The season premiere of Succession was the streaming event of the year. The 18th of October was locked into diaries of HBO viewers across the world, as seven Emmy wins in 2020 converted a slew of new viewers. Billboards covered buildings from Times Square to Tokyo. Busses sped through Sydney’s CBD with the Roy family looking as haughty as Carrie Bradshaw advertising her column in The New York Star. Murdoch media felt finally ready to lay their dirty laundry bare, albeit in an allegorical way.
The season picks up where the final episode left off. As Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), middle-son and former heir to the Waystar Conglomerate, realises he is being thrown to the wolves, he decides to expose his father. Just like Judas, he kisses Logan’s cheek before publicising the company’s sexual abuse and migrant mistreatment allegations to the press. Barely a few moments into the new season,we’re being shoved into a company town car, watching a floundering Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) spiral in the backseat, as a manic Kendall has visions of grandeur —believing he is the new-age Messiah as he proclaims, “are you in for this fucking revolution?”
The show is created by The Thick of It writer Jesse Armstrong, and boasts the same vulgar vernacular the writer exhibited in Peep Show. It follows afamily of conservative media magnates, riffing-off the internal dynamics of the Murdoch family in a power struggle so intense it rivals only King Lear. This self-aware Shakesperianism is what makes Succession so rich. Each character is constantly rising and falling, often at the same time. Inherently Gothic undertones stain Kendall’s tragic spiral into cocaine addiction, and Shiv’s crumbling relationship with her sycophantic husband, Tom Wambsgams, is as morbidly doomed as Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights.
Admittedly intertextual, Season 2 was heavily influenced by Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Last month Jeremy Strong told The Guardian that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1936 essay The Crack Up plays a major role in shaping Kendall’s steady mental decline on screen. The concept of morality is flawed not only for the characters within the show, but also for you as viewer. Much like Fitzgerald, who comes to loathe his world of fame and excess, ethical ambiguities in Succession frequent and numerous. The show doesn’t force you to choose sides. Your moral compass becomes polarised between Kendall’s grand desire to dismantle a festering, centralised media system and falling into Logan’s safe, beckoning arms of stability (surely he would give a damn good hug before he tells you to fuck off).
While HBO has done family dramas in the past, and obviously done them well (think The Sopranos, Big Little Lies and White Lotus), there has been nothing quite like the Roy sibling rivalry – so vitriolic that rivalry is putting it nicely. Sentimentalities are rare and betrayal is common, as each sibling plays their relationship strategically, trying to get closer to checkmate and the top-dog position. Time and time again, it comes back to Logan Roy playing his children off against each other. When it comes to the position of CEO, successor of the company, or even a semblance of attention from ‘daddy’, these siblings have fickle allegiances. And yet there is still something endearing about the foursome. They bond over disdain for their icy mother and show their love through their deprecating banter and a crass sense of humour..
Season 3 of Succession has cemented the show in the cultural consciousness like never before. The season boasts an all-star cast of new characters — Alexander Skarsgard plays the ultimate tech bro, Adrien Brody is an ever insufferable Elon Musk adjacent, and problematic podcaster Dasha Nekrasova takes a shot at saving Kendall Roy from a PR crisis. Once largely under the radar, the show now has a burgeoning following of Conheads/Roy Toys/Slime Puppies (it’s still undecided). They film everyday mundanities in refocused zooms on TikTok, and have sent in a stream of DuMoix tips that saw Nicholas Braun all grown up in his role as NYC’s newest sex symbol, imbued with Cousin Greg’s bumbling awkward demeanour and down-to-earth ‘normie-ness’.
It’s clear that the Roy family drama is just getting started. Last week, Succession was renewed for a fourth season. One which will likely be filled with the same flawless acting, destabilising black humour, quotable one-liners and, fingers crossed, sexual tension between Gerri and Roman. Just like Kendall’s kids, frittering away their time in Rava’s apartment, anyone not yet watching the ‘best show on TV’ will simply be overlooked and forgotten about…