I admit, it was hard for me to watch HBO’s Succession when it first came out two seasons ago, mostly because of its resemblance to certain rich A-hole families led by patriarchal moguls in real life. (Mash together the Murdochs and the Trump clan, and you pretty much get the picture.)
Why watch yet another pack of entitled rich white folks battling to rule the world badly? We already had the news for that.
But Succession was a razor-sharp gem, charting the volatile Roy family run by media patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox). As Logan starts to slip a little, his four offspring are locked in a constant battle for dominance of the news company and, basically, Daddy Approval.
Season 3 took a few beats to come back to life (COVID interruptus halted release for over a year), but you know Succession is finally back when it name-checks the Philippines.
That happens in the second episode, as Logan, facing FBI investigation over his cruise line’s numerous abuses, scrambles for “options” — preferably someplace far away from US jurisdiction. Kendall (Jeremy Strong) asks how their father is handling the crisis, and Roman (Kieran Culkin) sums up the Waystar war room: “Oh, Gerri’s looking into how it works to buy a private island in the Philippines. So, you know… regular stuff.”
Subtle. But it’s in there.
Of course, when it gets going, Jesse Armstrong’s black satire has some of the funniest one-liners ever (HBO specializes in one-liner hit factories like Veep and The Sopranos), a great cast, and a Shakespearean behemoth of a villain in Logan Roy.
Cox coyly claims his character “actually loves” his children, but part of the roustabout fun of Succession is seeing him disprove that claim, time after time. Whether it’s having his family and staff get down on all fours in a Scottish mansion and grunt like pigs for his amusement, or preparing to send his son off to prison for his own corporate sins, Logan is pretty much every wealthy, ruthless business jackal we’ve encountered taking up all the media oxygen and mental headspace in the world over the past half a decade, rolled into one.
After a decade or so of anti-heroes (Walter White, Tony Soprano) taking over TV’s golden “rebirth,” we have, in Logan Roy and shows like Billions, the emergence of a uniquely modern contrabida: the mega-media-mogul who exists to shape the world entirely to his own whims and pleasures.
Somewhere in our stomachy pit, we know that Kendall is not really up to the task of taking down his own dad — because otherwise, the show would suffer immensely. Instead, we will get to watch the suffering, the jostling, the power-grabbing, and insecurity of this memorably bad family, blow by blow. There is no “I” in “team,” after all, just as there is no “Dad” in “Logan Roy.”
The fun comes in watching those insecurities play out in words, broken vows, and off-the-cuff burns.
“Here he is, the attention whore,” Roman slyly baits Kendall, dropping in on his war room. Shiv (Sarah Snook) meanwhile tries to pressure Tom to say “I love you” to prove his loyalty to her in the tense Waystar battle.
“You can’t just take my love and bank it, then take it with you to the love market and see if you can invest it,” Tom drolly replies. And an excited Greg (the hilarious Nicholas Braun) blurts out, as he and Kendall navigate the Roy takedown in the middle of traffic, “This is like O.J.! I mean, except if O.J. never killed anyone.”
Kendall smirks back from the front seat (not untruthfully): “Who says I never killed anyone?”
Strap in for a bumpy ride. Succession has returned.