TV Recap: Tut, ‘Power’ (Series Premiere)

Written by Aaron Sarnecky



In the premiere of this three-night event, Tutankhamen AKA King Tut (Avan Jogia) comes to power abruptly after a trusted friend poisons his father, the pharaoh. Several years later, Tut grows frustrated with letting his advisors, the Grand Vizier (Ben Kingsley) and General Horemheb (Nonso Anozie), make all his decisions for him. In order to prove himself, Tut joins Horemheb on the battlefield in the fight against the Mitanni.

It’s unclear nowadays whether an “event series” is truly a miniseries that will end after its slated run, a show that might be picked up for a full run afterwards, or just an ordinary show that the network has tried to play up by saying that it’s an event. However, this is not the case with Spike’s miniseries, Tut, because not only is it just three nights; it’s much too grand in scale for a channel like Spike to afford as a regular series.

"TUT" Day 31
Photo Credit: Jan Thijs 2014

This becomes quite obvious after watching just a few minutes, during which the audience is treated to elaborate sets that could pass as King Tut’s actual palace, as well as a fully realized city beyond his walls. Admitted, the shots of the entirety of the city are clearly CGI, but it’s still definitely a step up in production value for a channel that relies on reality shows like Bar Rescue and Ink Master. The battles match the grandiosity of the sets, featuring well-choreographed fight scenes between armies; though The Lord of the Rings was on TV an hour before and they’re nowhere near that epic, or even as big as the battles in Game of Thrones.

However, beyond its visual quality, Tut is nothing special, at least so far. It has somewhat to do with the 2-hour run time for each episode, but more than anything it has to do with the quality of the story itself. This is because, despite the fact that I’m not a historian, I’m pretty sure most of what is depicted did not really happen. According to the experts, Tut was likely somewhat deformed, as he was probably a result of inbreeding. He likely used a cane to walk due to an awkward curvature of the spine and a clubfoot, and he probably had a cleft palate as well.

The show does address this by saying that Tut’s deformities are a rumor circulating around the city, as a result of most of his subjects never seeing him in person, since he had never left the palace beforehand. Unfortunately, this is sort of a bogus reason, because the findings are based on science, not rumor. It’s clear that Spike just wants to make a famous historical figure more interesting by transforming him into a warrior-king, taking advantage of what is known and unknown about his reign.

Photo Credit: SpikeTV
Photo Credit: SpikeTV

Separating the story from documented history does not make it much better though. While it is somewhat satisfying to see Tut override his advisors, his transition from follower to leader seems pretty abrupt. It’s mainly the result of a trip beyond the palace, after which he suddenly understands strategy, for some reason. Ben Kingsley is one of these advisors, but he is quite underused in the first episode, despite getting top billing. It’s not until the final minutes that he gets a real moment of his own, which is, admittedly, a good one. Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that Ben Kingsley was miscast.

Ben Kingsley might seem an odd choice for this show, though his father was born in Kenya and of Indian descent. While his skin is somewhat light (it’s nowhere near as dark as when he played Gandhi), he doesn’t look out of place. He’s older anyway, and it’s believable that his character might’ve lightened up with age.

I bring this up mainly because I already know there are some out there that are saying that the cast is too white, which I find only partially true. Tut and his sister-turned-wife Ankhe (Sibylla Deen) do have tanner complexions, though they probably should be a little darker. Lagus (Iddo Goldberg) is an Israeli actor playing an Egyptian soldier though, and he seems a little too light. The race of the ancient Egyptians is a subject of debate, but I have heard that those in the north were somewhat lighter, whereas though in the south were blacker, like General Horemheb is depicted. So I would say the show’s Egyptians are at least passable. But then again, I’m not expert. And do realize expectations have changed. Back in the day it was okay for Charlton Heston to play a biblical-era Jew. Now it would not be.

Racial depictions aside, Tut is not very interesting, largely because of the slow pacing and Tut’s rushed change from sheltered youth to warrior-king, though the action sequences and sets do stand out as definite highlights. The promos for the next episode look exciting, but they can be misleading. And there’s little reason to care if it didn’t really happen.




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