This review contains spoilers from seasons one and two.
‘It’s WAR! F*** off!’
It's no surprise that actor Brian Cox often plays the villain, as well as people in power. He even portrayed Agamemnon, the dominating king of kings in Troy. There are similarities between that greedy Grecian ruler and the global business patriarch, Logan Roy, in Succession. But the latter's brutally whisked fury, exclaiming the four words that open this review, engenders much more fear and trembling. You feel weak in his company. Declaring war on Logan Roy is granting permission to be atomised.
And yet, Logan’s second son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) fights back. The company Waystar RoyCo is embroiled in a cruises scandal, which started unfurling in season one. Allegations of murder and sexual assault were hushed up via a slurry of legal loopholes, and now they threaten the company's future. At the end of season two, Kendall publicly denounced his father after refusing to be his scapegoat.
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy. Photo: Sky
The marketing materials for season three have emphasised this new schism, framing it like an Avengers movie. But although this is a perfect excuse for writer/creator Jesse Armstrong to create a battle of good vs evil, Succession is much too smart for that.
Kendall has tried to rebrand himself as a woke warrior, shouting virtue-signalling platitudes (‘F*** the patriarchy!’) to the press in the fight against his dad. He’s on the side of the victims, and he’s against ‘broken corporate America’.
Does he really believe in what he says? It’s sometimes hard to tell. Strong drenches him with such vivid, insecure artifice that most genuineness is scattered to the sweary wind. Kendall is very loathsome for a good guy, and any altruism he might have is no match for his skyscraper ego.
But, in this season, Kendall is a saint compared to his rivals. Logan’s strategies step into such moral depravity that each episode descends to a deeper state of nausea. All are facilitated by the rational yet arrogant daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook), the slimy youngest child Roman (Kieran Culkin), and the presidentially deluded eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck). You wonder if the world can be saved with these despicable figures at the top.
Left to right: Kieran Culkin, David Rasche, Peter Friedman, Alan Ruck, J Smith-Cameron, Matthew Macfayden, Sarah Snook and Brian Cox. Photo: Sky
The influence over governments is equally upsetting. Episode six (Going For What It Takes) in particular reminds this critic of the alt-history drama The Plot Against America, and the frightening fascist populism that ripples gently through it. This is now about more than deception or rough family quibbles; the fate of the States appears to rest in the over-privileged white hands of the Roy family. Succession makes you scared of the possible future ahead.
Despite the series proceeding with a turning stomach, it’s lost none of its hilariously insulting verve. So many lines deserve their own plaques – it’s worth pausing, rewinding, and writing them down to appreciate their colourfully destructive cadences. Many of them come from Logan, the character who made ‘f*** off’ into a catchphrase. But it’s Greg the Egg (Nicholas Braun), Logan’s young and tall and clueless nephew, who nearly steals the show with his confused comic relief.
The little empathy gained over two seasons is mostly kicked and thrown away in season three. Only Kendall and Shiv have retained scraps of their humanity, but even their actions are largely out of self-interest. It’s not a case of love or hate, it’s hate or hate less. The most dysfunctional family currently on American TV has become even more deplorable, to the extent that you have to watch through your fingers. But you’re still watching, and ravenously too.
Succession season 3 airs on Monday 18 October at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and NOW.
|What||Succession, season 3, Sky Atlantic review|
18 Oct 21 – 18 Oct 22, ON SKY ATLANTIC
|Website||Click here for more information|