Tyrant Season 2 Review

TV:
Mitchel Broussard

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On June 12, 2015
Last modified:June 15, 2015

Summary:

Tyrant may be afraid to follow through with some of its most incendiary plot threads, but season two already feels fully-formed, less of a mirage of ideas and promises like last year and more of an actual, richly realized vision.

Tyrant Season 2 Review

tyrant barry

Molly, Sammy, and Emma aren’t completely without something to do, either, with some of the best, highest points of emotion in the first three episodes of the season coming from the family’s reaction to Barry’s predicament. The show also acknowledges a few hanging plot threads from last year, especially regarding Sammy’s sexuality, but it can easily feel like another show entirely when sandwiched in between mass chemical bombings and failed assassination attempts.

I applaud Tyrant for tackling such a plot line – what some would call a “bold” move on top of another bold move in the show’s basic premise – but without Sammy’s forbidden romance with Abdul, who was a descendant in a long line of men who’ve protected the Al-Fayeeds and a plot thread woefully misused last year, his screen time can come off as superfluous. He and sister Emma’s preternatural disconnect from the A-plot constantly threaten viewer patience, a what-do-we-do-with-them-now teenage character problem that ties FX’s series yet again with Homeland, although Showtime’s flagship series is arguably far more egregious on the subject.

The star here in the first three hours isn’t Rayner or Finnigan but, thankfully, Ashraf Barhom’s Jamal. Evolving as a leader from a high-risk playboy throughout last season, Jamal is easily the show’s most layered enigma. When General Tariq (Raad Rawi) unleashes unspeakable horrors on the innocents of Abbudin in the season’s opening hours, Jamal responds with his own horrors. He’s aware of the events that have to play out to finally put Ihab’s revolution to rest, the possible execution of his brother one of them, but he isn’t exactly the titular despot twisting his mustache that the rebels want everyone to believe. Along with his steel-eyed Lady MacBeth Leila and the continued troubled familial waters with son Ahmed (Cameron Gharaee) and daughter-in-law Nusrat (Sibylla Deen), any down-time between the show’s politics feels less and less like filler.

It’s exceedingly cliche, but each side gets their own shades of gray, as well, presenting each character and each group with their own little tyrannical regime. You can practically hear the tagline-that-never-was on some poster buried in the FX headquarters whispering to you, “There’s a tyrant in all of us.” That was the big idea last year, the show wanting you to believe Barry would become the new Abbudin president and face the wishy-washy political intrigue of which he’s so long claimed to be the master. It was never really believable thanks to that previously mentioned hollowness, but with Barry jettisoned to the sidelines for the time being, the question takes on an intriguing new meaning for the war between the Abbudin government and Ihab revolutionists in season two.

All of this growth is well-served in the opening three hours of the season, I just wished the show had the courage of its convictions moving forward. I won’t spoil Barry’s ultimate fate, but there are lines the showrunners feel afraid to cross and that fear subsequently draws back some of the dramatic intensity such an unstable setting should constantly instill in its viewers. With a full 13 hours to explore the fallout of Jamal’s decision (season one was only 10), there’s still plenty of time for the show to capitalize on this forward momentum. It’s a slow-burn, for sure, and its large cast of characters and sometimes disjointed storytelling will turn some off, but those willing to use their brain slightly more than usual this summer may find the sun-baked and shimmering palaces of Tyrant‘s world a satisfying oasis in a desert otherwise full of mindless fluff.

Tyrant Season 2 Review
Great

Tyrant may be afraid to follow through with some of its most incendiary plot threads, but season two already feels fully-formed, less of a mirage of ideas and promises like last year and more of an actual, richly realized vision.