FX ends ‘Tyrant’, an important show of our times

After three and two seasons, respectively, FX axed Middle Eastern drama Tyrant and musical dramedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. My thoughts on the former below; spoilers ahead.

I stuck with Tyrant from its humble beginnings, when it was a show about a pediatrician from Pasadena who was quickly thrusted into a heated political landscape in the fictional Middle Eastern country Abuddin. During the show’s initial run, Barry had to acclimate to his estranged family consisting of his despot father and hot-headed brother. In its second going, Barry–now called by his birth name Bassam–worked alongside his brother when their father passed away. Bassam’s brother Jamal had a trigger-finger and was quick to violence, and the show hit its stride when Bassam was able to unlock Jamal’s compassion and dig up long-buried truths between the brothers. In the most recent run, Bassam takes over Abuddin and the show transitions from its familial roots to a hardcore look at the political climate there. It’s about power, and the fallout of gaining too much of it too fast–Barry becomes Bassam the Tyrant, a role he rallied against until he was sitting on the throne. It’s about revenge and sacrifice and forgiveness. That’s what you get when you look at it season by season. As a whole, Tyrant told ripped-from-the-headlines stories about the turbulence in the Middle East, and it gave a voice to those who maybe aren’t so vocal in the news today, supporters of Peace in Islam. It did so with unrelenting realism–death and sacrifice were no strangers to Bassam Al-Fayeed and his family. Far from perfect, Tyrant was a uniquely ambitious TV series in that it told important stories with emotional heft and ramifications that mirror our modern society, and it’s one that I will certainly miss.

Will Tyrant live on? Jump after the break.

“It’s very difficult to find common ground with other people whose stories we do not know or understand,” said FX head John Landgraf in a statement regarding his cancellation of Tyrant. “The creators of Tyrant have done their utmost over three seasons to tell American audiences a tiny fraction of the many gripping, human stories coursing through the Middle East today. We want to thank Howard Gordon, Chris Keyser and their talented team of collaborators, including all the writers, directors, cast and crew, as well as our studio partners at Fox 21 Television Studios, for taking on Tyrant’s tremendously ambitious story with such profound dedication and respect.”

With streaming services saving shows that were cancelled before their time, perhaps Tyrant will live on.

“We feel the show is a gem and we’d love to find a way to keep it in production,” said Fox 21 Television Studios head Bert Salke. “That said, we want to be realistic about its prospects. So for its loyal audience, tonight’s episode will be a satisfying end should the series not find another home, but also provides interesting possibilities should we be able to continue on some other platform.”

In a post-mortem interview with Deadline, executive producer Howard Gordon supported Salke’s want to keep the show live. “Part of the challenge of this season [three] finale is that [EP] Chris [Keyser] and I wanted to write something that should this be the end it, would be a satisfying end. But, at the same time, we wanted to leave the door open for the possibility of telling the story more. Because we really do think there is more story to tell…Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix would be terrific places for the show. That’s probably the most likely option if there is another chance.”

In other words, time will tell. It would be fascinating to see Basam forge on with his revenge-based war with The Caliphate as Abuddin’s free elections remain indefinitely delayed. But if this is indeed the end, I can live with it. Though war was looming, a spring of hope blossomed right next to it, as Leila, Dailyah, and Fauzi continued their people-popular efforts of pushing peace in the region.

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