Tyrant 2×01 ‘Mark of Cain’ : “Do what you have to do.”

It’s been roughly a year since the season finale of Tyrant left Barry rotting in a dungeon after his failed coup, waiting to be executed. Within the show’s timeline, it’s been a mere four months, but they’ve felt much longer to Barry, who continues to sit in limbo, waiting for Jamal to kill him. Outside his prison walls, Abbudin is in turmoil, it’s people calling loudly for Barry’s freedom. So, to say we start the season off in a bad place would be an understatement.

Barry, now thin and bearded, has apparently been forced to play a chess game with Jamal for at least most of his stay. The longest chest game ever, because Jamal makes one move a day, and then leaves his brother to rot again. After four months of this, Barry’s at the end of his rope, encouraging his brother to “Do what you have to do.” In this case, that means getting on with it and killing him already. Jamal refuses, and Barry in turn refuses to play the game anymore, angrily declaring “You can’t force me to move!”

Outside the palace, Barry has become a symbol of hope for the people of Abbudin. Leila, predictably, cannot stand for this, and spends most of her time nagging Jamal to get rid of Barry, stamp out the poster child for this rebellion. Her prior closeness with him doesn’t seem to matter in the least, not when her power is being threatened. And especially not when they’re on the verge of a major power play with China that could put Abbudin on the map.  Meanwhile, Barry’s mother continues to beg her son to show mercy.

You know, just the average family spat over whether one brother should murder the other.

Jamal’s son, Ahmed, wants away from all the crazy. He plans to take his pregnant wife to London and open a hotel there. Jamal is very against this, giving Ahmed a position of power he’s not at all qualified for as part of a bribe to keep him close. He’s also got a deal going with Jamal’s wife (he raped her and then had her father killed, if anyone forgot). She’s supposed to keep her husband in line, and she does for now, shooting down his plans to leave. But the truth of what Jamal did to her, it’s like a bomb waiting to go off and I really, really want that to happen. Mostly so Ahmed can see what a depraved guy his dad really is. Not that it would do anything to halt the depravity, I just really want to see the fallout from that revelation, awful as it would be.

Source: FX

Source: FX

Rashid and his followers continue to resist the Al-Fayeeds, and violently. Barry’s reporter friend, very sensibly, wants to get out of the country before things fall apart completely. His daughter? Not so much. As Rashid’s people pick off Jamal’s soldiers, Jamal is being told to wage a chemical attack on them. In one of the more interesting scenes of the premiere, he refuses, saying that a suggestion like that never would’ve been offered in front of Barry. And that he keeps his brother’s voice inside his head, despite everything that’s happened. Even now, Barry serves as what’s left of Jamal’s conscience.

Which doesn’t stop him from bowing to the pressure and setting Barry’s execution date. As he waits for death, Barry is allowed to see Molly, who’s remained at the embassy since his arrest, fighting for his freedom. Their one scene together is especially powerful, with Barry asking her forgiveness for what he’s gotten them into, and Molly unable to give it. Still, she tells him about the inspiration he’s given to the people, tells him his life will have mattered. And then she’s dragged away, the actors playing husband and wife doing a hell of a good job.

The next day, the Al-Fayeeds gather for a good old fashioned family hanging. This could’ve been a very powerful scene, if it wasn’t such an obvious fakeout. “Barry” is hanged while wearing a hood the whole time. Was anyone really meant to doubt that there was a different man underneath? The transparency of the trick just drained most of the life from the scene. However, seeing the aftermath, Leila breaking down in tears, showing that she did in fact care for him, that was good.

After fooling everyone into getting off his back, Jamal dumps Barry in the middle of the desert to die. Apparently it’s okay if he dies, just as long as Jamal can pretend he wasn’t directly responsible. These brothers have some serious issues.

After a long wait, I quite enjoyed Tyrant’s return. The characters remain complicated, fascinating messes, the relationship between Barry and Jamal easily the most interesting thing on the show,

Any theories on how Barry gets himself out of the desert? Discuss amongst yourselves in the comments.



Nicolette Schneider

is a lit geek, a comic geek, and a certified TV fanatic. She often prefers fictional people over real ones. When she does make friends with regular humans, she likes the ones who give her access to their Netflix accounts. She loves words and hopes to one day make money stringing them together. Until then, read those words for free on

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