Tyrant: The Complete First Season
Fox // Unrated // $39.98 // January 13, 2015
Review by Kyle Mills | posted March 13, 2015
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It seems that one of the most controversial topics to tackle in any form of the medium is that of something that takes place in the Middle East, especially when said show arrives at a time when unrest in the Middle East is still making headlines, so Tyrant was understandably controversial when it debuted in the US, dividing the audience directly down the middle. Political thrillers have never been my bag, so to speak, However, FX is easily one of my favorite television networks of all time. FX has been the home of my favorite television series ever, The Shield, several of my current favorites like Justified, The Americans, Fargo, and Archer, and a multitude of several other good-great shows. The point is that FX rarely lets me down when it comes to television.

Tyrant was created by acclaimed show-runner Gideon Raff. I'd assume that most of the world recognizes Gideon as the creator of the hard hitting Showtime series, Homeland, and an excellent Israeli based series that I was fortunate enough to review (and personally find it superior to that of Homeland) titled, Prisoners of War. Also backing Tyrant, is developer Howard Gordan, the co-creator of Homeland who has one hell of a resume, working on various fan favorites and critical darlings such as Homeland, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, 24, Angel the short lived Awake, and Beauty and The Beast. With the talent the series has behind it, does Tyrant live up to expectations?

The series centers around Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed (played by Adam Rayner), the youngest son of an infamous Middle-Eastern tyrant, has been running from his past for 20 years in an self imposed exile. Barry has now made his own life out of the shadow of his former self, living comfortably in the United States as a pediatrician with a family; his wife, Molly (played by Jennifer Finnigan), his son, Sammy (played by Noah Silver), and his daughter, Emma (played by Anne Winters.)

Barry really has no desire to revisit his past in any way, family or not. However, when he is reluctantly compelled to return to his home country, the fictional Abbudin, for his nephew's wedding, he is quickly drawn into a political crisis when his father passes away in the midst of growing revolution against the ruling family. Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), Barry's power hungry brother, quickly ascends to the throne. Barry, now backed into a corner, must decide. Does he choose to assist his brother during the mass hysteria, and help him avoid an uprising? or will he choose to once again return to the US with his family, leaving his past behind once and for all?

After his father's death, Despite his initial resistance to getting sucked back into the Abbudin political minefield, Barry quickly warms up to the seductive lure of obtaining true power, deciding in the mean time to stay, acting as Jamal's trusted advisor. With each passing episode, Barry realizes the true ineptitude of his erratic and crazed brother, and decides once and for all to embrace his destiny, he will stage a coup, overthrow his brother, and claim the throne for himself.

Tyrant starts off well enough with Barry's return and Jamal's ascension to the throne, but the first half of the series is completely wasted with various boring subplots (Barry's son hiding his homosexuality, his daughter angst about coming to terms with her situation, the wife being a terribly annoying character, the writers suddenly changing Barry's character), the show quickly loses its way with a wonky narrative, and because of this, Tyrant truly hinges on two performances; Adam Rayner and Ashraf Barhom, who are both serviceable enough in their roles, though nothing ground breaking. It's the second half of the series that truly picks up steam for the series, with Barry's impending coup against his brother that ends with a satisfying cliff hanger that should leave you wanting more, though that doesn't make up for the lackluster first 6 or so episodes.

- Positives:

- Solid performances from the leads.

- Has a good premise and setting.

- Fantastic cliffhanger that should make you want more.

- Negatives:

- Every single subplot regarding Barry's American family drags the show down.

- Suspension of disbelief is needed, Barry goes from being happily married in America "living the dream" so to speak, wanting absolutely nothing to do with his past, to wanting to stage a coup against his brother and rule with an iron fist in like 2 episodes. Come on...

- Will be off putting to some.

- Some episodes are dreadfully boring, especially the middle portion of the series.

- The acting isn't always up to par.

Video and Audio:
The episodes of Tyrant: The Complete First Season are presented in its original presentation of a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The color palette is vivid and bold, and I didn't notice too many signs of grain or noise throughout this collection of episodes. If you seen any other recent DVD releases from FX, then you get pretty much the same thing here. It's a true shame this series didn't receive the Blu-ray treatment, the gorgeous setting and locales almost beg for it, definitely a missed opportunity.

The audio for Tyrant: The Complete First Season is presented with a 5.1 English Dolby surround sound mix that services the show quite well. There were no obvious dropouts or distortions throughout.

Extras: - A Family of Tyranny: An in-depth behind the scenes featurette showcasing the cast, the characters they portray, and the roles their characters bring to the show.

- Deleted scenes.

Overall:
Tyrant: The Complete First Season ends up being a middling affair. It started off promising with an exceptional pilot and a great idea for a story, but quickly deteriorated with each passing installment and lackluster story telling, only to get good once again toward a compelling end, so good in fact, that I'm actually anticipating Season 2 now. Despite that, as a whole the season was a bit of a let down. Rent it.



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