'Tyrant' Returns, 'Pretty Little Liars' Investigates, 'Beauty and the Beast' Delivers Its Best

Tyrant | FX’s sensational drama returned for its sophomore season and showed every evidence of thriving on the creative inroads made in its debut season. Picking up a relatively short time after the finale, Barry’s fate hung in the balance as Jamal had to decide whether to execute his brother for his failed coup attempt, leave him in prison or set him free.

A languishing Barry wasn’t all that remorseful for his actions so Jamal was left to craft a clever solution to his conundrum, a resolution that could prove to be a severe miscalculation in mercy, down the line. 

Already tying the narrative of the two seasons together is the underlying theme of what seems to always undermine each brother’s pursuit for total power, they constantly underestimate each other. Jamal is craftier, more diabolical and harder to pin down, predictability wise, than Barry gives him credit for. Meanwhile, Jamal underestimates Barry’s ruthlessness, lack of battle of fatigue and cunning use of other’s compassion and view of him as a healer. They are each other’s equals, just with differing strengths. The rivalry between them has loads of rich complexity, endowing the series with serious narrative legs.

There were quite a few stellar scenes in this episode as well, superbly acted by its cast. Ashraf Barhom and Maron Atias perfectly captured the conflicted pathos of Jamal and Leila’s conflicted emotions surrounding the predicament of Barry’s fate and after the decision was meted out, they portrayed with searing profundity the aftermath of living with it.

Providing a contrast to their moody energy was the series other power couple, Molly and Barry, who shared a touching “goodbye”. Jennifer Finnigan and Adam Rayner each brought it, in a highly charged, emotional crescendo that didn’t overstate its affecting resonance; instead settling for a subdued power that spoke volumes. One thing is clear from its opener, “Tyrant” is back and it’s firing on all cylinders.
Pretty Little Liars | “Songs of Experience” revolved around the Liars’ continued investigation into identifying Charles and dealing with the fallout from the mind games they were subjugated to in their captivity. It was incredibly pleasant to see the resource of professional counseling in the narrative. This should’ve been the first things the girls were enrolled in when they were rescued, whether they felt a compulsion to comply or not. The parenting on the show is never heavy handed, in fact it’s a little too hands off and it’s about time the parents realized their current operating procedures aren’t working sufficiently.

Also at play was Ali’s so-called redemption, as the question of if she could truly change her ways, drove a wedge between Spencer and Toby. The chief aspect that hampers this entire premise and Spencer’s seeming acceptance of it is that Ali has displayed little repentance for her past behavior. She communicates it verbally and does absolutely nothing with her actions to back it up. Remember when she first returned from the dead and claimed she had changed?

Shortly thereafter she was slapping Mona and making duplicitous allegations that attempted to destroy the former’s reputation. She has only laid down her mask when she is in an exchange with Mona (who we have yet to get an update on). The only thing that should make Spencer a believer or any of the other girls (particularly Emily) is if Mona were to be convinced.

One crucial thing to also note is that Ali is coming off of a prison term for an act, she was falsely accused of. Hence she is coming from a place of indignation, not from a place of being justly humbled. That’s not exactly a recipe for a better version of Ali. It’s a recipe for a vengeful one.

Side Note: Props to the writers for the direction taken with Toby. How he’s been written over the past two seasons has dramatically elevated his cerebral standing on the show. Next to Caleb, he’s the most level-headed and sensical paramour on the series.

Meanwhile, Spencer’s logic has been drastically paling in comparison. Speaking of the Spencer, has she even bothered to apologize for kiss-cheating on Toby with that hipster from last season? The one she vandalized property with and then tried to make Toby out to be the bad guy because he did his job and enforced the law on a eager criminal. Maybe the reason Spencer is so willing to see the best in Ali is because they’re both missing the remorse chip.

Burning Questions: Does Jason finally believe that his imaginary friend wasn’t so imaginary, after all? Anyone else feel bad for Andrew, the latest victim of the Liars’ false accusation, when he busted Aria’s chops for naming him? When will the girls ever learn to investigate further before jumping to conclusions?

Beauty & the Beast | Coming off of last week’s iffy premiere, BATB did something entirely unexpected; delivered their best episode to date. There was overall plot progression, credible romantic drama and most importantly some much needed levity. “Primal Fear” was actually pretty funny and not in a way that overdid it. Vincent especially benefitted from the lighter tone, as he managed to leave behind his entirely gruff persona for the hour. His interaction with Heather was awkwardly amusing and his ensuing spat with Catherine played with a more natural rapport than ever before.

While the Cat/Vincent relationship improved on a creative level, Tess and JT continued to steadily build on their witty romance. Theirs is a breakout relationship for the show, a welcomed reprieve from Catherine and Vincent’s plot mandated romance. It seems natural and entertainingly generated; the eccentric professor and the hard-nosed detective make for a quirky, even match. The interaction between JT and Tess' brothers was golden. Hopefully it's not the last we've seen of them.

Side Notes / Burning Questions: Poor Heather was shopping for a wedding dress last week and dumped the next. Will we ever meet her now ex-fiancรฉ? Introducing the plot point of her of being engaged only to have it end so abruptly makes one curious to know if it will have any significance down the line. If Tess became the police captain it would ruin her and Cat's whole dynamic as partners.

Photo Credit: Tyrant/FX, Pretty Little Liars/Freeform/ABC Family