Spoiler Warning – contains massive spoilers for season 1 and 2 of Succession
HBO hit Succession is about to return for its third season. Succession is the story of the Roy family – billionaire media-cruise ship-theme park magnates who are also amongst the most despicable people you will ever see on television. It’s hard to work out who is worst – is it Logan Roy, the patriarch and man responsible for their great wealth who started a version of Fox News and blackmails his children? Is it Roman “can’t even sit on a chair properly” Roy, the youngest son who in the first episode tears a cheque up in front of a child for fun? What about Tom Wambsgam – partner to Logan’s daughter Shiv Roy – who is an insufferable suck-up to every person of higher status to him and unrelentingly horrible to anyone of perceived lower status? We’ve had two seasons of billionaire excess, horrific scandals and the occasional hostage situation, how will the third season do?
Logan Vs Kendall
Season 2 ended with Kendall Roy essentially declaring war on his father Logan. Kendall was set up as the fall guy for the most recent scandal engulfing the company but instead chose to blame his father for everything – on live television. There is a theme in Succession that nearly everyone thinks they’re some sort of business genius, despite having done nothing to justify that, with the exception of Logan Roy. Kendall sees himself as the rightful successor to his father but clearly is not in the same league in terms of intelligence or ruthlessness. Kendall has two things going for him – he is decades younger (the show starts with Logan having a stroke, bringing the question of succession into sharp focus) and pretty much the whole world hates Logan Roy.
The Heir Apparent
With Kendall being the eldest son (not including the ridiculous Connor as well…he’s Connor, whose disinterest in the company at first is encouraging but that doesn’t last long) and the child who has really committed himself to the company he assumed he would take Logan’s place, but throughout season two it was his sister Shiv who seemed Logan’s favourite for taking over. Shiv is the supposedly “liberal” member of the family and briefly worked for a Bernie Sanders type politician but caused a major public transit problem because of the number of principles, people and marriages she has thrown under various buses to get this position. Roman has made progress with foreign billionaires who, to borrow a phrase from Red Dwarf, are “a bit dodgy” as well as allying himself with one of Logan’s top people, Gerri. Roman and Gerri are also engaged in an atypical romantic relationship which I have tried and failed to describe in a Safe For Work way and as such will leave to your own google searches. Tom has occasionally been in the picture (at least in his own mind) as a way for Shiv to effectively run the company but keep her other work.
Oh Cousin Greg, you innocent, guileless, easily corruptible fool. A character of such tragic proportions Hamlet himself would weep at the mess Cousin Greg has made of the situation. Greg is a cousin, grandson of Logan’s brother, and enters the show in Episode 1 after losing a job at one of their many companies. A man who originally had nothing more than enough money to get by…for a rich person, but certainly no dreams of billions has become an integral part of the show and the family business. Utterly unsuited for the backstabbing world of Roy power struggles Greg is constantly in way over his head, mocked and belittled by everyone. He is one of the very few people who ever expressed any moral doubts, feeling very unhappy at working at the news division as he clearly sees them as borderline evil but is quickly beaten down by Tom. By the end of Season 2 while still rather incompetent Greg is very much part of their awful world.
Is Succession A Classic already?
I was hooked on Succession from the first episode. A mix of the drama of billion-dollar companies and the drama of family relationships mixed perfectly into an unsettling and perhaps all too realistic portrayal of what such companies ran by families are like. A range of brilliant, if unpleasant, characters all awful in their own unique ways. The show has fantastic dialogue – and I’m not just talking about the swearing which is comparable to The Thick Of It for inventiveness and brutality (which is not surprising as the show’s creator is Jesse Armstrong, a writer for The Thick Of It). There are scenes burned into my mind because of their brilliance: from the infamous Boar on the Floor scene of genuinely insane horror, to the testifying before congress of Tom and Cousin Greg, to when Roman buys the wrong Scottish football club as a gift to his father. There is perhaps no greater signifier of its quality in that in the daily discussion of what should we watch on tv in our home if there is a new episode of Succession, it’s a very short debate. In terms of declaring something a classic I like to wait a few years to get a little perspective but Succession is definitely worthy of consideration.