HBO’s “Succession” now in its final season, the show has proved to be one of the best television shows ever developed by HBO. This is the same network who developed iconic works such as “The Sopranos,” “The Wire" and “The Leftovers” (A personal favorite).
For background, “Succession” is a drama following media mogul Logan Roy and his company Waystar Royco. Roy’s children — Kendall, Roman and Shiv — are all trying to one-up each other as they all try to ultimately take over the company from their father either through force or succession (roll credits).
The show has the ability to simultaneously be hilarious, dramatic, satirical and traumatic from scene to scene. It is truly unlike anything ever made for television. A solid comparison would be a more realistic (and better) version of “Game of Thrones” set in the business world crossed with basic story elements of “King Lear” with comedic moments that are on par with that of “The Office.”
The real crux of “Succession” is all of the Roy children have been messed up by both of their parents. For much of the show, Logan is manipulating his children to get what he wants. The siblings’ mother, Caroline Collingwood, is basically the same type of person, but is more absent from their lives. Arguably, Caroline is the worst parent of the two and that is saying something because Logan is a truly terrible character.
All of the siblings have the façade of being competent business leaders, but they aren’t for a variety of reasons. Logan, for all his faults, is built to succeed in the business world and none of his children are clear-cut candidates to succeed him at Waystar Royco. None of this stops any of the siblings from believing they should eventually take the top job.
In a way, the plot is almost secondary to other aspects of the show. “Succession” doesn’t work without the combination of excellent acting and writing.
All of the Roy family members — Logan, Kendall, Roman, Shiv and half-sibling Conner — all give superb performances. Each of the characters feel different but also seem like they are a real family. The sibling dynamic also feels very true to real life and is one of the main reasons why the show works so well.
Specifically, Jeremy Strong’s performance as Kendall is entering the ‘Tony Soprano’ tier of tv performances. Much has been made about his “intense” acting style, but it has resulted in one of the best performances ever. Strong’s method has even drawn the ire of some of his co-stars.
Part of what makes his performance so great is the realism added to the character by Strong. Whenever Kendall is on screen it seems like a real person through the events of the show. His character struggles with addiction and living up to his father’s shadow, and Strong wears it on his sleeve.
Kendall is also one of the cringiest and most unintentionally funny characters on the show. The guy named his son Iverson.
Most importantly, “Succession” does not work if Brian Cox is not great as Logan Roy. As bad of a person as Logan is, Cox’s performance makes the viewer kind of root for him in a way.
Cox is an interesting actor to be in the show because he has worked in the industry for years and been in a lot of great films. Most people probably don’t know this, but Cox was the first actor to play Hannibal Lecktor, the spelling is different in the proceeding films, on screen in “Manhunter.” In my opinion, his Lecktor is better than Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar winning performance in “Silence of the Lambs.” After years of working, Cox is finally getting the praise he deserves.
A personal favorite character is Tom Wambsgans. Tom, played by Matthew Macfayden, is the perfect rich American jerk, and the kicker is that the actor is from the United Kingdom. Also, the dynamic between Tom and Greg Hirsch, played by Nicholas Braun, leads to some of “Succession’s” funniest moments.
On top of the acting, much of “Succession"'s plot is rooted in contemporary and historical events/issues. “Succession"'s ability to have the pulse of both current and past society is one of the main reasons why the show is so prescient in our culture.
In its first season, “Succession” got off to a bit of a rocky start. It was still very good, but seemed as if the writers hadn’t quite figured out the characters. Ever since the middle of the first season, the show has been throwing a perfect game with each season being better than the one that came before it.
Moving into season four, the series has been as excellent as ever. It seems like the writers have a true plan of how to wrap up their series, and are looking for a complete story as opposed to dragging it out (cough, “Game of Thrones,” cough).
There are so many different directions the series could go to reach its conclusion. No matter what, it's going to be exciting.
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