“Truth and Dignity” opens with what can best be described as a stereotypical scene as a woman in a hijab fools an American soldier into letting her get close enough to murder him. Although TYRANT seems as though it could celebrate Islamic culture and show moderate, contemporary Muslim life, too often it goes for the obvious acts of random violence to really be a complex, layered show that goes a step further than the easy road. The most recent episode is no different, and may even go further this time around in driving anti-Islamic sentiment.
For me, the gay affair between Sammy and his anti-Bassam professor is getting old. Pretty much anything that Sammy does is less interesting than anything anyone else on the show does because his character is always so one-dimensional and focused on his own sexuality, rather than the larger plot or exploring his new home or learning more about his dad or pretty much anything else. Despite living in the palace and seeing first hand how people feel about his father as a ruler and being constantly warned about the country’s homophobia, Sammy seems to think that having an affair with a married man that dislikes his father’s policies is no big deal and that the only problem is that his chosen lover is closeted. Sammy’s affair is juxtaposed with the affair going on between Bassam and Daliyah, for reasons that will become even more obvious later in the episode. Once again, the writers will be heavy-handed and rather than hint at the obvious things that are wrong in having any affair, they will have the characters say them out loud. Bassam and Daliyah’s affair is really only wrong for personal reasons, as it makes Bassam an obviously poor husband and a bad example of a father. On her side, it makes Daliyah less interesting that she is so willing to give in to her base side and even fantasize that Bassam might choose her—but it doesn’t put anyone in the family in danger. Although Sammy will later reveal that he is aware of his father’s infidelity and try to indicate that both father and son are the same, Sammy’s affair is dangerous due to the fact that the professor is a danger to his father and Sammy revealing the professor’s sexuality puts his wife, children and himself at a risk that Bassam’s affair doesn’t. But Sammy is ignorant of politics as an American, and so doesn’t care about that aspect.
Meantime Fauzi randomly proposes to Daliyah, despite the fact that she has given him no hope and they haven’t seen each other for awhile. This is the where the show excels at being a nighttime drama, by throwing in further twists and complications in the personal relationships that don’t have to be there. Where the show loses me is the duo’s discussion of the cultural values of a society that doesn’t support widows. We already know that the culture is homophobic and anti-American, prone to violence, etc and this further drives home the point without having to say it out loud via the character dialogue.
Shortly after the scene, the shooting at the Truth and Dignity hearing that was promised last week takes place. It’s anti-climatic because it occurs so early that we don’t care about the victims. And of course Daliyah was saved by a man because men seem to enjoy sacrificing themselves, in one way or another, to get to be close to her. Daliyah would be a better character if she wasn’t so obviously painted as a sort of saint for the menfolk around her to worship.
Bassam seems more upset with the possibility that Daliyah was shot or hurt than he did at the death of his daughter—based on the fact that he yells really loudly and is generally mild mannered through any difficulty. Not through his acting or dialogue do we learn that Bassam has been a mess since Emma was killed in front of him, we learn of it through Leila later in the show. Bassam allows for random arrests in the hopes of stopping all the violence in Abudeen which is great for continuing the name of the show, but not so great for his legacy as a president.
Although Fauzi and Bassam are once again close enough to get naked together in a bathhouse and Fauzi admits to proposing to Daliyah, Bassam remains silent as Fauzi goes on happily about his feelings. Bassam seems to be playing Fauzi for a fool by his omission, which will likely come back to haunt him when Fauzi inevitably uncovers the affair.
Sammy’s uncontrollable emotional state leads him to seek out his lover once more, which doesn’t end well. I’d hope that it would be the end of things, but given the very dramatic breakup scene, it probably isn’t over. The great thing about Tyrant is that it is nothing if not predictable. People rarely move on with their lives. Things don’t just end, they end dramatically and slowly, over several episodes. For example, at the refugee camp, we learn that everyone looks alike, so it’s hard to determine who gets to flee to safety, which is reflected by the casting, which includes a variety of ethnicities, but seemingly no one of a Muslim background. This then becomes translated into a possible torture scene, but we’re told there are no torturers anymore, yet no one can tell the difference between the old regime of torture and the new one of peace. Not even Bassam—who bans the peace seeking Al-Qadi from running for president. Leila has resigned her post as Secretary of State, looking like a modern day Jackie-O in the process, and I can’t wait to see more of her as her character continues to develop and become more comfortable in her own skin.
Although I love all the twists and turns, and it’s always fun to tune in for the intricate hairstyles, stunning costumes and sheer over the top drama of each character’s dramatic self-involvement, it is frustrating that Tyrant can’t take a more nuanced approach to the larger cultural issues at play and continues to insist that only people siding with American Bassam are worth saving, which is why I give it a B- because it does a lot of the TV dramatics right and a lot of the additional outside influence not right. Next week, it looks like we’re going to war to round out the season. Because that always ends well for everyone—it did last season.
Season 3, Episode 6 (03E06)
Series Title airs Days at 10PM on FX
Carly Zinderman | Contributor