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'Tyrant' recap: At the crossroads of revolution

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Sins of the Father” | Aired July 15, 2014

The 20th anniversary of the chemical attack ordered by Bassam and Jamal’s father upon the people of Abbudin is coming up. For some (Tariq and Sammy), former President Khaled is seen as a hero. To others (the rest of the country and the world), he’s a war criminal.

The Cabinet is already rioting among themselves as to how to approach the upcoming anniversary. Tariq is already expecting riots in the streets, riots that will certainly slake his blood lust. Meanwhile, Bassam is stating that the people should be allowed to peacefully protest. Jamal is acting a bit thick throughout the whole proceedings, but he eventually takes Bassam’s advice and decides to go meet the protesters in the square and address them frankly. He even agrees to apologize for their father’s transgressions! “My brother is right,” he says. “I am the true voice of Abbudin.” Jamal’s characterization could have actually allowed for him to want to be good, but since we’ve seen him be so bad in the beginning, having him say Bassam is right about a more peaceful tactic is, unfortunately, hilarious.

In any event, Plan A doesn’t work at all, resulting in the government car Bassam, Jamal and Leila are traveling in getting mobbed by angry protesters. The protests had been started by a man who couldn’t ever find work because the Al-Fayeeds had locked him out of his old job. This man performed self-immolation, saying beforehand that people should never forget the former president’s crimes against humanity. “Like father, like son!” he said as he drenched the Abbudin flag in gas, wrapped it around himself, and set himself on fire. After that, protests led by Ihab and his disciples (including Samira) took up all the space in the square.

Tyrant-Sins of the Father-6Fauzi goes to the square to talk Samira out of staying there for fear of her getting killed, but Samira takes him to task and reminds him of exactly who he is. When he begs her to come back home with him, she retorts, “So I can serve tea while you write blog posts that no one reads?” She goes on to say, “Why do you think they tolerate you now? Because you don’t threaten them.” This gets Fauzi back to the person he was when we met him in the pilot. He’s now supporting his daughter in the square. As he later tells Bassam, he has no illusions about Ihab and the havoc he could cause if he gains power. But the one thing Ihab does know is that the people are tired of having been lied to for 20 years.

Tyrant-Sins of the Father-2Being mobbed and burned in effigy is a source of embarrassment for Jamal, who swears to get vengeance. Still, his conscience, which has somehow woken up since the arrival of Bassam, is troubling him. He doesn’t want to be the ruler his father was, but he also wants to express his might. Strangely, Leila has now become the more ruthless of the two, telling him to do whatever is necessary to keep his power and to get Tucker on their side. The U.S. will certainly look the other way if they want to keep their naval base on Abbudin land, she says. Tariq would agree with Leila—he’s got everything set up for riot control. But if that relatively “safe” measure don’t work, then he’s all too eager to kill some people to get the point across. Again, Jamal is somehow bothered at the mere mention of bloodshed.

Meanwhile, Bassam is having some growing pains of his own. He’s initially reluctant to give Jamal any kind of advice because he feels guilty. If he hadn’t let Ihab out of prison, he tells Molly, none of this would even be happening. Molly is suddenly out of the fog she’s been in thanks to her maid informing her how viewing non-government-sanctioned television is against the law. With her newfound knowledge, she lights into Bassam: “I don’t think you can subjugate a people for 20 years and expect Nelson Mandela to walk out of prison every time. What do you think? You’re going to show up like some movie hero and wrap things up in a long weekend?” That seems to be exactly what he thinks, Molly.

tyrant-sins-of-the-father-8Fauzi also has to set him straight when Bassam asks to meet him at a cafe. Bassam thinks he’s doing Fauzi a favor by telling Fauzi and Samira to get out of the square while they still can. Bassam scoffs at his naivete. “You came all the way here to tell me what people have been expecting since this all began?” he asks. If Bassam is really a proponent of peaceful protests like he claims, then he might have known that many of the people who held peaceful protests in America and beyond not only expect to be injured or killed, but find ways to make peace with that fact. As Ihab said about the man in the square, they become martyrs to the cause. Fauzi tells him that he’s standing with his daughter and if Bassam really wants to do something about the issue, he should go against his family.

As Jamal is on the phone with Tariq, Bassam sends him a video of Gaddafi attacked by his people. Jamal demands to know why Bassam sent him the video. Bassam warns Jamal that he could be ousted in the same brutal manner Gaddafi was if he doesn’t listen to his people and try to find some common ground with them. To work toward this goal, Bassam has gotten Fauzi to arrange a meeting with Ihab. Jamal is completely against it, but Basssam tells him that it’s the only way if he wants to avoid casualties and the appearance of being a dictator. If they really want to succeed and put Abbudin on the right track, they’ll have to go against their father’s old ways and listen to the people. Will Jamal do it? We’ll have find out next week.

Smaller parts of the episode include Sammy finding out that Abdul has been standing him up because Abdul is not really part of a security lineage. He’s just a suck-up trying to make it up the ladder of success. The longer he hangs around Ahmed, the more he can be invited to glitzy parties and gain more influence. But the moment his charms, looks and snappy dressing no longer amuse, he’s out of there. He had decided to go for Sammy because Sammy was only visiting; Abdul had expected him to be gone by now.

As we saw last week, Nusrat doesn’t want to have sex with her new husband, Ahmed, because of the trauma his father, Jamal, put her through on her wedding night. From the opening clips of the episode, we’re led to believe that there would be some new developments for this plot. Instead, we get Ahmed acting like a jerk instead of the momma’s boy he initially seemed to be.

Jamal is also still dealing with the effects of his accident and surgery. He can’t be the man he used to be in the bedroom, and it’s annoying him. However, the last thing I want to see is some humor based around Jamal and sex. I think those chances at sexual humor were forfeited the moment we saw Jamal raping women.

Also, Emma really wants to go home. Her time at the club with Ahmed, Sammy, Abdul and Nusrat was less than awesome. Ahmed, who suddenly became a jerk in this episode, treats Emma like an idiot just because she questioned his wealthy, irresponsible lifestyle. On top of that, she’s already irritated with Sammy for loving his privilege as “the grandchildren of a war criminal.” At the end of the episode, Emma is near tears, begging her mother to go home. All Molly can do is hug her. Hugs won’t buy plane tickets, Molly! Once again, Emma proves to be the smartest, most socially aware person in this family.

Tyrant-Sins of the Father-1Tucker tells Jamal that the U.S. will look the other way if worse comes to worst with the protesters. But Tucker gives Jamal a warning: “Like all things, patience is finite.” I’m curious about what will test the limits of this patience.

A few minor irritations to discuss here:

First, there’s wildly inconsistent characterization with some of the main characters—mainly Jamal. This certainly isn’t the same Jamal we met in the pilot. How does a character go from raping women, torturing, and hitting his wife to hanging onto his wife’s word, abiding by his brother (or, according to Tariq’s logic, a blood traitor) and wincing at the mention of blood and death? There should be at least a couple of episodes going into more depth about this change. But will he turn back into his terrible self the moment he gets his “manhood” back in working order?

Ahmed is also suffering from inconsistencies. When did he go from being a “good husband” to a drunk jerk? Is this just because Jamal told him to keep his wife guessing? I want considerate Ahmed back!

Second, when we see young Bassam enter his college dorm room to find it spray-painted with graffiti and defaced with newspaper clippings of his war-criminal father, we see Bassam is played by a young man who looks nothing like older Bassam. The casting choice is interesting, especially considering the fact that older Bassam is played by a non-Middle Eastern actor.

What did you think of this episode? Discuss it below!

Tyrant airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on FX.

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