WHEN | WHERE 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX
THE GRADE B
WHAT IT’S ABOUT After their surprise reunion in the second season — when decent, levelheaded Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) and his crazy-to-the-core brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), beat back an invasion of Abuddin by the Caliphate — Jamal gets shot by the daughter-in-law he assaulted on her wedding night. While his brother hovers near death, Barry becomes interim president, and sets in motion some key reforms. One of those: a Truth and Dignity Commission, to be headed by Daliyah (Melia Kreiling), who had earlier allied with Barry to overthrow Jamal. Meanwhile, Jamal’s wife, Leila (Moran Atias), has her own hidden agenda, and so does U.S. Gen. William Cogswell (Chris Noth), who offers military support to Barry, including 3,000 pairs of “boots on the ground.”
MY SAY You’ll learn more about Noth’s character — who arrives late in the season premiere — next week, but it’s instantly obvious that he’s not too far removed from his character in that other fictional universe he just popped out of, “The Good Wife.” Like that show’s Peter Florrick, Cogswell is a little too self-assured, also someone with secrets of the extramarital variety. As an apparent shock-and-awe military type, he’s bound to shatter the carefully laid plans of the new interim president — if those plans aren’t first shattered by various factions who could not care less how carefully laid those plans are. He’s a welcome addition to a series that’s never had a major American TV star on board. (Justin Kirk and "24's" Leslie Hope were here in earlier seasons).
“Tyrant” meanwhile continues its cautious dance around the real-world politics of the Middle East. It wants verisimilitude, but not too much. Americanized Barry as Abuddin’s interim president is just the latest example. The show also refuses to do a prime-time injustice to a part of the world that’s suffered its grievous share of those, and so proceeds carefully, occasionally at the expense of dramatic tension. But “Tyrant” still wants to speak about some issues that in parts of the Middle East have become unspeakable, notably terrorism, tribal warfare and the collapse of monarchies along with the attendant fallout. Rayner’s Bassam remains the wide-eyed optimist amid all this. That optimism is about to get another harsh reality check.
BOTTOM LINE “Tyrant” gets a welcome addition, along with more intrigue.