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Series / Tyrant

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Tyrant (2014-2016) is an American television series that aired on FX. It tells the story of Bassam "Barry" Al-Fayeed, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician who just happens to be the son of the dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern country called Abbudin. After years of hiding from his past, he returns home with his American-born family to attend his nephew's wedding, and ends up getting entangled in a succession crisis when his father dies, leaving his maladjusted older brother in charge.


This series contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Barry and Molly experience this when Emma is kidnapped by the Caliphate. And then murdered with them watching helpless over a satellite feed.
  • The All-Solving Hammer: Tariq is stated to be a "hammer who views every problem as a nail", i.e. he solves every problem by shooting it. When this doesn't work, he gets stumped.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Emma and Jenna get their wallets stolen while at a cafe in the "Gone Fishing" episode and the owner calls the cops on them, thinking they were trying to dine and dash. Emma tries to stop being arrested by telling them she is the president's niece.
    Emma: I'm telling you... I'm Emma Al-Fayeed.
    Owner: Uh, yes, and I am Jesus Christ.
    Jenna: No, you're not. He would've been more forgiving.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: When Barry and his family are rushing to catch their flight to Abbudin, they arrive to find a deserted boarding area. When an airline employee appears, Barry asks if everyone else has already boarded. She replies that his father has purchased all the seats on this flight, and that they will be the only passengers.
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  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Emma exhibits VERY poor gun handling skills in the second episode.
  • Attempted Rape: Abu Omar is about to rape Daliyah when fortunately he gets interrupted.
  • Auto Erotica: Jamal forces a woman to perform oral sex on him while driving. After she bites him, Jamal goes off the road, narrowly escaping death (she is killed).
  • Batman Gambit: Barry and his confederates set one up to convince Jamal that Tariq is plotting against him. Barry "reluctantly" reveals that Tariq has been taping his visits to his mistress, and convinces Jamal that these tapes are being distributed among the Elite Guard, and thus Jamal should start rounding up Tariq and those who are most loyal to him. The whole thing relies upon Jamal's pride and paranoia to work, and it almost succeeds... but then Leila gets wind of it, and convinces Jamal that, rather than simply rounding the men up, he should arrange for them to be killed in a false-flag operation.
  • Becoming the Mask: Bassam did this before the events of the series by becoming a pediatrician, marrying an American woman and adopting an American name. He's still very much in this mode at the start of the series, but after returning home he gradually returns to his old ways.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Jamal, of all people, confesses this to a prostitute. He hasn't been happy since he was eleven, making a necklace out of seashells on the beach. He then murders the prostitute for little reason.
  • Being Good Sucks: Barry uses his connections to get a friend's daughter out of jail. How does she thank him? She spits in his face.
  • Bury Your Gays: Abdul, along with the other Ma'an gays. A case of Truth in Television given the current state of the Middle East, particularly in the Islamic State which this incident was based on.
  • Cassandra Truth: As soon as she arrives, Emma Al-Fayeed is well aware things are not what they appear to be in Abbudin.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is what Emma Al-Fayeed thinks happens when you die, much to the disgust of Ihab (a devout Muslim).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nusrat's diary.
  • Child by Rape: A young woman testifies to the truth commission about being forced to marry a Caliphate soldier, who certainly did not take "no" for an answer, and she ends with saying she's pregnant by him.
  • Childish Older Sibling: Jamal Al-Fayeed and Bassam Al-Fayeed are the two sons of a Middle-Eastern dictator, with Jamal immediately becoming President upon their father's death as he's the oldest. However, while both men have their internal conflicts, Jamal is much more insecure, prone to irrational behavior, and a Psychopathic Manchild, whereas Bassam is much more composed and wise. Flashbacks to their youth show that Jamal was too scared to kill a captured rebel at their father's behest, while Bassam shot the man without flinching.
  • Civil War: In the second season there's an Islamic insurgency in Abbudin after a gas attack on the rebels leads them to team up with more radical elements. This becomes an all-out civil war between the Al-Fayeed dictatorship, the Army of the Caliphate, and local militia the Red Hand.
  • Cliffhanger: The series ends on one due to its cancellation. Emma was murdered. Barry has become the tyrant of the title. He and his wife Molly vow vengeance against the Caliphate. A war is coming against them.
  • Cruel Mercy: As punishment for his failed coup, Barry is sentenced to death. Jamal, however, opts to not execute him and instead strands him in the middle of a desert, saying he couldn't forgive himself if he had his brother killed.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Hoo boy. When Barry and Jamal were little kids, someone tried to kill his dad during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. During the ensuing crackdown, Barry watched as his dad's security forces killed several suspected dissidents in front of him. And then the old man tried to get his big brother Jamal to shoot a guy, but Jamal was too afraid to the point of wetting himself, so Barry himself ended up doing the shooting. He's been haunted by guilt ever since.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Courtesy of Jamal in Episode 4. And his wife walks in on him.
  • Deal with the Devil: Ihab Rashid joins up with one of his old friends to overthrow the Al-Fayeed dynasty. This friend leads the Army of the Caliphate, which has superior weaponry and numbers to anything else that he has access to. However, the Caliphate believes in such things as spousal rape, child warfare and public executions of innocent people. Jamal notes that Rashid has crossed the line between being a freedom fighter and an actual terrorist by making such a move. He becomes leader of the Caliphate in his own right after his friend is killed in a missile strike.
  • Death Faked for You: Zigzagged. Jamal hesitates for months to execute Bassam for his attempted coup because he values family more than anything. There's eventually a public hanging for Bassam, but it's shown that Jamal had him replaced with another hooded prisoner with a death sentence. He instead resorts to leaving Bassam stranded in the middle of the desert.
  • Defacement Insult: Bassam, the estranged son of a Middle Eastern dictator, remembers that when he was studying at an American college he came back to his dorm room one time to find that his room had been trashed and the walls defaced with graffiti saying stuff like "MASS MURDERER" and "GENOCIDE".
  • Despair Event Horizon: Neither Barry nor Molly has an easy time dealing with Emma's death. Barry can at least pull himself together and function, while Molly is left completely shattered.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Fatma, who bites Jamal while he's driving and forcing her to fellate him at the same time. This makes him crash and almost die, while coming at the cost of her own life, as she gets killed in the accident.
    • Nusrat, who had previously been molested by Jamal on the day of her wedding, shoots him when he refuses to resign following accusations of crimes against humanity.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: This concern is why Jamal, the new dictator of Abbudin after his father's death, is so careful about dealing with liberal protestors in the capital's public square. He knows full well that using violence to crack down on political dissenters will simply rally more people to their cause.
  • Downer Ending: With the cancellation of the show at the end of season 3, everyone is doubtlessly worse off than where they started. After Jamal's death History Repeats and despite the promise of democracy, Barry has finally become the same tyrant their father was in the name of order with an unscrupulous General backing him; his wife Molly has been wrecked by the murder of their daughter Emma at the hands of the Caliphate and become a Lady Macbeth; Sami is still in critical condition after nearly dying in a terrorist attack; Ahmed has lost his wife and become one of Barry's lieutenants; Leila, Fauzi, and Deliyah have all become rebels opposing the Al Fayeed's dictatorship; and the war with the Caliphate is about to (re)start while the only moderate Islamic leader has been assassinated.
  • Dramatic Irony: In Season 2, Molly believes that Barry is dead. Go Figure!
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Kasim, distraught over having helped to torture his brother, leading to the brother's execution, and almost killing an unarmed woman (his father's second wife), shoots himself in the head.
    • Molly attempts suicide after Emma dies and the subsequent bombing in revenge which killed hundreds of children. She fails, but later nearly tries again. Thankfully at that point she gets herself some help.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: The deaths of Nusrat and especially Rami early in Season 3 come off as this, as the main reason for their deaths seems to be that they're no longer relevant to the plot.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: For all his many other faults, Jamal genuinely loves his mother, his brother, and his son.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Jamal scolds Ahmed for showing up at work high on drugs. He also abhors the use of chemical weapons. Another conversation with Ahmed in the episode "Fate" exemplifies Jamal's devotion to this trope.
    Jamal: We don't gloat, Ahmed. Not over the death of innocents. Not even when they are the enemy.
    • Leila seems to be genuinely horrified when she learns that Aziz had Nusrat murdered in prison.
    • As nasty as he is, Ihab is visibly disquieted when his boss orders Emma's body to be thrown in a ditch naked to rot.
  • Expy: The Caliphate is an in-universe version of ISIS.
  • Eyepatch of Power: As of season three, Ihab Rashid now sports one.
  • False Flag Operation:
    • Sheikh Rashid implies that the bombing of the army barracks supposedly done by his followers, which derailed the original peace talks and led to the infamous gas attack on Ma'an and the Sheikh's injury and exile, was in fact ordered by Barry's father Khalid. Barry's mother Amira reveals General Tariq perpetrated both the bombing and the gassing without Khalid's permission.
    • When Barry successfully gets Jamal to believe Tariq plotted a coup against him, he has an entire plane full of Tariq's men blown up, with the implication that it will be blamed on the insurgents.
    • Jamal plans to kill Rami Said with a car bomb and blame the attack on the Caliphate. It doesn't go as planned.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Leila reveals to Ahmed that she had an affair with Barry, who is really his father, but let Jamal think he was his.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Rather than have him executed by hanging, Jamal leaves Barry in the desert.
  • First-Episode Twist: Khalid dies and Jamal gets in a car accident, resulting in Barry being forced to stay in Abbudin to help manage the transition.
  • For Want of a Nail: Most of Barry's problems in Season 3 would have been averted had Ihab Rashid not survived the siege of Ma'an.
  • Freudian Excuse: Khalid tried to raise Jamal to be ruthless and strong enough to succeed him and lead the country. The end result of his manipulative brutality is a male Broken Bird with the power to make others pay for his suffering.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Mocked by Deliyah when she questions Samira why she would join a militant fundamentalist insurgency like the Caliphate, sarcastically asking her if her parents did not love her enough.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Ihab and Samira start off as a pair of over-idealistic idiots who want to change Abuddin, but have little hope of doing so. But then they hook up with the Army of the Caliphate, and quickly turn into full-blown terrorists.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: The main conceit of the series is showing Barry's transition from an idealistic doctor with no desire for power into the titular tyrant.
  • General Ripper:
    • General Tariq Al-Fayeed. Had Barry not intervened, he would have allowed Nusrat to get killed just so he'd have a pretense for a crackdown. And after Barry defuses the situation by promising the kidnappers a fair trial, Tariq proceeds to order the boys' summary executions.
    • It is implied that General Cogswell will take this role in Season 3, given that he is a representation of the American military-industrial complex. However, it turns out that he is the Only Sane Man in Barry's cabinet, since his experiences in the Middle East taught him that it really isn't a great idea to invade Syria and wage an all-out war on the Caliphate.
    • Colonel Maloof actively eggs on Bassam's hardline stance on stamping out dissent to undermine Abbudin's fledging democracy and on escalating the war with the Caliphate. When Bassam finally has a Heel Realization and tries to rein him in, Maloof points out Bassam's hypocrisy as he went along with his actions every step of the way and that they now have to see it through to the end.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Sammy gets some solid sense-slapping at a time where he was being dangerously stupid (well, more so than usual). Jamal also gets one from his wife when she demands something along the lines of "so your father's dead? Less grievin', more leadin'". He slaps her right back.
  • God Before Dogma: Season 3 introduces a moderate Islamic faction aiming to elect their own candidate in the upcoming presidential election of Abbudin that opposes both the Al-Fayeed dictatorship that has reigned for decades and the radical insurgency led by the Army of the Caliphate.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Barry may not be a monster like his brother Jamal, but he's still kind of a jerk.
  • Good Shepherd: Al-Qadi, despite seeming pretty ambiguous at first, appears to be shaping out as this. He tells his supporters not to use violence, and manages to defuse a confrontation with the military. Despite being Islamist, he thinks the Army of the Caliphate's actions are absurd and barbaric.
  • Groin Attack: Jamal forces a woman to give him a blowjob, while driving a sports car. She ends up biting him.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jamal gets no respect from his wife, who nags him about "stepping in charge and being a man" right after his father died, to the point of slapping him.
  • Hereditary Republic: Abbudin. Not only does Jamal instantly succeed his father as president (who had been in office ever since he seized power years before) but it's revealed that they aren't elected, even in a fixed race, until Barry convinces Jamal to amend the constitution so they will be. This makes it a more blatant example than most. After Jamal's death, Barry automatically succeeds him, although he did manage to garner public support by becoming a hero in the civil war against the islamic insurgency. Barry ends up solidifying the Al-Fayeed dictatorship with the excuse of fighting the Caliphate, with Ahmed stepping up to follow in his footsteps when Barry eventually croaks.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In order to buy the Red Hand some more time, Marwan pretends to be "Khalil" and offers himself up to Ihab Rashid.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • Barry's single-minded quest for revenge against Ihab Rashid shapes him into a tyrant himself.
    • Ihab Rashid is an example of this himself, as his idealistic and optimistic fight against the al Fayeeds winds up turning him into murderer, terrorist, and religious extremist.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Despite being only miles away from the Lebanese border and freedom, Barry decides to stay and fight to save Abbudin from Ihab and the Army of the Caliphate - despite being severely outgunned and outnumbered.
    • Rami Said gets himself into this situation as well, culminating in his Heroic Sacrifice during the attack on Molly and Emma's motorcade.
  • Hypocrite: Abu Omar leads the Army of the Caliphate, an Islamic militant group that imposes very harsh sharia law. He also takes Deliyah from her husband, something forbidden by sharia.
  • Important Haircut: After an attempt on his father's life, Ahmed decides to get his act together and trims his longish hair to appear more professional.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Ru'A flirts with Sami, teasingly asking him whether he has a girlfriend, and ultimately kisses him, unaware that he's gay. She's shot dead shortly afterward, so he doesn't have to tell her.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The last scene of the series, after Bassam has canceled the elections and clamped down on civil rights. Rami visits him before he leaves to see Sam in the hospital, and shows that he got him a portrait, similar to the ones of his father and older brother. Rami means it as a gift to cheer Barry up after all that has happened, but to Barry, and the audience, it is the final sign that Barry has become the Tyrant he has tried to avoid being. The last lines solidify this.
    Rami: I hope you like it. I think it captures you, don't you?
    Barry: Yes. I'm afraid it does.
  • I Warned You: When Barry and his family are trying to leave Abbudin.
    Barry: I told you we shouldn't have come.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Jamal slams Sheikh Rashid's head into a toilet during one of his frequent coughing fits. Made worse by the fact that Jamal made it look like a Pet the Dog act mere moments before.
    • In season 3, the government supposedly denies Nusrat a proper funeral, which greatly increases Ahmed's grief.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: After Tariq's screw-up causes the Chinese to pull their investment in the oil industry, Jamal finally bashes the old bastard's head in.
  • Lady Macbeth:
    • Leila actively encourages Jamal's more brutal habits. As much as she dislikes him, she seems to love the power that comes from being married to him, and thus doesn't want to see him overthrown.
    • In the second season, there is Jane, the wife of Abu Omar and a spoiled Western convert who encourages Omar to take Daliyah as a second wife so that she can have all the power while Daliyah gets all the rape.
    • In Season 3, after the death of Emma, Molly becomes this. She no longer cares about the people of Abuddin, and is selfishly single-minded about getting revenge on Ihab Rashid.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Jamal finds out that he has a now-grown son, a decorated officer named Rami Said, from a short-lived relationship he had with a woman from the Rashid clan. His wife at first refuses to allow him into the palace, but later relents when she realizes that they need Rami's help to run Abbudin's military and perhaps save their regime from the Army of the Caliphate. After the deaths of both Jamal and Rami, Jamal is retconned to have been sterile so they can introduce a new subplot with Ahmed really being Barry's son. Rami's existence is barely Handwaved away as him possibly lying for whatever reason.
  • Man Behind the Man: Maloof has become this to Bassam. He essentially has him trapped in his role as a dictator, since if Bassam won't play along the army will overthrow him with Maloof openly replacing him.
  • Marital Rape License: Jill, an American Muslim woman who joined the Army of the Caliphate, is referred to as "comforting" her husband Faisal, but replies "In America, we call that rape." This is one of the factors (plus the cold-blooded killings that the Army carries out) convincing her to flee.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As Barry and his family are being escorted back to Ma'an, their plane can be seen taking off for home in the background.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Abbudin, meaning "father of faith" in Arabic. A fitting name for a Muslim country.
    • Ihab Rashid doesn't initially seem like a meaningful name. But change the first letter to an A and watch Season 3. What do you see now?
  • Morality Pet: Barry, to Jamal. They both know it.
    "I missed this. Being brothers."
  • Murder by Mistake:
    • Jamal's attempted hit on Rami Said when he suspects Rami of plotting to overthrow him results in the death of Jamal's mother Amira after they switch cars at the last second.
    • In "Prayers for Our Daughters", Bassam approves a hastily-prepared strike on one of the Army of the Caliphate's strongholds in an effort to wipe out Ihab. Most of the casualties are children, creating a PR nightmare.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "Prayers for Our Daughters", Molly demands that Barry sign off on a proposed strike against the Army of the Caliphate, even though the intel is shaky. When she learns that the strike failed, and instead caused the deaths of hundreds of children, she... doesn't take it well.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Molly Al-Fayeed. She apparently has no idea why Barry doesn't want to be there.
  • The Needs of the Many: After Jamal beats Sheikh Rashid into a coma, Barry chooses to euthanize the old man rather than let him wake up, as the latter contingency might have resulted in him revealing Jamal's actions, which would have destroyed any hope of peace negotiations between the Al Fayeeds and the Rashids.
  • Never Suicide: Aziz has the guards strangle Nusrat, making it look like she hanged herself in her cell so Leila can have revenge.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Barry's plot to convince Jamal that Tariq and the Elite Guard are plotting against him goes horribly, horribly wrong, resulting in Jamal killing off two dozen Elite Guardsmen in a fake terrorist attack.
    • In "Prayers for Our Daughters", Barry hurriedly approves an drone strike on a suspected Army of the Caliphate base. The drone strike kills hundreds of children, allowing the Army to paint him as a monster.
    • Barry's crackdown on Islamists just inflames matters further, disrupting Sheik Al-Qadi's effort to calm them.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Ihab forces the Army of the Caliphate to slow down its efforts to retake the anti-aircraft battery because he insists on being there to capture Khalil. By the time he realizes that he won't capture Khalil, The Cavalry arrives and forces the Army of the Caliphate to abandon Ma'an. Abu Omar is so disgusted that he leaves Ihab there to die.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Abuddin and the Al-Fayeed dictatorship are largely based on the Syrian Al-Assad dictatorship and its civil war. Bassam is a doctor living abroad who only becomes the new President after the unexpected death of his older brother Jamal, much like Bashar al-Assad and his older brother Bassel. Meanwhile, Jamal and Bassam's personalities, with Jamal as the impulsive, violent brother and Bassam as the calm, responsible one seem to be modelled after Uday and Qusay Hussein.
  • Not So Different: Despite his best efforts to prevent it, Bassam becomes the same kind of ruler that his father and brother were. He's none too happy about this development, either.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When Bassam is plotting a coup against Jamal, the latter often mentions to his brother how happy he is that Bassam is the one person he can trust fully.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In the first episode, Barry slaps his son when the latter insists he wants to stay in the country, making it perfectly clear that he believes the situation is dire indeed.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jamal thinks Rami Said is plotting against him. He decides to kill him by detonating a bomb in his car while he travels to the battlefield. He watches the motorcade depart the palace on horseback and returns triumphantly... only to find that Rami is still at the palace. He then casually mentions to Jamal that he allowed Amira to use his car.
  • Patricide: Ahmad smothers Jamal, after learning how he violated Nusrat.
  • Playing Gertrude: Moran Atias (Leila Al-Fayeed) looks about the same age as Cameron Gharaee, who plays her son Ahmed.
  • Precision F-Strike: Ihab, just before he kills Emma.
  • President Evil: Khalid in spades. Jamal goes into The Caligula territory at times.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Barry starts out as a doctor living a normal life in America with his family, the polar opposite of his dictator elder brother in Abuddin. He's idealistic, believing in the usual American values such as democracy and so on, which he hopes to bring there. Quickly it's made clear this will be easier said than done, and he resorts to some less than idealistic actions in their service. Yet these seem overall justified. Then his heroic attempt to unseat his brother fails, after which he's tossed out in the desert to die. He ends up leading resistance against the Army of the Caliphate, an Islamic terrorist group who show his brother isn't the worst that can happen to Abuddin. When his brother is shot, he takes power as interim president with the promise of free elections. Yet the Caliphate threat remains, and eventually they murder his daughter. Barry becomes increasingly ruthless in fighting them. He undermines democratic change by barring candidates who he deems threats from running, then eventually postponing the elections entirely. Overall he seems to be shaping up into the "tyrant" of the title, as many had suspected from the beginning.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Jamal is immature, irresponsible, thoughtless, and takes out his frustrations on people who are helpless against him. He has aspects of a Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up.
  • Put on a Bus: John Tucker, the US ambassador to Abbudin and initially a major character, is recalled back home after America breaks off diplomatic ties with Abuddin at the end of Season 1.
  • Qurac: The series takes place in Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country. Various references suggest that it's bordering Syria and it also has a coastline.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The first time we see Jamal, he's raping a married woman, her family forced to hear it all outside in the hall. Guess what kind of a guy he is...
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Sheikh Rashid nearly negotiated a peaceful end to Abbudin's civil strife twenty years earlier, but was thwarted by General Tariq Al-Fayeed (and an unfortunately timed bombing of an army barracks). Naturally, as the standoff between the Al-Fayeeds and Ihab Rashid threatens to turn bloody, Barry reaches out to the Sheikh to try and end it. Despite the bad blood between the two families, the Sheikh gives him all the hospitality due to a guest.
    • In season 3, Al-Qadi is a proud Islamist who wants to return Abuddin to Sharia law, but wants to bring about that change peacefully through the ballot box, rather than by violence.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Emma gives one to Ihab when he claims to kill simply to survive, countering that he kills to feel alive.
  • Red Right Hand: At the end of season 2, Ihab Rashid is caught in an explosion that destroys his left arm, wipes out his left eye, and leaves hideous burn scars on the side of his face.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After the murder of her daughter Emma at the hands of the Caliphate, Molly demands of Barry that he impregnate her again to give her another child, despite their marriage basically being sexless at that point.
  • Revenge: Barry and Molly are consumed with the desire for this after Emma is murdered by the Caliphate, forgetting any previous idealistic desire for democracy in Abuddin or concern toward its people.
  • Scary Teeth: Jamal has a noticeable gap in his teeth (a feature of his actor, Ashraf Barhom) that arguably adds to his sinisterness. It's later lampshaded that his teeth are messed up because his father had him brutally beaten for attempting to elope with a girl from the Rashid clan.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Fauzi flees to Amsterdam after gaining asylum for him and his daughter. Being a true Determinator, she does not follow him.
  • Spoiled Brat: It comes in plenty of different flavors, given that these are the children of very wealthy, powerful families. The wealthier the family, the more dangerously spoiled the brat.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: When Jamal was younger he fell in love with a woman from the rival Rashid clan. His father knocked several of his teeth out and forbade them from ever seeing each other again. Jamal later discovers that their relationship did produce a son he didn't know about.
  • The Starscream: Tariq has been working for many years to turn Abbudin into a military dictatorship.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: A young woman who was forced to marry a Caliphate soldier suffered this over time, coming to long for when he'd come home, even though he raped her.
  • The Stoic: Barry puts a great deal of effort into not expressing his feelings about anything, especially not about his childhood.
  • Straight Gay: In the first episode, Sammy is shown getting chummy with a young Arab guy, but displays no stereotypical Camp Gay behavior. The Arab guy, Abdul, is also notably devoid of stereotypical gay mannerisms. Justified as this could out them, with dire consequences for them in a conservative Arab society (which is exactly what happens to Abdul at the hands of the Caliphate). In Season 3 he's shown getting romantically involved with a man who's firmly in the closet, having a wife and child.
  • Stupid Evil:
    • Jamal is a rapist, a misogynist, and a bully. He's not particularly clever or pragmatic or even smug about these things; it seems more like an extreme case of "Spoiled Brat acting out".
    • In season two, it becomes increasingly clear that Tariq's military prowess only extends as far as crushing rebellions, as he struggles to assemble a response to the encroaching Army of the Caliphate. Eventually, Jamal gets fed up with his incompetence and kills the old bastard.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Ihab Rashid kidnaps and kills Emma for no real reason other than to get revenge on her father. This is bad enough in itself, but he kills her in public while Barry and Molly are watching via drone.
  • Title Drop: The word "tyrant" is finally used in the last episode of season three, in reference to Bassam. He's finally become one.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In Season 2 Barry survives being left for dead in the middle of the desert, and later proves to be a capable fighter and a skilled tactician while leading the resistance.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Jamal is stupid enough and evil enough on his own, but his monstrous uncle (and chief military adviser) and his power-hungry wife encourage him to be even worse.
  • Trauma Button: In the pilot, Barry's carefully-constructed stoic facade suddenly falls apart during the wedding, when Jamal fires a gun into the air, causing him to experience a flashback to the day he killed a man. He quickly flees the room to head off an anxiety attack.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Jamal and his wife Leila are pretty miserable together. Jamal complains that she never loved him, never "was a woman" to him, and that he on the other hand always loved her.
    • Of course, Leila was once in love with Bassam.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story
    • Bassam's story seems oddly similar to Bashar al-Assad's, an unambitious MD who is forced by circumstance to succeed his dictator father at the helm of a Middle Eastern state.
    • Molly shares similarities to Bashar's wife Asma, who was born in Britain, speaks English with a British accent and looks particularly 'Western'.
    • Jamal, meanwhile, seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's older son.
    • Season 2 brings in the Army of the Caliphate, an obvious parallel with ISIS.
  • Villainous BSoD: The episode "Zanjir" is basically one long one for both Jamal and Leila, albeit for completely different reasons.
  • Vorpal Pillow:
    • Employed by Jamal on his mistress.
    • Jamal himself later falls victim to this, courtesy of his own son.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Freedom fighter Ihab Rashid. If not for his violent rhetoric and methodology, he would probably be an Anti-Hero. Eventually subverted after Season 2 when he becomes a villainous Knight Templar by joining the Army of the Caliphate, a terrorist militia.
    • After Bassam himself succeeds as brother as President he is initially open to free elections but becomes increasingly authoritarian when the Caliphate returns to sabotage his efforts in Abbudin. By the end Bassam has become a dictator and gets a brutal lecture by his right-hand general that he was just telling himself he was doing everything for the greater good to satisfy his own conscience despite knowing where he was heading.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Bassam and Daliyah in Season 3. They do.
  • Wham Episode: "Zanjir." Full stop.
    • "The Dead and the Living" turns it Up to Eleven with the deaths of Jamal and Emma.
  • The Wise Prince: It seems like Bassam is the Good Prince and Jamal is the Bad Prince, until we find out that it was Bassam who executed that prisoner, not Jamal, and that he does indeed have the potential to commit evil.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Army of the Caliphate deliberately put school children in the area of their base, so that if anyone bombed them they'd be killed and injured, creating hell for whoever attacked them (something actual Islamic terrorist groups are alleged to do), while they are fine with it as they believe they're in paradise.
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • After Ma'an falls to the Army of the Caliphate and the Chinese decide to pack up and leave, Jamal decides that he's tired of Tariq's terrible guidance and bashes his head in.
    • After his latest stunt costs the Army of the Caliphate their control over Ma'an, Abu Omar decides to leave Ihab Rashid to die.

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