Tyrant Series One-Pilot episode and Episode Two-My Review with some notes and dialogue. Minor Spoilers. On FOX in the UK or on Channel number 157 on Virgin Media TV Fridays @ 9pm repeated during the week. Nb. There are full episodes of Tyrant on youtube

The Tyrant

TV Preview:
” A California paediatrician who is the second son of a Middle eastern Dictator reluctantly agrees to return home with his American family for his nephew’s wedding.”


Pilot Episode:
Episode One.


“Warning of scenes of Sexual violence”

Some notes and dialogue.


Explanatory notes added later.
Cast list so far:
The hero is the Doctor, a paediatrician, whose American name is Barry.
Barry is short for his Arabic name: Bassam.
His surname/family name is Al-Fayeed.

Molly is Barry’s wife and their children are Emma and Sammy.
Barry’s mother is called Amira.
Barry’s father is called President Khaled Al-Fayeed

Jamal is Barry/Bassam’s brother.
Jamal’s wife is called Leiyla/ Leyla.  (both spellings appear)

Abdul is the head of security for the palace.

Yussef seems to be in charge of things generally at the palace.
( I have called him the Palace aide here for now)

Fatima is the woman visited by Jamal and is seen later with Jamal in his car.

Mr. John Tucker is the American Ambassador posted to the Middle Eastern country.

Nb. Apparently the mythical Middle Eastern country that Tyrant is set in is called:
Abbudin.

***

So Tyrant is billed as being penned by Gideon Raff, behind Homeland.

In California.
Barry’s wife, Molly, says things like:
“Your daughter is magnifying your negativity and acting out”.

Barry is really worried.  About going to his nephew’s wedding in some unspecified as yet Middle Eastern country.  His nervousness is infectious.  I too am thinking that this trip is really rather a a bad idea.

Plus everybody, except Barry and his daughter is far too blasé and trusting.

Yusuf’s wife, Layla Qassab, from Prisoners Of War is in Tyrant.
(see footnote below)

In the mythical Middle Eastern country of  Abuddin.
Molly:
“I hear that there is a new mall down town”
Yep.  Like that is gonna help.

We are reminded of why there was the warning of sexual violence.

It almost makes you jump when the horrific scene raises its ugly head and is followed by the character opening up his Lamborghini to the automatic pulsating sound of 80’s funk.

Barry’s daughter Emma sensibly opposes the trip.  She also looks seriously creeped out when dear Uncle Jamal hugs and squeezes her just a little too tight for a little too long.  Calling her:
“My little mermaid”..

So here is the seminal scene in which the hero meets his long estranged father.

The family are all for the moment entranced with the fast cars in cotillions approaching them at speed where ever they go.

Uh oh.
Then:
“And once we have reached an altitude of 1,000 feet..”

The ending scene.  No.  Don’t tell me.
What did I tell you.

The family did not seem to see or did not yet see the dark side of the ever present cotillion of cars and control.

Barry:
“I told you we shouldn’t have come..”

***

So I was going to pass on Tyrant even though I had pricked up my metaphorical ears on reading that it was created and written by Gideon Raff:
“behind Homeland”
More like Gideon Raff was behind Prisoners Of War which was behind Homeland was my thought.  A lot of behinds, I know.

I really rate Prisoners Of War and also in time grew kind of fond of Homeland as a drama.

Tyrant shares some of the punchy, pacey and almost exciting feel of Homeland.  You want to know what happens next.  Tyrant so far, does lack the slow, organic home movie feel of Prisoners Of War. Of course this is only the Pilot episode.

However the characterisations are superficial and short hand in this episode.  There were moments when I wondered if stock characters and scenes had slipped into caricature of old Arabian adventure movies in lurid (but proudly announced at the time) technicolour film.

Layla, Yusuf’s wife from Prisoners Of War, here called Fatima,  is in such a scene, in a car, on a mountainside. An horrific and frightening scene which at the same time almost devolved into comedy caricature.

The dark side of Tyrant, well actually I am not sure there will be a bright side, is pervasive throughout.

This episode successfully somehow communicates to us the increasing tension and claustrophobia felt by Barry.  He is the only one, bar his sensible daughter, who realises the ticking clock counting down the minutes of time spent in the new country for the wedding.

Only Barry however, not his family, knows just how very dangerous life really is.  Both inside and outside of the beautiful golden palace.

We, as the viewers are caught up, cleverly, in this increasingly tense countdown of time that only Barry is aware of.  If only he can get away soon, sooner than soon, He and his family will be OK.

Yet of course, dramatic convention dictates that obstacles will be thrown in the way of the family’s needed escape.  Time and time again.  Therefore ramping up the overall and atmospheric tension.

There were times in this episode when I was reminded of a Banged Up Abroad Episode.  Banged Up Abroad also holds inherent drama and tension as we wonder if the narrator’s filmic self will make it through customs.  With polythene  cladding full of drugs taped around their body.

Certainly the actions of Jamal, the Doctor’s brother, reminded me of a Banged Up Abroad episode narrated by the look-alike Uday Hussain.  Strictly speaking the look-alike wasn’t banged up abroad, but in his own country and it was a lot more complicated than that.  Well worth a look.  But then I like Banged Up Abroad, particularly the National Geographic Series.

Still, I digress.  Just not completely since Jamal acts in a similar way as Uday Hussain did.  Or was reported to have done and was portrayed in that series.

Jamal’s doings were one thing.  The other, flashback scenes of violence were another.  Fairly horrific scenes of violence they were too.  Violent and shocking enough to have merited a mention and a warning along with the one for sexual violence.  In my opinion.

Myself I would have preferred the warning so I could have made a choice about watching Tyrant and if I decided to watch it then I would have been prepared.  As it was I was pretty shocked and horrified when thee scenes transpired.  Flashbacks or no flashback don’t make it better.

I suppose it was necessary plot-wise , for us to learn of these happenings in the background of the character.  Plus there is the shocking reveal showing us that Barry/ Bassam may not be quite the blue eyed boy after all.  Things get even murkier and potentially sinister.

The rest of the characters are deliberately supplementary for now: Barry’s wife, children and ever still courtly polite wife of Jamal, Leyla.

Then there is the oddly plummy toned presumably aristocratic wife of the Dictator and mother of Barry, Amira.  Who I couldn’t help mentally comparing briefly, to Deborah Kerr in The King and I. Such was her anachronistic presence, appearance and accent at first.

As mentioned, the supplementary characters are marginalised around Barry/ Bassam, reflecting his already and rapidly increasing importance in the country that the family are now in.

A country left deliberately vague and unnamed.  Although we know it is not Syria since Syria is mentioned in conversation as somewhere someone has just:
“come back from”.

Any gender segregation seems to be carefully shaded in as we see the wedding gathering.   This may all be happening inside the Palace as a private function where things are less formal.  The women had uncovered arms with floor length dresses.  Except for Barry’s mother whose dress is long-sleeved.

Presumably all bets are off inside your own sumptuous Palace and the younger women are wearing the height of designer fashion.  Donna Karan’s new capsule collection specially for the Middle East probably.  Or they get to pick from evening dresses.

The women also, like the beautiful bride we see, wear exquisitely jewelled and beaded white night gowns with diamond earrings.

Tyrant is a teensy bit Dallas in the Middle East.  If it continues in this vein  then I will watch it like a Middle Eastern soap opera.

The palace is classic Arabian Palace.  All very generic really whilst fabulous to view.  Not much has changed in film-land in Arabia.  Just like the scene with Fatima, fully black eyeliner-ed up, plotting her dark deeds.  Except in the old films she might have had a tiny jewelled dagger.  The idea of poisoning however is ancient and timeless.

I already had a wonder at one point whether a political or lets call it a sympathetic point was being made for either side.

There is Barry’s father,  a Dictator who is variously titled and referred to as the President and the King.  Both of these titles seeming to mismatch with that of Dictator.
Is Barry’s father really a King?  We hear repeatedly that Barry/ Bassam has:
“Royal blood”.

Was there ever really Kings in the Middle East? I am not sure.  There certainly are now.  With one Middle Eastern country known colloquially as:
The Kingdom”.

So Barry’s father Khaled is a mixture and amalgam of all three titles as is his creation a mix of aspects of different Middle eastern countries.  What we do know already is that he is more Dictator than cuddly King.

If Tyrant verges into obvious political point making or on point message then I will be unable to enjoy it as a pacey, tension filled and so far unpredictable drama.  Likewise if there are more scenes of death and degradation then I am out.

Drama is mostly meant to be fantasy escapism and fun.  Maybe a drama too overtly topical and day to day dreary is not so much fun and becomes more like the (Godawful) news.

****
End of Pilot Episode

***



Tyrant-Episode Two.

So there is a warning of violence and sexual violence.
(i missed it in the first episode)

Some notes and dialogue.

In the car, Yusuf, the palace aide:
“Yes, I have got them..”

At the Hospital.
(giant scan picture of Jamal’s, uhum, anatomy)

Doctor Cohen to Jamal:
“What did you do to make her so angry?”
“She bit right through the pudendal vein and the circumflex artery-ouch!”

The girl at the roadblock has full Hollywood make-up on including lipstick.  The stereotypical terrorist has an American accent or he could be from Peckham.

Molly:
“Barry, how are you doing?”
“Barry, it is not like your father is here any more, you don’t have to act like he is slamming doors..”

So apparently women can drive and go out unaccompanied.

The eponymous terrorist, Ihab, is meant to be officially black and obviously is an American actor trying hard at an Arabic accent.

At the Palace.
Yusuf: (to Barry’s children Emma and Sammy)
“There is lots of activities..”
Yep.  That will be because I think you will find you are not allowed to leave.

It is all a bit corny and predictable in terms of plot..

There are some very variable accents.  The atmospheric music is annoying.

Jamal to the Surgeon (Doctor Cohen-really?!)
“Will it work again?!”
Doctor Cohen:
“Eventually, in time..”

And we find out that Jamal’s wife, Leiyla, is pretty evil when she needs to be..

The next minute she is crying like a little girl just to get into Barry/ Bassam’s arms..

Did I mention the cringe-worthy flashback of Barry and Leiyla?
Probably not.  Because it was too cringe.

Jamal: to Basssam
“This motherless pig tried to kill me!”

Jamal to Bassam (about their father)
“I keep expecting him to walk through that door!”
“Angry,of course!”

Barry/ Bassam to Molly about the terrorists:
“I understand their pain, their anger”..
“I used to be embarrassed, when people asked me, what does your family do?”
“Oh, we are in the oppression business!”
he continues:
“So I had two choices”:
“stay in obscene comfort and pretend there is no price to pay for it,”
“Or protest on the streets against my own father!”
“So I ran away..”

Barry continues: ( looking at Molly)
“So every time General Tariq acts because Jamal does not say no..”
“But what if the blood, on my hands, from my brother, follow me where ever I go?”
“However far away?”
“Those boys, they died for their brother,
“What do I say to mine?”..

So there is an undercurrent gay love interest story going on.  Extremely dangerous, of course.  An inclusion of this could be queried as either daring and original in the drama or a tiresomely generic addition just to make a point because of the geography.

Someone needs to have a chat with Sammy.  Or maybe the rest of the family don’t know.  Perhaps what happens in the palace stays in the Palace.  Something tells me that the rest of Barry’s family won’t be going out that much.

Oh no.  More meaningful atmospheric music.

So Barry/ Bassam moons about looking pensive and declaiming that he felt terrible about the three boys.
Oh and the word count repetition for:
“Brother, uncle, niece, cousin’s family” increases exponentially.

We are already getting the feeling that Barry might stay. Give this Mr. President’s  brother and Al- Fayeed, running the country as a Dictator kind of thing, a go.

Bassam to Jamal: ( on the phone)
“So how about if I hang around for a while?”
Jamal: (smiling, in his grey silk pyjama bottoms)
Little brother..

***

Footnotes.

Yusuf played the character Jamal in the series Prisoners Of War.

The credits are in Arabic and English.

It turns out that the actor playing Ihab, the terrorist, is Swedish.

The actress who played Yusuf’s wife, Layla Qassab,  in Prisoners Of War here plays a character called Fatima Mahfouz.  The name of the actress is Hadar Rafzon-Roten.

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