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Tyrant Premiere Review: The Godfather Goes to the Desert

Philip Harris | 25 Jun 2014 16:00
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Things get dirty pretty fast. There's a confrontation in a steam bath, the threat of a bomb attack on the wedding, and even a blowjob in a car that winds up with Jamal almost fatally wounded. Barry knows his family is dirty, and I also think he knows that he could help if he really wanted to, but Pasadena is calling him. He can't let his wife and children get wrapped up in the deplorable dealings of his disgusting family. And yet, just like Michael Corleone, when Kahled Al Fayeed kicks the bucket at the wedding, it's Barry everyone turns to in order to make things right.

As I've already mentioned, the stereotypes in this show are almost laughable. The street markets, the rifles, even the hair obviously applied to Jamal's shoulders, all add up to the continued perception that the entirety of the Middle East is tyranny and death. There was an opportunity here to show a strong family doing what it had to do to survive, but maybe the American public isn't ready to see a deeper portrayal of Middle Easterners. Instead, the writers have taken the easy way out and have made all the characters blindingly one-dimensional, the exception being Barry, who by the end of the episode, after slapping his son twice, is revealed to have personally executed a man by gunshot when he was child. These are the first glimpses that a true conflict is beginning to stir in the stomach of this character. But it's only that one character, which is hardly enough to maintain an entire show.

Speaking of taking the easy way out, the writing was stiff at times, occasionally dripping with gimmick and ploy. At one point, Kahled Al Fayeed rattles off the names of other, true-life dictators, a desperate attempt at verisimilitude that's as transparent as fountain water. More to that point, during the bachelorette party, a famous piece of music performed by the legendary Umm Kulthum plays in the background, a poor and obvious attempt at authenticity that falls flat. This would be like portraying a modern-day American bachelorette party and playing Rosemary Clooney while the guests took body shots off G-stringed strippers.

If I were to make predictions now, based on how things ended up in The Godfather, at some point Barry will have to choose whether or not to have Jamal killed. By the time this decision must be made, will Barry have finally given in to the fact that he is one of these one-dimensional monsters? Or will he remember life in Southern California and let his brother live? Only time will tell. Also, Barry must eventually face the conundrum of his son's budding homosexuality, which was hit pretty hard in this first episode. I can only hope Barry won't have his son stoned to death, but who knows how far down the sandy rabbit hole Barry will be by then.

I can't lie. As stereotypical and ridiculous as most of the show seemed, I'm still interested in seeing how this all plays out. Like I said earlier, the filming is gorgeous. Beyond that, the fact that most of the male actors are also gorgeous has something to do with my interest, and for that I'm definitely not proud. I want to know exactly how hairy-shouldered Jamal reveals he didn't die in that car crash. I want to see if Barry's struggle with the darker sides of himself become any more genuine, and I definitely want to see if Sammy gets any action in the steam bath.

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