Welcome back to On Screen, The Augur Bit’s television and film review column! This time, I’ll be talking about the HBO drama series Succession, whose third season is currently airing.
Succession follows Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox), the founder and chief executive officer of Waystar Royco, a multibillion dollar media conglomerate, as his health declines and his children start jockeying to become his successor. The show is loosely based on multiple real-life business dynasties, including the Murdoch family, which owns the Fox empire. Waystar Royco, like Fox, is a conservative-leaning media company.
The leading contender to succeed Logan is his second-oldest son, Kendall, the most experienced of Logan’s four kids—but maybe also the most unstable. Throughout the series, Kendall struggles with drug addiction and estrangement from his wife.
Roman, Logan’s youngest son, also wants the job, though he is the child least prepared for it. He lacks any real job experience and acts mercurially, often switching his allegiances at the drop of a dime in pursuit of his own advancement. Logan’s only daughter, Siobhan (or Shiv), is shrewd enough for the job but works outside Waystar as a political strategist for Democratic candidates. Connor, the oldest of the four children, wants no part in the company.
Though Logan’s health and mental capabilities are clearly deteriorating when the series starts, he initially does not intend to name a successor. So while his kids are fighting to be the next CEO of Waystar, he is adamant about remaining CEO for years to come. However, his children and many others at the company are strong enough in their conviction that there needs to be a change in leadership at Waystar that they often end up plotting against Logan to advance their own careers.
At its core, Succession is a family drama. But what separates Succession from other shows in that genre are the stakes. For example, in Modern Family, a popular 2010s family sitcom, when two characters get in a fight, it rarely affects anyone but that pair. By contrast, the disagreements in Succession are about billion-dollar ventures with massive implications for many people outside of the Roy family—politicians seeking the outlet’s favor, shareholders and millions of viewers.
Succession does a great job conveying the anxiety of the Roy family’s day-to-day life. The show appears to be shot with a handheld camera, often rendering the camera shots shaky and imperfect. That style of camerawork leaves viewers feeling unsettled and on the edge of their seats, bringing them closer into the Roys’ lives.
Though Succession has little to no action (it’s mostly a sequence of conversations between the main characters), it is just as gripping as an action show. Because every decision that the Roys make is consequential, the audience is tuned in to each conversation, eager to find out what happens next.
And because of the large cast of characters with a wide range of personalities, Succession also manages to be funny amid all of the tension and drama for which the show is known. Greg Hirsch, a formerly estranged cousin of the Roy children who works at Waystar and often views the family with an outsider’s perspective, is one of the funniest characters. His position as a more normal non-billionaire among the dysfunctional Roys puts him in many uncomfortable situations, often leading to great comedic moments such as when he testifies before Congress on the company’s behalf.
All in all, Succession is one of the best shows on television today. It proves that a series does not need big action to be compelling if it has compelling characters. Succession features an intriguing story with many twists and turns, anxiety-inducing camerawork and many great performances from the large cast, all while delicately balancing being both a drama and a comedy.
My Rating: 9/10
If you like this show, you should watch: Billions, Game of Thrones and Arrested Development