Tyrant 1.03 Review: “My Brother’s Keeper”

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This week’s episode of Tyrant was (as the title indicates) about the relationship between two brothers. One brother was raised in a violent country by a dictator for his entire life, and the other essentially disowned his family from college well into his adult life. The question that this episode asks is, can brotherly love and respect transcend these radically different situations, or will the obstacles consume them?

This was a strong episode of Tyrant, which I’ve found FX is trying to make into a Homeland/Breaking Bad/Mad Men mixture. Adam Rayner is proving week after week that he is capable of being a compelling leading man. The way he plays his clear conflict between his love for his brother and his desire for justice (and to help his journalist friend out of a sticky situation). The other actors are all clearly well chosen. Rayner does most of the heavy lifting, but Ashraf Barhom (Jamal) is by far the most compelling of the bunch, and reminds us of that after a week of mostly just laying there.

The weak point of the series (at present) is Barry’s (I should probably start calling him Bassam, eh?) American family. His wife makes Skyler White seem so much better, and I really wish that his son would leave the boys in Abuddin alone and just eat some breakfast. Hopefully, the series finds a way to incorporate them into the primary drama instead of forcing them into melodramatic scenarios with Barry, when the primary conflict (impending rebellion against dictatorship) is far more compelling.

Aside from the Bassam/Jamal relationship, the next most interesting relationship on the show is between Jamal and his wife, Leila. I cannot tell if Leila has moved closer to her adulterous husband because he is in power, or to distance herself from her previous lover, Bassam. She certainly didn’t take well to the news that Bassam/Barry would be staying for awhile, so at the very least, she recognizes the influence that Bassam has on Jamal, and she doesn’t want it in the cabinet meetings, where (for the time being) it remains.

This show is slowly finding its footing. It’s dramatic and compelling through the full hour each week. What I cannot figure out, is where it’s going. Is this a Mad Men scenario, in which we learn about the characters? Or is this going to become about the rebellion in Abuddin? I tend to think that war-time would be more compelling, but as we learn more about the Al-Fayeed family, I can’t for sure say that I’d be disappointed with either direction it takes. I can’t help but wonder, though, which direction they’ll go with it. I’m also interested to see how Bassam/Barry’s morality is affected the longer he remains in Abuddin. In this episode, he felt very American in terms of his nobility, sense of duty, and moral code. But, since his brother clearly operates from a different set of rules, I’m interested to see how that will continue.

So far, Tyrant has put forth an interesting group of episodes. Where do you think they’re going from here? Are you still interested in where they’re going, or have they lost you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Sound off in the comments!

[Photo via FX]

Nick Hogan is a TV and movie fanatic. He loves writing reviews, TV discussion, and is always looking for new things to watch. He also co-hosts a podcast called Changing Panels (changingpanels.com/@ChangingPanels) about Comic Book TV. Follow him on Twitter @nickyahogan
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