“Tyrant” Season 2 Quick Thoughts: My Conversation with Cameron Gharaee + How I’d Run Season 3

What did we think about the Tyrant Season 2 finale? I am happy to say that I loved it. I took a look at some of what Variety has to say about it, which is that the series was in danger of reverting back to some bad writing habits, but I’d say that if the finale did revert back into some bad habits, it was a risk the series had to take in order to provide a clean break and a platform for a brand new Tyrant come Season 3. 

I am intensely glad to see the back of Jamal, even though I will miss Ashraf Barhom. He did bring intensity to the show, and it’s unfortunate that Jamal wasn’t a character that didn’t suffer from character burnout. I’m also glad that Nusrat was the one to pull the trigger. While Ahmed killing him would have had an “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” vibe, Nusrat killing him ratchets the drama up to the Shakespearean levels Jamal was already operating at. It was the right thing to do.

I have tons of thoughts about what could happen next season (if next season comes, which I really think could happen). The biggest problem I see for next season is Bassam. Bassam has been the propelling force of this show; the show is based around him and his quest to take the title of President, after all. But if the main character doesn’t want to fulfill his destiny, then there’s a big issue. The show would have to restructure what it’s about, and it would seem that that means taking Bassam out of the picture.

Of course, Bassam could come back  next season, but what kind of role would he have if he doesn’t want to get back in the “family business”? Could he be a scheming advisor to Ahmed? Could he act as an Martin Luther King-esque leader? Could he just be the American doctor uncle who makes guest appearances? I don’t know. The easiest thing to do would be to take him out, but that would also mean taking out Sammy and Molly, who have just now become major (and better developed) players in the game. A lack of Bassam also means a lack of developing what could have been an intense, romantic relationship between Bassam and Daliyah. But at the same time, Daliyah could be better served by standing on her own two feet as the engineer she’s wanted to be. Basically, things are up in the air with Bassam, and his involvement in the show’s future could go in any direction.

One thing I do know is that the show excels when it focuses primarily on the politics of Abuddin and Ma’an. “That’s what it’s been focusing on!” you might be saying. Yeah, and no. It’s been focusing on the politics from Bassam‘s point of view, mostly. If the show was to really objectively focus on just the political viewpoints in the Middle East and how those different viewpoints influence the events of the region, that would be very compelling, I think.

For instance, if Season 3 did start out with the premise of Abuddin facing the possibility of democracy, it could focus on 1) the people (sans Bassam) wanting a chance to choose their leader, 2) Abuddin’s loyalists who want the Al-Fayeeds to continue to lead them, 3) Leila, who is worried about her precarious place in this new Abuddin and what her son’s future could be, 4) Ahmed, who feels he now has the chance to decide if he wants to continue in the family business of despotism or escape to London (with Nusrat maybe?) and open that long-awaited boutique hotel, and 5) Rami, who probably feels like he’s caught between the loyalty he promised to Leila before Jamal’s death and his own growing designs for Abudinnian leadership. No one’s the de-facto “main character”; everyone’s a main character, driving the story based purely on their decisions and points of view.

Perhaps some might have thought that Jamal should have put up more of a fight (and, in a way, he did, since his life ended just as he was talking about fighting the Ma’an gassing allegations), but I would have revolted if Jamal lasted another season after going beyond even Jamal’s standards by killing his mom. Jamal wasn’t going to make it from an emotional standpoint, so it was just a matter of putting the character out of his misery. However, I think there is a great opportunity for the writers to take the fantastic character development they created this season and take it to the next level next season.

In related news, I talked to Cameron Gharaee recently! The interview, which you can read at the Entertainment Weekly Community Blog, featured tons of discussion about the development between the seasons. To quote him:

I think the cool thing about the show is that the world has expanded so much that everybody can find a character they really identify with. I found that this season, the writing was so much more delicate and so much so detailed. That was my favorite part of the season, just to open this character’s voice and have an opinion about it. And for me, it’s just an opportunity to bring Ahmed to life.

Last year, I was pulling on pieces as we were doing the scenes, trying to expand the character. We had no focus and direction, necessarily, so I was literally just making choices and trying to keep him open. That’s what’s been fun for me with this character … there’s a duality with him. There’s that innocent, young, sheltered side of him, and there’s that deadly side of him that comes with his family. So there’s that constant struggle with him trying to balance that.

We also talked about how the show could act as a bridge to the creation of other shows about the Middle East:

We’re probably able to unveil some things in culture that maybe America doesn’t understand, or maybe they haven’t seen before. For me, the key to this show is just literally pulling the curtain back and saying, “This is what’s going on, this is what’s happening. You can take it in pieces … and see what it is that you like.” The great thing about a show like this, just from an actor’s standpoint, is just having these faces onscreen. You don’t see a lot of these characters. Usually it’s just a terrorist or just someone screaming into a microphone. I think what’s great about this show is that these are people too.

A lot of Americans don’t know about the Middle East, yet they have strong political views on things—but these are people too, and they have struggles. It makes it an even playing field for everyone, and it’s going to open a lot of doors, hopefully. Especially with the show doing well and people enjoying it, it can open the door for more shows. I think that’s what this is; it’s a bridge to testing the waters and saying, “Look, these shows are entertaining, these people do have an interesting culture.” It’s rich and colorful, and they have really amazing personas. The personalities of the culture are very fascinating … it’s a beautiful culture. I think this is a bridge to open that door for more stories to be told—and that’s all you can really hope for.

You can read the rest at Entertainment Weekly

Overall, this season was a fantastic turnaround, and it really goes to show that if you give a show a chance, it can find its feet. What did you think about this season? Give your opinions in the comments section.

TYRANT — “Pax Abuddin” — Episode 212 (Airs Tuesday, September 1,10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: Cameron Gharaee as Ahmed. CR: Kata Vermes/FX

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