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Bassam welcomes the Dark Side in 'Tyrant'

Season 1 | Episode 7 | “Preventative Medicine” | Aired Aug 5, 2014

OK, what just happened here?

I mean, there are things that I’m excited about, like Bassam finally embracing the dark ways of the Sith and finally getting with Darth Jamal’s program, but did the supposed necessity of Sheik Rashid’s death make any sense? Let’s unwrap the mystery.

We begin where we left off, with Jamal strutting out of the bathroom, thinking Sheik Rashid is on his way to death. But lo and behold, he’s not dead! Somehow Jamal is surprised by this. Jamal took the sheik’s pulse before he left, meaning he would know that the sheik was still alive. Any person using common sense would think that a pulse would mean a person can come back to health. If Jamal was going to kill him, he just should have done it instead of inexplicably leaving it half-finished. Thanks to the convenient judgment lapse, the sheik is in an induced coma in the hospital.

Tyrant_106_061914_sc2_0033We’ve seen that Jamal is a person who doesn’t do things by halves. Heck, even he says this when he’s talking with Leila. “In my lifetime, I have killed seven people,” he says. “One of my own men called my father an exterminator. I burst his skull with a table leg … I know how to kill a man. I know what death feels like when it’s present.” He says that he must have “confused the smell of old age, of infirmity, with death” when discussing his botched killing of the sheik. His other excuse for not killing the sheik outright is that his attack wasn’t even planned—it happened because the sheik was mocking Jamal about Bassam’s political prowess. Jamal, who admits that what he has done is horrible, wants to escape with Leila to their holdings in the Maldives and live out the rest of their lives. But Leila, who is the brains of this outfit (and sometimes even the brawn in terms of courage), tells him she’s not going anywhere, that she has a speech to draft for him—the tone of which depends on whether or not the sheik survives.

Leila’s indifference sends Jamal back to the arms of Katerina, the mysterious blond woman who could be a college student of some sort—as well as a high-powered call girl? I don’t know; I’m just judging by her glasses and stereotypical “sexy coed going to bed” attire. In any event, Jamal uses her once again as his emotional dumping ground. Her empty platitudes and expressions of “love” make him feel loved and wanted, but even he has enough sense to ask if she would still be with him if he weren’t the president. She sidesteps the answer somewhat, but we know she wouldn’t be with him if he was just some regular joe off the street. Even still, Jamal wants to take her to the Maldives. He can’t get Leila to fall in love with his story of being an 11-year-old making seashell necklaces, but when Katerina sees the necklace, she immediately melts and agrees to go to the Maldives.

Meanwhile, Bassam has been treated to a bombshell. Amira drops the news that it wasn’t Bassam’s father who gassed his own people; it was Tariq! Tariq also gassed the neighboring Ma’an (the place the sheik is from) when Bassam’s dad didn’t bite. I admit that that did actually surprise me, but looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been. Tariq has been the only living person in this show who is gung ho when it comes to killing his own. But the fact that we have no basis for Bassam’s father being the more peaceful of the two doesn’t ring as true as it should. We’ve only seen President Khaled Al-Fayeed psychologically torturing his kids—mostly poor kid Jamal—in an effort to make them future dictators. He even tells Jamal to kill another person!

He rails about these inconsistencies to both Amira and Yussef, the latter giving some strange reason that’s supposed to explain away Khaled’s strange behavior—that Khaled was trying to toughen the boys up to be great leaders. The real point, if we get down to the writing of the show, is that the characterization doesn’t make sense. If Khaled was trying to toughen up his sons to be leaders, fine. But there’s a difference between “toughen up” and “turn into psychologically shattered human beings.” I don’t think a person who is peaceful at heart would get their boys ready for life by putting a gun in their hands (which is also something Bassam echoes in his rant to Yussef).

The revelation about Tariq isn’t the only thing Bassam has to worry about. Earlier, Jamal confessed to Bassam that he caused the sheik’s accident, and put Bassam in a very strange position. He asks Bassam to finish the job and kill the sheik. In a moment of surprisingly evil lucidity, Jamal becomes the true villain he’s meant to be by saying that if the sheik dies, Bassam can still have his precious “elections” with Jamal as the uncontested winner. If the sheik lives and says what happened to him, there could be civil war, something Bassam worked hard to avoid. Jamal says he didn’t plan it, but there is still motive; he is jealous of Bassam’s ability to blend in, of his ability to be the “lion tamer,” as the sheik said. He’s jealous that Bassam can hide his tyrannical nature and that he can leave anytime he wants. We see that Jamal really does crave being left alone and just becoming an anonymous person, but he doesn’t have that luxury. He’s not only the oldest of the two brothers, but he’s also the only one who was left after Bassam jumped ship. If I were psychoanalyzing Jamal, I’d say his unconscious brain motivated him to attack the sheik to get back at Bassam for everything.

Tyrant_106_061914_sc24_0475When Molly calls Bassam to tell him that the sheik is stable, Bassam is left with a decision. Should he let the sheik get better and risk losing everything he’s worked so hard for, or should he let him die? One would have thought that after Fauzi met up with Bassam in the mosque and had a small pep talk about things getting better in Abbudin since Bassam’s arrival, Bassam might just let the sheik live. Consider it: If the sheik lives and tells the press that it was Jamal who tried to kill him, then Jamal and the entire Al-Fayeed family would be ousted. But Bassam could quickly separate himself from the rest of his family, fall back on his “outsider/American” status, and use it to gain the trust of enough Al-Fayeed loyalists to run for presidency himself and possibly have a good shot at winning. He could even coerce the sheik to give him the stamp of approval by making him publicly repeat how much he admires him and his statesman-like ways. In any case, it’s a better plan than just killing the sheik outright, which is what Bassam did.

Ihab, who states plainly that he still distrusts the Al-Fayeeds and still thinks their hands aren’t truly clean about what happened to the sheik, lets Bassam go into the sheik’s hospital room alone. Unaccompanied. Yeah, Ihab thanked Bassam for bringing him and his father back together, but before that, he had told Bassam to his face that he still wanted the Al-Fayeeds gone. If you still distrust them, why in the world would you let Bassam go into the room alone? Another convenient judgment lapse.

Tyrant_106_061914_sc27_0527Bassam is certainly the more slippery and Slytherin-ish of the two brothers. While Jamal is blunt and sloppy—killing a person on a bathroom toilet isn’t very elegant, to say the least—Bassam carries his weapon of choice in a sleek syringe. That’s not the end of his thoroughness—the syringe’s contents take hours to kill, erasing most of Bassam’s implication. He cries as he injects the poor sheik, saying how he has “no right to take what [he's] taking.” His crying is also referencing his guilt about killing the pleading man—Malik Hassad—all those years ago. Thankfully, Hassad’s family escaped, but unfortunately, the sheik can’t escape the poison going into his arm.

A drunk and tortured Bassam calls Jamal, telling him that the deed is done. Jamal is shocked, thinking that Bassam was just going to run away again, especially since Bassam said he wanted to go home. Actually, going home would have been the best solution—just let Jamal swim in his own mess since he is the one who botched the election plan. But instead, Bassam has gained Jamal’s full trust with this killing. “I love you,” Jamal says, finally feeling like he’s got an ally in this deadly game of power. To celebrate, Jamal suffocates Katerina. Apparently, he’s afraid she’ll say something. What could she say, though? She was given nothing of value to tell the press, and she certainly can’t come out as his jump-off without facing some serious public side-eye.

Tyrant_106_061914_sc2_0969What does the sheik’s death accomplish? I’m still trying to figure that out. There will still be civil war because Ihab is still alive. If the writing is going to do anything correctly, it should make sure that Ihab sets out to avenge his father’s death. He shouldn’t have left Bassam in there by himself. He and his brother should get the people of Ma’an riled up and storm the palace and gut the rooms, French Revolution–style. Ihab is ripe for some Robespierre-type character-building.

As the episode comes to a close, we find Bassam, who has stayed up all night drinking and plotting, calling Tucker at 4:30 in the morning. Bassam wants the names of all who think Jamal isn’t fit to run the country. Tucker asks why. I thought Bassam would say, “Because I want to kill them.” No; he wants the names because Bassam knows Jamal isn’t fit to rule either. As he said earlier in the episode, Jamal is too broken to rule. Bassam now wants the title for himself, and he must be thinking of getting like-minded individuals on his side in order to develop a covert coup. At least, I hope so.

By the way, Molly’s flighty sister Jenna arrived! As if we needed another flighty, airheaded American. To Molly’s credit, she’s become a bit more grounded and, dare I say, jaded about her situation. But Jenna is exactly what the show doesn’t need right now. She gives some line about how she didn’t originally see Bassam as a catch. Apparently, she doesn’t watch or read the news either, because the last name “AL-FAYEED” is a big clue as to the type of power the unassuming “Barry” holds. Also, how could Bassam just walk around Abbudin and its outskirts like that without a security detail, when we’ve seen him take security as he runs around the block?

What did you think: Was the sheik’s death necessary? Discuss!

Tyrant, rated TV-MA, airs Tuesdays at 10/9C on FX.

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