Three episodes were provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
If there was anything you could say about Tyrant‘s freshman season, it’s that as a show on a basic cable network, is was pretty unique. Set in the fictional foreign country of Abbudin, the show followed Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) and his quest back home after twenty years absent – in which he turned into a crunchy granola suburban dad with a wife and two kids – and his subsequent attempts to keep his hotheaded brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) from descending Abbudin into chaos.
It was topical and interesting and a slight slow-burn, all the ingredients for good grown-up entertainment, but iffy writing and poor pacing made it ring constantly hollow. Its best, most interesting storylines either going nowhere – Barry’s son Sammy (Noah Silver) and his fling with family bodyguard Abdul – or dragging out far too long for even a 10-episode season. It was a good show, but its constant tease of greatness made it all the more frustrating. Season two of Tyrant suffers a bit of the same plotting issues as last year, but enough pieces on the board are reset to not only pull you back into the story of the Al-Fayeed’s epically dysfunctional family, but give you hope that season two could finally reach that tier of greatness after all.
Four months after Barry’s attempted coup of the Al-Fayeed regime, the ousted black sheep of the family still sits in prison with only letters from his kids back home in Pasadena to keep him company. Fortunately, his actions have spread like wildfire across the globe, and rebel leader Ihab Rashid (Alexander Karim) has found a renewed fuel for his incendiary protests throughout Abbudin. In the four months that Barry’s sat in a cell, Jamal has been tormented himself, afraid to follow through with last year’s cliffhanger regarding the execution sentence on his younger brother.
“You’re torturing everyone with your indecision,” Leila (Moran Atias), Jamal’s wife and Abbudin’s First Lady, mentions to him sternly. “And yourself.” The Abbudin-raised members of the Al-Fayeed clan had bit roles to play in season one, more periphery characters floating in-and-out of wide-eyed gusto shots of Americans Sammy and Emma (Anne Winters) marveling over various reflection pools and grand saunas in the family palace. With Barry’s family back home in California, Tyrant finally fulfills its promise of a middle-eastern show set in the middle-east with its cast full (for the most part) of middle-eastern actors.
With the loss of the Americans trying to find their way in a strange land, it also shifts the show into more of Homeland‘s politically-charged world (easily identifiable thanks to creators Gideon Raff and Howard Gordon, who’ve each worked on both series). Now it’s full of operations gone awry and a spy-vs-spy sense of mounting tension between Abbudin and Ihab’s rebels. As one of the most fascinating aspects of season one, I wouldn’t exactly call Molly (Jennifer Finnigan) and the kid’s shunning back to America a big win for the show, but it acclimates itself nicely in the transition.