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TV Series Review

On the ageless sands of Abbudin, change has come.

After decades of rule by Khaled Al Fayeed, a man as hard and unforgiving as granite, this oil-rich land has been in the midst of three seasons of upheaval. Khaled's initial successor, eldest son Jamal, is dead. Jamal's mostly American brother, Bassam, heads the country now—at least until the next elections. But it's a tough time to be president, what with an ISIS-like Caliphate threatening the country, elections just a few months away and internal factions grappling for power, including one headed by Jamal's widow (and Bassam's former lover), Leila. Oh, and let's not forget Bassam's chummy relationship with the always-popular United States military, headed in the country by Gen. William Cogswell.

It's all quite convoluted and complex, befitting its very own security briefing. For now, Bassam stands astride a country built, literally, on shifting sands. He wants to do the right thing, but ancient rivalries feed into modern paranoia. And as time goes on he seems less a child of freedom-loving America and more a product of the traditionally-autocratic state he now heads. And so he, all of Abbudin and the audience of this FX drama are left to wonder: Will change bring about a new dawn? Or a darkness drenched in blood?

This being cable TV, probably both paths will be explored, depending on the episode. But Tyrant is actually more of a soapy summer show predicated on sibling rivalry and palace intrigue. It's Dallas without the cowboy hats … and with an unpredictable standing army.

Looking for Profit, Not a Prophet

Abbudin is certainly an Islamic country, where religion and secularism warily eye each other across the aisle. And while religious tensions have increased since the show's first season, you won't get much insight on Islam here.

What you will get are piles of sex scenes and moments of brutal violence, and sometimes both at the same time. A woman is callously raped in the pilot episode. Another girl is forcibly "inspected" (onscreen) to verify that she is a virgin. Add to that a subplot involving closeted gay characters who risk being murdered if they come out.

Tyrant seems meant more as a summertime diversion than as an Emmy-contending smash. It has much of the severe content we've unfortunately come to expect from prestige-minded cable, but little depth to go with it.

Change may be coming to Abbudin. But this FX show seems all too familiar.


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Episode Reviews

Tyrant: Aug. 18, 2016 "Bedfellows"
Tyrant: 7-29-2014



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Adam Rayner as Barry Al Fayeed; Jennifer Finnigan as Molly Al Fayeed; Ashraf Barhom as Jamal Al Fayeed; Fares Fares as Fauzi Nadal; Moran Atias as Leila Al Fayeed; Noah Silver as Sammy Al Fayeed; Anne Winters as Emma Al Fayeed; Salim Dau as Yussef; Mehdi Dehbi as Abdul; Alice Krige as Amira Al Fayeed; Justin Kirk as John Tucker; Adam El Hagar as Siddiq; Keon Alexander as Rami Said; Chris Noth as Gen. William Cogswell; Joseph Long as Abd Aziz; Ashraf Farah as Sheik Abdullah; Alexander Karim as Ihab Rashid; Olivia Popica as Halima






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On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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