For nearly 20 years he has been living in self-exile in Pasadena. Known as Barry to his wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and teenage children, he is a successful pediatrician who has assimilated well in America. However, he has reluctantly agreed to return with his American family to his homeland for the wedding of his nephew, the son of his older brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), who is the heir apparent to the country's strong-arm dictator, his father.
Barry has told his family almost nothing of his past life, worrying that it will contaminate the home he has made in America. But when they arrive, his wife and children are confronted with a beyond-opulent lifestyle, where traffic is stopped so they can drive unimpeded. His 17-year-old daughter, Emma (Anne Winters), shares her father's disdain for the extravagances, but 16-year-old Sammy (Noah Silver) clearly enjoys the privileged world of royalty.
Meanwhile, the 10-million-pound lavish wedding is causing unrest within the poor country, and Jamal's heavy hand isn't helping. His wild extramarital affairs and drinking has also alienated his wife, Leila (Moran Atias), a staunch supporter of the regime.
From Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, the team behind Showtime's hit "Homeland," "Tyrant" has roots in the "Godfather" story - a refined son meant for other things drawn unwillingly into the brutal family business.
So maybe hiding in Barry is a secret ruthlessness of Michael Corleone, as is hinted at the end of the first episode, which was directed by David Yates (the final four "Harry Potter" films).
It's difficult to tell though, since FX only provided one episode to review. There reportedly have been some ups and downs in production and discussions about the tone for the series. Setting it in a Middle Eastern country has proved a tricky proposition, and the series goes to lengths to be ambiguous about borders, tribes and sects. Still, placing the intense series in the region offers interesting dramatic opportunities.
All the elements to make "Tyrant" a winner are set up in the first episode. There is plenty of intrigue, and Rayner, a British actor, has a strong presence. There are a couple of warning signs, too, in that some of the possible plotlines look iffy. The show, though, could go in other directions. We'll see. It is definitely worth a look at episode two, and, if we're lucky, it could be a must-watch series.