I’m not entirely sure how Succession got onto our TV-watching list. Part of it was probably that it was advertised/immediately followed or preceded some other show the Boy and I watched on HBO. I think we saw the first ads and thought, “Huh – this reminds us of Billions,” and having enjoyed that show so much, I think that’s how this one got added to the list. I think. There’s also the possibility that someone at the Boy’s office recommended it, but the point is – we didn’t have a lot of context going into the show, just a vague awareness and interest.
The first episode is this amazing sort of introduction to the world we’re about to live in for 10 episodes. This is the story of the Roy family – father Logan Roy is the patriarch, and head of the family company he founded which is a mix of things that you see with the Murdoch media empire, Disney, and Sinclair Media. And while the Murdoch aspect looms large, it turns out that media companies are full of dysfunctional families and CEOs like this one. So the show’s creator can plausibly deny the fact that Logan Roy is Rupert Murdoch, because he’s not just Murdoch, but many other men too. So there’s your background – the richest of the rich, their ridiculous problems, the machinations of billion-dollar companies, and moves for leadership, and general family issues that may or may not be relatable because of the amount of money that’s being used to “solve” them.
This show could easily have become a parody of itself if it took itself very seriously from the start. Fortunately, the writers made sure to inject so much awkwardness and humor into the show that it doesn’t quite so hateful. There are characters you look at and go, “Oh my god, don’t do that! Don’t say that! Don’t be that guy!!!” I’m thinking specifically of Tom, the boyfriend of one of the Roy children who thinks he is a big dog, but it turns out he’s just a stupid asshole who doesn’t know how to function at this level of wealth, society, and business. And I’m also thinking of the target of most of his hazing, young Greg, the young cousin who is hoping to get into the business, and is both earnest and ridiculously awkward in every possible way. The interactions between these two alone save the show from becoming too self-serious.
And then there are the Roy children – Connor, Kendall, Roman and Shiv – most of whom have redeeming moments where you want to root for them and what they’re doing, but it turns out they’re terrible people too in a variety of different ways. Granted, Connor and Roman are the most obviously hateful (you’ll have to watch the show to see why), but Shiv and Kendall both manage to be completely beyond the pale at various points. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if it was growing up with money that made them this way, or if their parents did something wrong, or if they simply would have been terrible people no matter how they were raised.
All in all it makes for entertaining television. The Boy and I got to the last episode and we just were shocked because everything turns on a dime. Everything that this season was setting up seems to no longer be viable for next season, and we will likely get a tearing down and rebuilding of expectations of what the show is supposed to be. But part of that is because the characters in the show just go through everything and are finally dealing with the consequences of their actions, even if they don’t have to deal with all the consequences.
Normally here, I would wrap up and include a link to a show trailer, but in addition to the trailer, I’ll add the show’s opening credits which are fairly epic. So epic that it took 5-ish episodes for the Boy and me to convince ourselves that they weren’t changing every time. We kept seeing new things, and going, “Holy cow!” but it turns out to just be an epic short film set to the show’s theme, which will run throughout in various places in the show itself. It’s a terrific piece of music, and the creators of the credits and the theme both deserve a round of applause. The show itself may not be for everyone – if you get frustrated watching the problems of the super-rich, if you hate watching other people deal with awkward moments – then this show may not be for you. But even with that, you can appreciate the mastery that is this credits sequence.
Details: Succession, on HBO. Season 2 coming in 2019.