×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Tyrant’ Finale Risks Slipping Back Into Creative Quagmire (SPOILERS)

Tyrant’s” bid to win TV’s equivalent of “Most Improved Player” honors ultimately fell short, as the second season’s finishing kick slipped back into some of the quicksand that made the first disappointing. Interesting and provocative in its willingness to tackle the unsettled nature of the Middle East through the prism of a fictional country, the series completely transformed its protagonist but couldn’t effectively deal with why, after all he’s endured, he and his family wouldn’t just head home as fast as humanly possible. Nor did a cliffhanger ending do much to stoke enthusiasm for a return engagement.

The stilted dynamics of the central family were clearly the weakest part of season one, in which U.S. pediatrician Barry Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) returned to his homeland of Abbudin to attend the wedding of his nephew. Once there, all hell broke loose, as Barry’s strongman father died suddenly, leaving Barry’s impetuous and ruthless brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) in charge.

Barry’s failed coup attempt closed season one, and set up a dramatic second-season shift: Left for dead by his brother (who faked an execution), Barry wandered in the wilderness like Moses, took up residence with helpful Bedouins and – underscoring how the Middle East often involves two unappetizing choices – finally became a reluctant Rambo, leading a military charge against the brutal Caliphate that was challenging his brother’s rule.

Back home, meanwhile, Jamal became increasingly paranoid – including his skepticism regarding the motives of the grown son he didn’t know he had – while Barry’s wife Molly (Jennifer Finnegan) tried to move on. But she couldn’t entirely, thanks to their son Sammy (Noah Silver), the show’s most annoyingly dunderheaded character despite this season’s maturation process, as he sought to claim his inheritance and wound up receiving a rather harsh education about the brutality of war.

All that led to a final flurry of episodes (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) in which it was revealed to all that Barry was still alive, while the international community turned up the heat on Jamal for gassing his own people. It didn’t help that Jamal’s wife Leila (Moran Atias, like Barhom, terrific, if unconvincing as the mother of a 20-something son) turned on him, seeking to secure her child’s safety as well as her own.

Still, even with the people chanting his name and taking to the streets – and Barry’s religious reawakening from his time in the desert – the producers didn’t successfully sell that he would want to stay in Abbudin, or undertake midwifing its shift toward a more democratic future. Because as noble as the character is, he’s also one of the few within the show who started out with a clear-eyed understanding of the limitations in seeking to impose political systems in the region.

The closing sequence, moreover – in which Jamal appears to be digging in his heels on not surrendering power, only to be shot by his daughter-in-law (Sybilla Deen), who he had raped – felt like a cheap way to continue the story. After all, it was Jamal’s life hanging in the balance that forced Barry to stay in Abbudin in the first place, setting him on a path to all that followed.

As noted, this season nevertheless represented a creative step forward, and its real-life parallels were at times sobering, in much the same way “Homeland” – another show under the stewardship of producer Howard Gordon – has frequently been. The writers also did a nice job building the seemingly hopeless romance between Barry and Daliyah (Melia Kreiling), another one of those actresses within the series who manages to look absolutely exquisite no matter how harrowing the circumstances.

Obviously, the program’s soapier qualities require dramatic flourishes, and its longevity – should it be renewed for a third season – seemingly hinges on Barry remaining engaged. That said, “better,” in this case, didn’t always mean “plausible.” And there are only so many times that Barry can fall back on saying “He’s my brother!” (as he did after Jamal was wounded) or “It’s my country” before the only rational response would be, “Get me on the next plane out of here.”

More TV

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Whiskey Tango Cavalier

    TV Review: 'Whiskey Cavalier'

    The crux of “Whiskey Cavalier” can be found right in its protagonist’s name. “Will Chase” is a purposefully ridiculous wink of a name that tries to be both debonair and very silly all at once, just like the FBI agent (played by Scott Foley) to which it belongs. This isn’t a regular spy drama, “Whiskey [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: Rabbit in the

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Feb. 11: 'Masked Singer' Easily Tops Competition

    Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the highest-rated broadcast show of the week in both Live+Same Day and Live+3. For the week of Feb. 11, the unscripted singing competition series went from a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 to a 3.4, a rise of 42%. In total viewers, the show went from 7.8 million viewers to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content