Season 2 of the best television drama series in recent times, HBO’s Succession, ended with a Shakespearean slam-dunk. Media moghul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his Prince Hamlet son Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) meet inside a luxury yacht. Kendall asks if his father ever considered him good enough to take over the empire. His father’s confession is a veiled challenge to Kendall: “You’re not a killer. You have to be a killer.” Kendall swallows it with a straight face, his eyes unable to hide the brutal blow. Next, we seen him being escorted to a press conference, coached in PR-speak to sing praises of the cruel patriarch, when he stuns everyone including us by accusing his father of being complicit in their company’s pattern of heinous sexual and human rights abuses. However, what we are left with in the Season 2 finale is a menacingly cryptic half smile on Logan’s face, an extreme close-up, making us wonder: Is Logan finally impressed with his cub? Does he think Kendall is ready for the top job? Or is he so shocked and livid that the war he will unleash on his son will be like nothing we’ve ever seen in family dramas before?
It turns out, Logan only ups the venom-meter. In the highly anticipated first episode of Season 3, Logan spits it out in his raspy voice to Kendall’s assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield) over the phone: “I’m gonna grind his fucking bones to make my bread.” More exasperation: “We’ll fucking beast ’em. We’ll go full fucking beast!”
From there on, we see the Waystar Royco clan engaged in frantic phone calls between potential allies or enemies. They zip all over the world, meeting in private jets, inner chambers of hotels, looking far into the Sarajevian sunset and dark limos cruising around Manhattan streets to find the safest place to settle and strategize. While Kendall is a woke warrior shouting platitudes like “Fuck the patriarchy!”, Logan and the younger scions Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) and Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (Sarah Snook) along with the old faithfuls Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), Waystar Royco execs Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron), Frank (Peter Friedman), and Karl (David Rasche) are in limbo. Eventually, much of the American political system and the global economy, including “the president” whom Logan refers to as “the raisin”, have a stake in whether Logan goes down or resurrects with heftier evil force.
So Season Three is poised to be entirely about the Roy family civil war and its collateral damage.
By the end of the first episode it is suggested that Shiv might after all be her brother’s ally, not her father’s. Roman makes his last desperate CEO pitch to his father for himself, a conversation that unfolds over the phone. Roman (Culkin) still looks a cross between a reptile and a pallid video game figure about to explode from having stored heaps of pain and insecurity. He could never match Logan’s standards, or would he? The loyal insiders don’t escape Logan’s abusive insolence: “Karl, if your hands are clean, it’s only because your whorehouse also does manicures,” he tells Karl (David Rasche), after he suggests himself for the CEO position since Logan decides to step down formally and prepares himself to anoint a “puppet”.
Kendall aligns with a fierce lawyer, a woman of colour, whom Logan’s troop wanted in the first place. Cousin Greg is on his side, and is in charge of gauging Kendall’s “cultural thermometer” on social media. The still bumbling Greg reports to Kendall that he indeed has got “good meme-age”.
Progressively in the series, the rich are getting further and further away from us. The Roys and their allies are at a stratospheric distance from us—an entirely different species almost that the pandemic can’t touch because they confederate in jet planes and helicopters, that cracks incestuous jokes with each other, and that comprises husbands and wives and fathers and brothers who can’t trust each other with their lives, and whose damaged hearts continue to make slick spectacle. Can their machinations even touch the ordinary citizen who consumes their news? Does it matter if a moral compass places the Roys somewhere on the fringes of humanity or it is meant to be just enjoyed as a thriller? In any case, the thrills and laughs won’t stop.
Jesse Armstrong, the creator of the series, helms the new season with director Mark Mylod. With the first episode, they give us a gripping prologue to what looks like a bleak, breathless season filmed over nine episodes—with biting comedy and cruelty on display in equal measure.
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