Another week, another Tyrant episode, and even though this one didn’t have as much of the Abudinnian politics as we’ve come to expect, the extreme focus on Bassam’s storyline wasn’t as boring as I expected it was going to be. In fact, it was quite fast-paced and, as I wrote in this week’s EW Community Blog recap, filled with surprisingly delightful character development for Bassam.
However, this doesn’t mean I didn’t have any problems with Bassam, because if there’s any character I consistently have existential problems with, its Bassam.
Case in point: Bassam telling time to the kid using the sundial, as if in just a few episodes before, we didn’t just see the kid’s brother use, if my memory is correct, a cell phone. Bassam acts like these people don’t know about clocks and modern smartphones even though the boy’s mother just left for Germany to bring back solar power.
Here’s my rant in this week’s recap:
Side bar: If the Bedouins, like everyone else, know about solar panels and iPhones, why does Bassam feel it’s necessary to show the little boy what time his mom should have been in Germany on a sundial? Sure, Bassam’s phone might have died in the desert, but someone’s got a phone (or even a standard clock) so the boy can have time differences explained to him! Doesn’t Munir or Kasim, the boy’s brothers, have a phone? One of them called the military friend a couple of episodes ago. Was that not a cell phone? In any case, the little boy himself said he wants an iPhone! Bassam, stop acting like these people are stuck in the Middle Ages and need guidance for 2015 living. I’ll give Bassam the benefit of the doubt and think that he just showed the sundial to have a bonding moment with the boy over ancient forms of tech, like how a man might take his son camping and roast marshmallows over a fire, even though there’s a microwave back at home. Rant done.
I didn’t write this in the recap, but here’s the underlying reason why some of Bassam’s scenes, such as this sundial one (which also includes Bassam teaching the boy about ancient Sumerian history), ring hollow to me: It’s difficult to believe Bassam is a Middle Eastern character when he’s clearly a white man.
Bassam the character identifies more with white America, and Bassam himself is played by a white Briton. This is nothing against Adam Rayner, since I’m not trying to conflate him with Bassam (like how some Sleepy Hollow stans wrongly conflated Katrina with the actress portraying her, Katia Winter). But let’s be honest: having a white dude playing a dude disguised as another dude becomes increasingly problematic the more he’s surrounded by actual Middle Eastern actors. Especially when he’s teaching a Middle Eastern kid about Middle Eastern history.
There, I said it. I’m so sorry, Adam Rayner and his fans. I hate feeling controversial, and I hold no ill will towards Rayner at all, but I just had to get this off of my chest. It’s Hollywood I’m really mad at, since the people that run Hollywood and industry’s culture, not Rayner, are at the root of the problem. There are plenty of brown actors out there who could have played Bassam and not look completely out of place. Example: Rami Malek, who’s currently stompin’ the yard on Mr. Robot. That’s one amazing show. I’ll actually be featuring Malek in a later post, so I’m reserving my gushing for then.
All right, moving on. WTF is the severe lack of Emma? Everyone’s going back to Abuddin except for Emma?! Couldn’t we at least get into why that is? Couldn’t we have had one scene in which Emma and Molly verbally duke it out and have Emma take her stand against going back? Are the writers intentionally writing her out of the show?
Thankfully, I’ve already written an ode to Emma, lamenting over this very problem. Emma needs to be treated like a viable character because she often has very pertinent things to say! Just read the linked post to see exactly what I’m talking about and why I call her the “Meg Griffin” of Tyrant.
Finally, let’s get into this week’s shout-outs. It’s exciting that this is becoming a weekly thing, and I appreciate the support. I’m not even going to link everything because I’ve had so many notifications about that Tut review fill up my Twitter feed and I don’t feel like going through and finding everything. But, I have to say thanks to the continued support of Cameron Gharaee, Keon Alexander, Sibylla Deen (whose tweet was the most recent tweet from a Tyrant castmember to make me inwardly blush) and the new support of Noah Silver, who plays Sammy. I’m extremely appreciative (and delightfully surprised, especially with what I’ve had to say about Sammy.)
What did you think of this week’s episode? What do you make of the extreme lack of Emma? How do you rationalize Bassam’s existence in your head? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
TYRANT — “A Viper in the Palace” — Episode 205 (Airs Tuesday, July 14, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: Yousef Naseer as Ghani, Adam Rayner as Barry. CR: Kata Vermes/FX