Starring: Adam Rayner, Ashraf Barhom, Jennifer Finnigan, Moran Atias, Raad Rawi, Alexander Kerim, Noah Silver
Plot: Set in fictional Abu-Din, a fictional country in the Middle East, ruled by a cruel and ruthless dictator, Khaled Al Fayed who took possession of the country through a coup supported (albeit in a discreet way by the US government with whom his family has friendly ties) some decades back. The regime imposed upon the people is pro-western and Islam is somewhat suppressed, though obviously not forbidden. Khaled’s younger son, Bassar (Adam Rayner) who lives in exile in the US as a doctor is preparing his first trip to Abu-Din in twenty years to attend to his nephew’s wedding.
Shortly upon coming back he instantly regrets witnessing how his family, now with his brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) as a leader rules with endless violence and brutality. The regime is threatened by constant insurgency, mostly led by the charismatic rebel Ihab Rashib (Alexander Karim). Khaled’s brother, General Tariq Al Fayed (Raad Rawi), a despicable and heartless army senior who is the Minister of Defence and Khaled’s trusted advisor, is the key person in charge of the Al Fayeds’ protection constnaltly vouches for violent control over the population.
During the wedding, Barry’s father dies and upon trying to get out of the country is restrained by the regime. Knowing that his older brother who has taken charge is not fit mentally or morally to run the country, Barry decides to stay in Abu-Din to protect his family and country from the wrong doings of his brother’s lack of foresight and strategic thinking along with General Tariq’s brutality. This puts a huge strain on his family, especially in his wife Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), a qualified surgeon who supports him no matter what but further with his older son, Samuel (Noah Silver).
Whilst witnessing how his brother with his lack of intelligence and morals will definitely lead the country to finally revolt Barry also starts to align secretly with the insurgents to and begins to flirt with the idea to betray his own brother if that’s what it takes to keep his family safe.
Tyrant is a daring and entertaining series. For diplomatic reasons they have decided to create a fictional country (Abu-Din) for their story setting and several key elements are touched such as politics, international affairs, the hypocrisy of US influencers (namely their embassies) outside of their borders, religious differences, war, terrorism but also closer and more human subjects such as family, unrequited love, abusive patriarchal figures, fraternal rivalry and complexes. Though interesting and with a well elaborate plot the viewer is sometimes hinted of the deep realities governing international politics, insurgencies and terrorism, one feels like the story could dwell a bit deeper into these areas without necessarly becoming “political”. The performances by Adam Rayner as the conflicted Barry, constantly wrestling mixed emotions, Jennifer Finnigan as the balanced and supportive wife are noteworthy, not to mention the armchair gripping performance by Ashraf Barhom displaying the violent ruler Jamal with his mixture of stupidity, violence, cruelty, and vulnerability at the same time.
Bassar /Barry Al Fayed (Adam Rayner) – Barry is a doctor or Arab descent living a tranquil and blissful life in America with his beautiful wife and two children. Twenty years before, he escaped from his native land of Abu-Din, fleeing from the violence and cruelty his family ruled the country. Shortly upon arriving to America and ashamed of his origins he changes his name to the Western “Barry” from Bassar. Jumping to present day, he is invited to attend his nephew’s wedding in Abu-Din and despite initial doubts agrees to attend and see his family and native land for the first time in twenty years. He travels with his family and upon returning wrestles with the conflicting nature of the man he has re-invented himself as and the person he was when he lived there. He soon realizes that his brother is unfit to run the country and his incompetence will ultimately generate sectarian violence from the country’s insurgents and decides to stay in Abu-Din to become his advisor succeeding several times to guide him to pragmatic and balanced decisions. However in time his frustration at his brother and his own ambitions start to take over and he begins to plan to take over and grab more power for himself.
Jamal Al Fayed (Ashraf Barhom ) – Jamal is the oldest son of dictator Khaled Al Fayed and his successor. Upon his fathers death he takes over the country as self-appointed president. Quite often Jamal displays the worst type of behavior a human being can offer; he is a sadist, a rapist, a murderer, liar bordering on the behavioral patterns of a true psychopath. He believes in ruling by any means necessary and has little remorse for human life. Yet through time, the viewer witnesses episodes of Jamal displaying his weaknesses and vulnerability. He has an earnest affection for his brother Barry despite the jealousy he has about being less intelligent and charismatic than him, he is also more innocent when confiding of his true dreams of living a simple and carefree life to a lover he secretly visits.
Molly Al Fayed (Jennifer Finnigan) – Molly is a qualified surgeon who accompanies her husband and family to Abu-Din to a wedding where she is aware of the conflict and unease this causes on her husband. She is a balanced and intelligent woman who acts a solid rock for her husband supporting him on his worst days whilst he decides to stay in Abu-Din and at the same time becomes a nurturing and positive influence on her children who go through rough experiences whilst being forced to stay in this strange land.
Leyla Al Fayed (Moran Atias) Leyla is the first lady of Abu-Din and acts every bit of it. She had a past relationship with Barry before he fled and still secretly harbors feelings for him despite now being married to his brother. She hides this sadness behind a façade of a cold hearted and manipulative matriarch, pointing her husband in the right direction whenever she feels he is off track and secretly scheming with General Tariq when she realizes that drastic actions are to be taken.
General Tariq Al Fayed (Raad Rawi) – General Tariq is the personification of the very own devil if he were really to come to life. Tariq is a violent, bloodthirsty coward who has no remorse to plan false flags attacks and carries them out by bombing or gassing his own people to persevere his family’s rule over the country. From the beginning he clashes with the pragmatic and reasonable Barry who convinces his brother to deal with the country’s conflicts with diplomacy and negotiation rather than violence and oppression. He is later found out to be the main culprit of the country’s most atrocious crimes and yet still remains as a key part of the country’s government.
Ihab Rashid (Alexander Kerim) – Ihab Rashid is the Al Fayed’s most dangerous enemy. He is the son of the deposed monarch who is exiled and has sworn to fight back to recover his country. He leads a group of rebellious insurgents who organizes acts of peaceful protestations in the town square moving on later to acts of violence. He is a charismatic leader followed and admired by many, a quality Barry recognizes immediately. His thirst for vengeance and self righteous indignity at the Al –Fayed’s abusive dictatorship moves him to further violent acts and later to join a terrorist group.
Samuel Al Fayed (Noah Silver) – Samuel is Barry’s oldest son and from the beginning it is made clear of a certain distance between father and son. Being a closeted homosexual he never feels truly accepted or even liked by his father. Their natures are also quite different which lead to some inevitable conflicts. His obsession for money and luxury contrast with the austere mentality of his father who consistently declines his family’s fortune knowing that it comes from his own people’s blood. Yet Sammy unaware of the depth of the hideous crimes that have provided fortune to his family has no remorse to year and enjoy the lavish lifestyle it can provide.