'Tyrant' Season Two Quick Thoughts: Ahmed vs. Rami vs. Bassam

There are a lot of men to write about today. There’s so much to discuss that I have to put things in categories. Let’s get into it. (To catch up on this week’s Tyrant, read my latest EW Community recap!)

There’s going to be a lot of “versus” action going on during the rest of the season of Tyrant, I’m predicting. Between the Al-Fayeeds and resistance fighters, there are a lot of men who are vying for (or could vie for) the title of President. But for some of them, their flaws will get in their  way.

Ahmed vs. Rami

Ahmed has been thought of as the heir apparent to the Al-Fayeed empire. He’s Jamal’s son, after all. But as we found out last night, Ahmed isn’t the brighest bulb in the box when it comes to running a country. Running a small boutique hotel? Perhaps. Brokering deals with world powers? Not so much. Even though Jamal resisted becoming President himself, at least he seemed up to the challenge. (However, he also had Bassam and Leila giving him advice behind the scenes, so in truth, Jamal isn’t as up to the job either).

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Where Jamal might lack in foresight, though, he makes up for in sheer will. That’s something that Ahmed is missing and Jamal knows it. While it’s common sense to Jamal to “wake up earlier and go to bed later” when it comes to getting work done, Ahmed needs to be coached. That’s where Rami comes in.

We’ve just met Rami, and already it seems like he’s issued in a breath of fresh air to the Al-Fayeed family. He got everything an Al-Fayeed president needs to have: a strong, statuesque appearance (qualities that could be easily used for propaganda and image-building), a strong military background, a seemingly good head on his shoulders, and a calm, yet businesslike presence. The scar he got from Darfur also shows that despite him having his mother’s kind eyes (something Jamal points out), he can handle himself in combat and come out the victor. His expert marksmanship also shows how deadly he can be. He’s everything Jamal wants Ahmed to be. The only problem is that Rami’s not an Al-Fayeed. Or, at least, he’s not willing to let himself be adopted by Abuddin at the expense of his Ma’an heritage.

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Rami  is of two ethnicities, and Rami doesn’t want to give either of those up in an effort to “fit in” or please others. As Rami told Jamal, he can’t reconcile being of two cultures just to accept Jamal’s job offer to work in the Abuddinian military (i.e. close to Jamal so he can be groomed to take Ahmed’s spot).

At the end of the day, it’s Ahmed’s full Al-Fayeed blood and Abuddinian culture but bad leadership skills versus Rami’s great leadership skills (I’m assuming, since he’s a big military hotshot) but (admirable) unwillingness to divide himself into two halves. I think Jamal’s money is still on Rami even though he has to begrudgingly accept that Ahmed might be the one who takes his spot after he’s gone. Of course, if you were reading my Tyrant live-tweets and saw my conversation with Keon Alexander (the actor who plays Rami), then you’ll know that Tuesday’s episode wasn’t the last time we’ll see Rami. He’s a big threat to Ahmed, and I can’t wait to see when the fireworks happen.

Rami vs. Bassam

I don’t know if the writers intended for this to happen, but Rami seems like the character Bassam should have been. Or, if someone in the writing room or producing side is daring enough, Rami should be the character the show uses to phase Bassam out.

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Look, I hold no ill will towards Adam Rayner and the cast that makes up his American family. But, writers (if you read this), you’ve got to make them a lot more interesting. A refrain I’ve been stating a lot is that the American side of the Al-Fayeeds are boring. The Middle Eastern side is where it’s at when it comes to drama and a forward-moving, engaging storyline. Here’s a list of the storylines in comparison:

Abuddin storylines

• Jamal is now pitting his son against Rami in his mind, hoping that Rami will take over so he can sit Ahmed out.

• Leila wants no part of Rami in her house, since Rami threatens Ahmed’s (and her) ascension to the Presidency.

• Neither Ahmed or Nusrat know of Rami, but both think their son will be the next in line after Ahmed. Nusrat, in particular, wants her son to gain power because, like Leila, she will be able to assume control through her son.

•The Al-Fayeeds are still dealing with the resistance along with trying to keep China interested in doing business. The challenges are helping shape Jamal into a more competent leader and reveal Ahmed’s weaknesses

• All of the Al-Fayeeds believe Bassam to be dead at the order of Jamal

• Amira, Jamal and Bassam’s mother, keeps hella secrets and reveals them at the most inopportune moments.

• Ihab and Samira are now part of an ISIS-like group; with the proper monetary backing from Ihab’s university friend, there’s now a very credible threat to the Al-Fayeed dynasty.

American storylines

• The American Al-Fayeed family has moved on from mourning their father and husband and onto Sammy getting a huge inheritance from Bassam’s “death.” They still don’t know Bassam is still alive.

• Molly decides to go back to Abuddin to get Sammy’s money. Sammy is still a jerk and Emma still has no inheritance.

• The lawyer is buzzing around Molly, trying to sense an opening so he can become husband #2 (or something).

•Bassam is masquerading as Halil, the cousin of the kindly Bedouin man and his family. He’s now tasked himself with taking care of the man’s child for the next six months while his second wife is in Germany (except Ihab and the insurgents have prevented her from doing so).

That’s how things are going right now. The side of the story concerning Molly, Emma, Sammy and Bassam needs to get a firm direction soon, because their storylines are weighing the show down. Every week, I’m tuning in to see how Jamal and Leila handle the latest crisis, or how Nusrat is planning her revenge, not how Molly is negotiating day-to-day tasks and paperwork.

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The boringness is only one reason I think Rami is Bassam 2.0. The other reason is that he seems to fit that role of “unlikely fighter for the Republic” a lot stronger than Bassam does. And unlike Bassam, Rami has more of a motive to want to take over and unify the region.

Bassam is a privileged Al-Fayeed through and through, and in America, he was able to pass as a privileged white person. Bassam literally doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time. Yes, he killed a man when he was a kid and he turned against his father. But did he turn against him for the right reasons, or did he decide to run away because he knew he was the ruthless leader his father would have wanted? The reason Bassam wants to take over isn’t so that he can introduce the concept of democracy to the region (a concept the region already knows about, as several of the characters chided Bassam on). He wants power because that’s just who he is, a narcissistic megalomaniac who sees an opportunity to become the folk hero he is in his own mind. He wants people to worship him and tell him he’s a good person because he doesn’t have it within himself to come to terms with who he is.

Rami, on the other hand, is a man born into rough circumstances and managed to make something of himself. He is the child of two people in two different cultures and ethnicities, and his life has been filled with seeing both sides at war. If he decided he wanted to become Jamal’s Number Two, he could be that leader that unified both Ma’an and Abuddin. As the son of both cultures, he’d be able to speak to both sides equally and, possibly, help them see how they are more alike than they are different. Just from his own life experiences, Rami has a certain level of wisdom that Bassam doesn’t. It’s a wisdom that Bassam probably will never attain.

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So, in the case of Rami versus Bassam as to who should be the leader, I have to give my vote to Rami. There’s a lot more potential for him to be a great leader, while all Bassam brings to the table are machinations and chaos.

The power of women vs. the power of men in Tyrant

For as much as the show is about men, Tyrant has doing rather well this season in showing how strong the women are. In many cases, the women are much stronger than the men.

First, we have Leila and Nusrat, who are orchestrating their husbands’ careers behind the scenes, angling things to set up their own eventual ascension through power via their sons. Both also want payback for all they’ve given up to have their positions.

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Second, we have Samira, who is much more of a militant fighter than Ihab is, even though he’s the one with the megaphone and Rashid ties. Ihab has been nursing his wounds since the last chemical attack, doubtful as to whether he’s been fighting the good fight after all. It’s been Samira that’s been keeping him in the fight after all this, and it’s still her that convinces him that taking out Jamal is what they need to do. She even says she’ll crawl through the palace gates and slit Jamal’s throat if someone can secure her a way in. She’s more than ready to keep up the fight, and has more drive than Ihab in many instances. Once again, a woman is orchestrating a man’s career from the sidelines while the man gets the shine.

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Even the Bedouin’s (second) wife shows strength of character. Her village is depending on her to bring back solar electricity. Her intelligence is what could save the village, and that means she’s got a lot of commanding power.

Abuddin was created as a patriarchal society, but I’m glad Tyrant is highlighting the women more this season than last season. There are still moments when exoticism show through, but for the most part, the women are much more fleshed out this season and have their own goals, ambitions and motives. Now, if we could get a woman at the head of a resistance group (or any group), that would be very interesting.

Tyrant shout-outs

This is getting to be a regular thing, which is great! Despite any critiques I might have, I do admire the hard work the actors do on the show, and any support they’re willing to offer is fantastic.

This week, I’ve had a tweet favorited by Noah Silver (who plays Sammy), had some tweets favorited by Cameron Gharaee and Sibylla Deen appreciated my WOC Wednesday shout-out! Also, as I wrote above, I spent part of my live-tweet session conversing with Keon Alexander.

This section isn’t for bragging purposes, per se, but just a way to say THANKS to the actors for supporting COLOR! It’s very appreciated and I’m very grateful.

What did you think of this week’s Tyrant? If you saw the Twitter convo I started about Rami vs. Ahmed, who would you pick? Give your opinions in the comments section below! Also, make sure to follow COLOR on Facebook and Twitter and my other recaps at Entertainment Weekly!

Photo credit: Adrienn Szabo’, Kata Vermes/FX

  • I completely agree with you about Rami’s character energizing the show, but tonight’s episode was very troubling because Jamal wants to kill Rami. If that happens, I will stop watching Tyrant.