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Succession 2018 English Comedy Series Review


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Season 3 of Succession opens with the prodigal son Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) dealing a decisive blow to father Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) plans to get his company Waystar Royco out of the biggest jams, while also simultaneously taking revenge on his father and his family too, in a way. Its a great moment, full of energy and aplomb – until Kendall enters into a hotel room, goes in the bathroom and locks it, and lies in a cold bathtub alone, suffering a panic attack.

And you realize – oh yeah, this is Succession. This isn’t going to be a victory lap for any of the characters, and nothing is going to go according to the TV tropes you have accustomed yourself to watching

Succession created by Jesse Armstrong, executicve produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferell, follows Logan Roy, media mogul of Waystar Ryco and all round cutthroat buisnessman and his four children – naive and stupid and delusional Connor (Alan Ruck), Coke Addled, Insecure and yet also stonily serious Kendall (Jeremy Strong), impish, self aware, and yet far smarter than he lets on Roman (Kieran Culkin) and smart, savvy knows her way around the world but is ultimately revealed to not as smart as she expected herself to be Siobhan AKA Shiv (Sarah Snook). The family is rounded up by Tom Wamsgamans, Shiv’s husband (Matthew Mcfadyen) and Cousing Greg (Nicolas Braun), not to mention all the other conniving and manipulative characters in the Waystar Royco core group.

At the core though Succession is a story about the three Roy siblings Kendall, Roman and Shiv, and the Succession war that occurs between them on who is going to takeover Waystar Royco. As the show opens Kendall is poised to take over the company until his father refuses, which leads off a string of dominoes that ultimately falls into a chaotic mess. Its not a surprise that Jesse Armstrong is not interested in the business jargon too much – he is more interested in the excess of it, and how the characters evolve and grow over the course of the three seasons, or in the case of the Roy Siblings and Logan himself, how they don’t grow beyond a point.

The show makes it a point to build each character up , give them a high for the majority of their runtime that season and then tear them down , leaving us the scraps to feast on. Its especially interesting to see how each of the Roy siblings at the end of the day while interested about Succession, is more interested in the goodwill of their father. The far more interesting aspect of the show is Logan himself, who is very aware of the love these kids have for him, and is not averse to exploiting them at any opportunity. Its a form of abuse, and these kids, because they are overgrown kids, are emotionally abused, mentally decapitated by their manipulative father and absentee mother. Their only showcase of love is through circular talk, colorful insults, twisty language which would make any aficionado of the English language cackle in glee.

The cleverness also lies in How Armstrong and his team are successful in showcasing the absolute apathy of the rich people by their camera work and cinematography with the editing. In a show like Billions, excess and wealth is something to be adorned, to be bragged about, and the makers pride at luxuriating it to the audience. Succession takes the opposite approach. Yes these people are of obscene wealth, but the production design and the camera work aren’t so much focused on luxuriating it, but ore on obfuscating or even outright jeering at it. Its sometimes spartan, sometimes almost untidy with a rembrandt at one corner, a picasso at the other – there isn’t an acknowledgment of the wealth. No the show is about power, and the men who wield it. And how the men wielding these power corrupt everyone in their vicinity. And this is definitely shown through the trajectory of Tom and Greg. Tom as a character is someone who enjoys the wealth, and is so grateful at it that he is ready to do anything to ensure that his prestige and dignity isn’t taken away. But at the expense of his love and humanity, which Shiv exploits, because as the show exhibits Shiv like her siblings is too selfish to maybe properly love anybody. And in Season 3 Tom’s realization of that happiness fleeting away is a sight to behold. Similarly Cousin Greg’s character arc throughout the show is a complete opposite of the TV trope of the outsider looking in at the sharks. Most if the time they are the relatable ones, but Greg is like one of those fishes in search of the shiny lure, and its both hilarious and yet heartbreaking to see that Greg actually has the spine of a jellyfish inspite of that huge stature.

This is a show that revels in us rooting for unlikeable characters. The writing and the structuring of the show is strong enough that you are watching cringe comedy and reactions of these people as comedy of errors bloom into catastrophic meltdowns, and it is absolutely glorious to witness. Nicolas Britell’s theme is too big and yet off-key giving it a strange vibe, completely summing up the show – the characters are too big, and yet they are too small and sometimes too petty to comprehend the larger game afoot, and maybe comeuppance will come for all these characters, but not in the form that you except. Like the Sopranos, this si a show that revels in making the anti-climax feel climactic, and Armstrong and his team at every turn ask us – “Isn’t this what you wanted? Why are you looking away now?” And truth be told, even as the urge comes, we can’t look away, even as Strong delivers the performance of his career, Matthew Mcfayden gives a heartbreaking performance that is sure to bring acclaim. These are unlikeable characters, brought to life spectacularly. We are lucky to live in this world where succession exists.

Season 1 – 4/5
Season 2 – 4.5/5
Season 3 – 4.5/5

Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.

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