it like a man. He laughs in her face about her telling him to act like a man when he can’t recall the last time she acted like a woman for him. He then slaps her face and leaves the hospital, he calls the woman he raped when we first saw him and tells her to meet him downstairs. The woman goes into a kitchen drawer and pulls out a bag filled with syringes, one of which she grabs.
Barry looses it when he finds out his father has died and tells Molly and the kids that they are leaving immediately. Molly responds that they don’t even have their passports and Barry replies they will stop by their hotel to get their stuff then they head to the airport and take the next plane to California. Molly asks for an explanation, but Barry refuses to explain his actions.
We find Jamal and the woman in his sports-car as he is driving recklessly on curvy roads while drinking liquor from a bottle. Seeing the fear on the woman’s face, he forces her head down to his crotch and forces him to orally please him. He swerves into the other lane and almost collides head on with a truck. The woman then grabs the syringe and stabs her attacker in the thigh with it. Jamal’s pain is so great, he loses control of the car and they drive over a cliff smashing on the rocks below. Jamal is alive but badly injured.
Barry and family are in their coach seats on the plane to take them back home, when the pilot gets on the speaker and says there will be a delay. He then walks down the aisle and hands his cellphone to Barry, who’s told that with Jamal fighting for his life he has to stay. He looks down on the runway and sees a squad of limousines with his father’s advisers coming out of them. He turns to Molly and says that he told her they should never have come for the wedding.
The story will pick up again next Tuesday on FX.